At the end of George Dohrmann’s grassroots exposé—the heartbreaking tale of Demetrius Walker, a talented young player led astray by his cutthroat coach—there’s little question that the system, a sullied morass of shady shoe company-funded coaches, confused and greedy parents, and ambitious but naïve boys, is broken. “I would never have guessed that [shoe companies’] viral marketing goals would involve kids in middle school, that executives at Adidas would be discussing…ways [Demetrius] could help them move product,” says Dohrmann, adding that “current reform efforts are a joke because they don’t curb the influence of the shoe companies and the men they employ.” Sadly, drastic reform measures aren’t on the horizon, meaning that young players will continue to be exploited. “The scars that [Demetrius] and some of the other boys carry with them now are more serious than I could have imagined,” says Dohrmann. It’s that terrible toll, not just on the boys but on their families, that is the most affecting part of what Kirkus called in a starred review “a landmark achievement in basketball journalism.” As Dohrmann says, later chapters “are probably 90 percent about parenting and 10 percent about basketball…I think those are some of the most poignant and important chapters.”


Dohrmann’s top five sports books (no particular order):

1.   The Miracle of Castel di Sangro by Joe McGinniss

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2.   Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger

3.   Among the Thugs by Bill Buford

4.   The Natural by Bernard Malamud

5.   The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam


For a list of 2010's best nonfiction books, click here

Pub info:

Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine

George Dohrmann

Ballantine / October / 9780345508607 / $26.00

This book was featured in the Kirkus Best of 2010
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