In February, the sports-focused part of my brain—which is, admittedly, perhaps a bit too pronounced—turns its attention from football to basketball. This month, two new books will assist me in that mental transition.
In Rise and Fire, journalist Shawn Fury digs into the history of basketball to examine the jump shot, noting how, surprisingly, it hasn’t always been a part of the game. However, as our reviewer noted, “the jump shot created offense, and Fury elevates it to yet higher ground.” In addition to a history of the shot and tales of his struggles with his own game, “Fury also takes detours into the history of the game, secrets, and superstitions of shooters—no dribbles before free throws, sure, but also the idea that each hoop has its own personality—the worlds of shooting coaches and high-tech machines” that monitor shooting technique.
For readers lamenting the end of Bill Simmons’ Grantland—which covered all sports, as well as pop culture, but was particularly trenchant in its basketball analysis—Rise and Fire should serve as an appropriate place holder while Simmons works on his development plans with HBO.
Regarding my brain and sports, the latest book from Sports Illustrated executive editor, L. Jon Wertheim, This Is Your Brain on Sports, provides a neat outlet for a bit of self-reflection on the part of all sports addicts. Our reviewer wrote that the author makes “a strong case for the lunacy of sports as rooted in basic human neuroscience and cognitive tendency.”
While it may not be the most rigorously scientific examination of the psychology of fandom, Wertheim’s book is packed with examples of the endlessly quirky behavior of fans and players. “If sports bring out the kooky, spooky, and creepy in us,” wrote our reviewer, “[this book] gives us a chance to understand ourselves and perhaps get a grip before we totally lose it.”
Eric Liebetrau is the nonfiction and managing editor.