Sunday, March 10, 2013

Book Review: The Book of Basketball

Last year I purchased Bill Simmons' The Book of Basketball for my birthday.  Wow I didn't know what I was getting into.  The book was released in 2009.  I picked up the soft cover  of the book which is the one I suggest everyone pick up.  He has updated the book over the years only adding to how good it is.  This book is 700  pages long so be ready for a long read.  While it is an easy read for big fans of the NBA it may not be for the casual fan.  If you aren't a fan who loves reading about the past in great detail this book may not be for you.  Me?  I am a big NBA fan and do love its past.   
I will preface everything by saying Bill Simmons isn't perfect but he is a fan, a passionate fan, who has used this medium to put down his thoughts on the sport he loves.  And he did a great job in doing so.  Simmons is a Celtic homer.  No doubts there.  And while it may make you wrinkle your nose at some of his thoughts he is still pretty centered and doesn't go too far left.  Since he grew up going to Celtics games in his youth there is plenty of Celtic love in this book and some Laker hating as well.  Do not let this cloud your thoughts about reading this book.  Simmons did tons of research including reading a library of books on the NBA as well as tons of video research to ensure his writing was as accurate as his memory.  I want to say it took him three years to write the book.  I can't say enough about how much I enjoyed it.  His perspective is a great easy read and he loves having fun with his words.  Simmons also has a love for the footnote.  Almost every page has at least one.  His humor can also be on the adult side at times.  Not that an eleven year-old is going to pick up this book but I just wanted to mention it.       
I didn't start following the NBA until around the time I was eight or nine.  My brother-in-law Curtis got me into playing an NBA board game (Statis Pro Basketball) in the 70's and I was hooked.  Weird how a board game can get someone hooked on sport such as basketball.  Go figure.  It was perfect timing for me as the Larry Bird - Magic Johnson era kicked in at the same time and I've never looked back.  I love history and learning more about things I enjoy.  This book was perfect me.  I wish there had been a little more love for my favorite Dominique Wilkins and the Atlanta Hawks but I was still very happy with his thoughts on both.   
We all look at sports in our own unique way.  I am 43 now and how I viewed and learned the sport of basketball 30 plus years ago is much different in how I learn and view it now.  To that end I loved Bill Simmons' insight into the game.  To quote Paul Harvey this book gave me "the rest of the story".  While I could always see the play on the court I didn't have the basketball/NBA smarts to dissect some of the details.  There was little NBA coverage at that time in small town America and until the NBA hit cable it was just as hard to see games consistently.  This book provides tons of insight I never had.  Nowadays every move is over analyzed instantly on TV and on the web allowing us to make a better informed analysis of what we are seeing in a game and around the league.  It just wasn't that way back in the day.  So as Bill Simmons looks at the NBA from every possible angle I was able to live those early days of watching the NBA all over again.  This time with a new appreciation. 
This is a must read for any NBA fan.  Again it may be a bit much for the casual fan but if you think there is any possibility you might like this book I suggest you spend the $11.11 on Amazon or at some other retailer and I don't think you'll be disappointed.  Below are some links to excerpts from the book.  The first link provides five different excerpts.  The second link has an excerpt about his beloved Celtics in the '87 Finals.  The third is to Grantland in which he is the editor-in-chief.  This is an ESPN property with many good authors to include Simmons.  The last link is to the website Simmons created as a companion to the book.  As someone wrote it allows him to make the book longer.  He are quite a few links to videos on here but sadly many are no longer valid.  Still you may find some information here that is helpful.

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