The history of basketball has always belonged to champions like the Celtics, the Lakers, and the Bulls. Yet the game's history cuts much deeper than that. The bottom line, the record books and retired jerseys, can never fully do justice to this wild, chaotic, and energetic game.Read more...
The history of basketball has always belonged to champions like the Celtics, the Lakers, and the Bulls. Yet the game's history cuts much deeper than that. The bottom line, the record books and retired jerseys, can never fully do justice to this wild, chaotic, and energetic game. In between the championships, there's the sight of Earl Monroe, spinning and cajoling his way to every corner of the court; or Allen Iverson, driving headlong into players twice his size.
The real history of the game is not its championships, which are indisputable, but the personalities of its heroes, which are, at least, "undisputed." It's in the larger-than-life pathos of Wilt, the secret ties that bind Larry Bird to the flashy ABA, and Michael Jordan when he flew a little too high. From the prehistoric teachings of Dr. James Naismith to pioneering superstars such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant, you'll never see roundball the same way again.
Let's hear it for the boys
For the men on your list, this year’s selection has a sporty bent, with side trips into macho movies, manly pursuits and muscular journalism.
EYE OF THE TIGER
Leading off the pack—and combining good reporting with a story ripped from the headlines—is Tom Callahan’s His Father’s Son: Earl and Tiger Woods. Callahan, author of the acclaimed bio Johnny U, brings a two-tiered approach to the story of the two Woods men, outlining father Earl’s life and maverick mindset and placing the great golfer Tiger’s own life and career into that broader context. Is the child father to the man? Perhaps so, though Callahan seems better able to profile Woods the father, with his varied markers as military man, Vietnam vet, college athlete and major influence on Tiger. We also gain some insight—if not outright understanding—into the Woodses’ way with women, and that should interest many readers, this being the first major volume to grapple with Tiger’s personality since his endlessly publicized fall from grace in late 2009. (That said, Tiger still comes off here as pretty elusive emotionally.) Callahan infuses his text with many accounts of Tiger’s achievements at major tournaments and also quotes notable golf figures such as Ernie Els, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer on Tiger—the athlete and the man.
ALL ABOUT B-BALL
Two seasons ago, The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac took the sports publishing world by storm with its offbeat collaborative writing and unique graphics approach. The writers identified with FreeDarko.com are at it again, in The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History, which applies the same on-the-edge journalism to analysis of the game’s past, from the development of the early leagues, to the rise of the NBA, to rundowns of the impact on the sport by figures such as Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain through to the more modern era of Bird, Magic, Jordan, Barkley, Shaq, Kobe, etc. The text, as quirkily readable as ever, further ranges over pop culture, books, movies and on- and off-court events that have become emblazoned in the public mind in the television age.
BONE, JAMES BOND
For the escapist, movie-fan guy, two new entries in the Bond Collection offer fun reading and browsing. With text by Alastair Dougall, Bond Girls and Bond Villains present nostalgic, evocative pictorial coverage of all the evil geniuses, henchmen and seductive and/or poisonous ladies encountered by the seven cinema James Bonds, in films ranging from Dr. No (1962) to Quantum of Solace (2008). These are fabulously entertaining volumes, though curiously, the actors who played the many roles, men and women, are never identified by name in the text, nor are the Bonds (spanning Sean Connery through Daniel Craig). In that case, the book is particularly recommended for those who think of the Bond phenomenon—and its many personalities—as more fact than fiction.
“A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke,” wrote Rudyard Kipling. In an age where tobacco is anathema to most—a sneaky killer and a social no-no—there are still folks who treasure the singular culture surrounding the cigar (which still goes nicely with brandy, by the way). Churchill, for example, supposedly smoked 8 to 10 of them a day (and Sir Winston lived to be 90). Don’t forget George Burns, Bill Cosby, Groucho Marx, Mark Twain and Fidel Castro, to name but a few on the long and worthy list of tokers. For those who embrace the occasional habit, Lawrence Dorfman’s The Cigar Lover’s Compendium: Everything You Need to Light Up and Leave Me Alone is pretty much a must-have volume. Like cigars themselves, Dorfman’s guidebook is, uh, thoroughly satisfying—from the history of cigar-making to connoisseur considerations to anecdotes and aphorisms. Plus, there’s a useful list of cigar bars and shops in the U.S. and Canada; also a glossary of terms. Smoke ’em if you got ’em.
THE BEST OF THE BEST
THE BEST OF THE BEST
Finally, in praise of good writing—and an interesting gift for the guy who appreciates it—is The Silent Season of a Hero: The Sports Writing of Gay Talese. Talese is internationally known as a purveyor of the so-called New Journalism and author of literary nonfiction classics like The Kingdom and the Power and Thy Neighbor’s Wife. Yet Talese was also a sportswriter, first plying that trade as a teenager for the Ocean City (N.J.) Sentinel-Ledger. Later, he wrote for the University of Alabama’s Crimson-White and eventually the New York Times, Esquire and other major publications. This anthology gathers his pieces from every era—the earliest dating from 1948—and displays his interest in more than merely the final score, with notably atypical, sometimes surprising reportage on basketball, football, baseball, golf, horse racing and even speed-skating, with a 1980 profile of Olympians Eric and Beth Heiden. He weaves discussion of race, media and society into these stories, and, apropos to his age group (Talese is now 78), there’s a good deal of coverage on boxing, as befits its former standing as a major, print-ready sport. Though Talese famously sympathized with underdogs, the book’s title derives from his famous 1966 Esquire article on Joe DiMaggio—still, decades later, a sports icon.