Posts Tagged ‘NBA’

The Art of a Beautiful Game: The Thinking Fan’s Tour of the NBA”  –  book review
On Wednesday (11 May 2018), I finished reading “The Art of a Beautiful Game: The Thinking Fan’s Tour of the NBA”  (2009©)  – written by:  Chris Ballard.  The game in question is basketball and not soccer – which is what I assumed the book would be about until I opened it.  My copy did not come with the dust cover and the sub-title is not on the binding.  Oh, well…
This book is a blend of various types of sports authorship:  part biography, part techniques and skills, part biology, part X’s and O’s and part psycho-babble.  Interestingly, the blend worked and the book ends up an entertaining and interesting (if not particularly useful) read.  Sometimes a hard childhood makes a superstar, sometimes it doesn’t.  Sometimes “just” being superb at individual skills and techniques will elevate you to superstar status, most times it doesn’t.  Most times being a biological freak will get you into the league – even if it is not enough to make you a superstar.  And, it appears, sometimes superstars are cerebral.  Unfortunately, the book doesn’t confirm (or prove) ALL superstars are cerebral or that average and not-quite-superstar players are not equally cerebral (thoughtful about their game / skills).  And, because correlation does not prove causation, we can’t know if being cerebral makes a player a superstar.  Causation appears unlikely, though.
The book breaks down the “art” of the game into twelve particular skill sets / attributes the author wants to describe, including:  “killer instinct”, pure shooting, free throws, defense, rebounding, blocking shots and being big.  There are five other specifics, but these (listed) are representative of the book.  Each chapter uses interviews with one or two active players – active as of the time of writing or the decade immediately prior – (2009 or the 1990’s) to relate the star to the author’s proposed “art“.  Through first person interviews and interviews with teammates and coaches, we get a feel for what makes the “superstars” truly super.  It turns out:  great genes, desire, practice, coaching and attention to detail, and luck are all it takes to be great.  (Sarcasm:  “WHO would have guessed?”)
So, is the book any good and was it worth my time reading it?  Yes, and yes.  The author played basketball at a much lower level and what clearly comes across is his love for the game and his feelings (not so subtle) that, “If only…”  This is a feeling which almost everyone who has seriously participated in any sport can relate to – particularly if you too “loved” your sport.
Final recommendation:  strong recommendation.  I tend to read books (history, sports, biographies and science books) to scratch a particular itch.  While I can’t say I learned anything generally about sport or basketball, or anything specifically about skills and techniques in this book, I did thoroughly enjoy reading about the players and their views on their skills and sport.  Sometimes, just reading about passion for a subject is enough to make a subject more interesting than the book about the subject itself really ought to be.  It’s the difference between “love for the game” and diagrams of X’s and O’s.  This book scratches the first itch, even if it pretty much ignores the second.  I got the book at Half-Priced Books for $2.  Well, worth the cost and the time – particularly if you like hoops.  (Unashamedly, I do!)
On This Day In:
2017 The Voice Of Experience
2016 Who And When
2015 Change Process
2014 What Is Still Possible
2013 Strength Is There
2012 Beyond Reasonable Doubt
2011 Celebrating Values
2010 Is it just me, or is it suddenly dark around here?

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Nothing But Net: Just Give Me The Ball And Get Out Of The Way” (1994©)  —  book review
Today’s book review is for “Nothing But Net“, written by Bill Walton with Gene Wojciechowski.  It is a quasi-autobiographical book stringing together a long list of anecdotes and opinions about life, music (Walton is a major fan of The Grateful Dead band) and basketball.  By “quasi-” I mean, the authors leave out large blocks of personal information about Walton’s life.  As such, it’s “curious” to exclude, but I guess that’s why “personal” information is also called “private” information.  Some of the topics are hinted at, but no real information is provided.
Examples are:
1)  he thanks his parents for how they raised him, but doesn’t say anything about “how” they raised him.
2)  he mentions his four sons and his wife, but doesn’t say his “wife” is his “current” wife and not the mother of his children.  Actually, he says nothing about wife one, how they met or why they divorced.
3)  he says he is constantly questioned about Patty Hearst and drug use, but doesn’t explain why he is asked about them.  And, (to me, most significantly)
4)  on a less personal note, he talks about basketball skills like footwork and angles, but doesn’t offer the slightest hints on any of his insights.  I guess he is saving that information for another book.
Having said all of the above, before I continue this review I need to offer a “full disclosure”:  I grew up watching Bill Walton and UCLA.  I then missed most of his professional career while I was in the Army, attending college, and I subsequently lost interest in professional sports.  At this point, I was only following the Forty Niners and / or only watching championship series (World Series, NBA Finals, Final Four, etc).  One of my most vivid teenage memories of sports was watching UCLA destroy Memphis State in the Final Four – where Walton scored on 21 of 22 shots from the field and had 44 points by himself.  Another was watching Walton face a four on one fast break where he blocked three shots (my recollection is by three different players, but I could be wrong about that), then got the rebound after the third block.  That game was against one of the Oregon teams (as I recall), but the opponent was kind of irrelevant.  The point was he stopped the fast break all by himself by blocking THREE shots!  Needless to say, I thought he was a “heroic” figure.  I can’t honestly say he was “my” hero, only that it was the kind of thing you see VERY rarely in your lifetime.  A bit like Secretariat winning the Belmont by 31 lengths (pulling away) or Bob Beamon crushing the world record in the long jump at the 1968 Olympics by over 21 inches.  Anyway, my wife and I were shopping in a charity shop we support (ARF Thrift Store – ARF = Animal Rescue Foundation) and I found this book for $.50.  So, I snapped it up and dove right in and began reading it that night.
In other words, I am biased about the author and was already predisposed to “like” this book if it was at all interesting or well written.  It is — mostly — both.
The tone is very conversational, which I like.  The topic is sports (basketball), which I like.  And, the analysis which is offered (other players from that era – up to 1993) is interesting.  It’s interesting because Walton identifies some of the players he feels are truly “great” and explains why.  It also lists some with potential greatness and lists some of the things they need(ed) to do to become great.  Finally, the book lists some players who Walton feels are good but not great and (mostly) covers why they are not “really” great – in his opinion.  As some of the players from all three groups have ultimately ended up in the Basketball Hall of Fame (HOF), we have a chance to look back and analyze Walton’s opinions for their accuracy / validity.  The three I found the most interesting were Michael Jordon – criticized for his early retirement after three consecutive championships (MJ went off to try professional baseball and then returned for three more NBA championships); Patrick Ewing, who is criticized for not having a mid-range shot / game.  Ewing developed a mid-range shot and is now in the HOF.  And, the third player I found interesting was Charles Barkley, who Walton more or less calls a cry-baby who always tries to shift the blame for losses onto other teammates.  Barkley is also in the HOF.
On the self-reflection side, Walton is also hard on himself.  He pretty much admits to being a pain in the ass as a teammate, which he attributes to wanting so badly to win EVERY time he went on the court.  He also spends a lot of time (repeatedly) saying how much he loves / loved the game of basketball and how it was his refuge for all of his teen and most of his early adult years.  As an aside, I’ve mostly known Walton as a loquacious basketball color-man / announcer, who tended to have an opinion about most everything and was happy to share it with everyone.  As it turns out, Walton suffered from “severe” stuttering until after he retired, which he feels he is now trying to make up for by over-talking.  He acknowledges his diarrhea of the mouth and handles it with a bit of self-deprecation, which I found surprisingly and refreshingly honest.  In the end, what really comes across is Walton’s joy in both playing the game and for living life to the fullest.
Final recommendation:  strong recommendation.  You won’t really learn much about basketball skills from this book, which is kind of what I was hoping for (a little).  You will get a snapshot of the sport of basketball – college circa 1970 to 1993 – and professional (NBA) from mid-1970’s to 1993, with an emphasis on players and personalities.  If you are a Walton fan (I still am), watched college or NBA basketball during this time frame, or you’re just interested in some NBA history, I think you’ll really enjoy reading this book.  I know I did.
If just reading the book isn’t enough for you, you can find loads of videos about Bill Walton on YouTube.  You can also find loads of his analysis and commentaries.
On This Day In:
2017 Just Because
2016 As Close As They Can Get
2015 And So I Blog
2014 Take Flight
2013 Contributing Joy
2012 More Than A Race
2011 Institutionalized Leadership

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Golden State Warriors Sweep the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018 NBA Finals!!!

Image of Dubs are 2018 NBA Champs Baseball Cap

Dubs are 2018 NBA Champs

Congrats to the Golden State Warriors on winning the 2018 NBA Finals in a four game sweep.  Game 1:  Close, but won in OT.  Game 2:  all Steph.  Game 3:  all KD.  Game 4:  too much of KD and Steph in blow-out “no-mas” victory to end the series.  Two titles in a row!  Oh, my!  There goes those Dubs!
On This Day In:
2017 The Best?
2016 Timely Opinions On “The Donald”
Even Allowing For Coincidence
2015 First Things First
2014 Without The Other
2013 Earn This
Seeking A View
2012 Stumblin’ Along My Way
We’re Proud Of You, Jr!
Union Card
Two Philosophies
2011 Simply Unpredictable

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Image of Congratulations to the Golden State Warriors

Congratulations to the Golden State Warriors

This Warriors appearance in the NBA finals (together with the Cleveland Cavaliers) will mark the first time in NBA history the same two teams have competed against each other for four consecutive Finals.  The Golden State Warriors are 2 of 3 in the series so far.  The only loss came in the 2016 series when the Cav’s came back (for the only time in NBA history) from a 3-1 deficit to win 4 games to 3.  Either way it (the Finals) goes, NBA history is being made before our eyes.  Go Dubs!!!  Bring the O’Brien Trophy home again, Splash Brothers.  Make it rain!
On This Day In:
2017 And Yet I’m Still Having Fun
2016 I See Coincidence Everywhere
CA3: Civil War
2015 I Resemble That Remark… (5!)
2014 The Writer’s Dilemma
2013 Just Paying The Rent
2012 Remembering…
2011 A Little Farther

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