Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons

If someone had told me a year ago that I was going to read a 700 plus page book on the NBA including 45 pages debating the merits of the league MVPs from different years and 360 pages ranking the top 96 players in league history, I would have told them that they were crazy. If someone told me that Bill Simmons had written the book, I would have said well maybe... Last week, I finished reading The Book of Basketball, The NBA According to the Sports Guy, Bill Simmons' treatise on the National Basketball Association.

Over the years, I become a big fan of Bill Simmons' columns and podcasts. He does an excellent job of writing about sports while mixing in pop culture.

When I started the book, I was skeptical that I was going to hold my interest, but it did. For example, the 96 sections on each of the players reads like a stand alone essay. Sometimes the essay contains a lot about the player, while other times the essay goes off on a tangent that is somewhat related to the player. The book also contains a heavy dose of wildly entertaining irreverent footnotes sometimes related to the reference, but more often than not going in some remarkable and unexpected direction. I cannot remember when I have chuckled out loud as much reading something. Reading the book on the flights to Seattle and back to visit Wallen, I am sure that the people around me wondered what I was reading.

As part of the process of writing the book, Simmons watched a lot of footage of old games. His description and discussion of the old games has got me interested in trying to watch a few of them. I am going start looking for old NBA games on the ESPN Classic and the NBA channels.

With the NBA season starting up and the young Sacramento Kings team playing a remarkably entertaining brand of basketball, the book came with my interest in the NBA at a peak. I am not sure that I can recommend the book to the casual NBA fan, but I sure as hell enjoyed it.

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