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yoco :: College Basketball
(a sports weblog) news and commentary on men's college basketball and the ncaa tournament

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Sunday, December 05, 2004

writing on basketball

Hi folks, Ken here. I'm an old friend of Yoni's who can vouch that he did predict Arizona's 1997 championship before the season (though, come to think of it, he also predicted rings for the 'Cats in 1996, 1995, and every year before that). Yoni's asked me to chip in while he's on vacation, so I'll do my best to keep you entertained. Thanks for reading.

This afternoon, I found myself watching the 1999 Lamont Long/Kenny Thomas New Mexico Lobos upset a Jason Terry/AJ Bramlett Arizona team on ESPN Classic (as an aside, I really wish that the ability to identify the year of a hoops game on the Classic in under five seconds were a marketable skill). Now, I'm a big Red Sox and Patriots fan, but I would never spend my time on a random baseball or football game from five years ago, nor do I even watch many regular-season games not involving my teams of choice. But with basketball, I'm a fan of the sport. I just flat-out love to watch it, no matter who's playing. Yet on my bookshelf, there are dozens of great books on baseball, from Bill James' Historical Baseball Abstract to The Glory of Their Times, and exactly two basketball books, David Halberstam's The Breaks of the Game and Larry Bird's Drive (with Bob Ryan, one of the better writers on the basketball beat).

Maybe I just haven't been looking in the right places, but it seems to me that the amount of quality writing out there on baseball simply dwarfs what's been written on hoops. Baseball's made careers for writers like Roger Angell and W.P. Kinsella, who have treated the sport as a literary subject. Basketball has inspired precious few great books -- Halberstam's account of a dysfunctional Trail Blazers team (I guess not much has changed) might be the best of the lot, and John Feinstein's The Last Amateurs might be the best on the college game. And even Halberstam has written more, better books on baseball than he has on basketball.

So I'm asking you -- what's your favorite roundball book? Author? And why does it seem there are so few good ones?

In a few days I'll try to write on another area where basketball lags behind baseball -- statistical performance evaluation and the sabrmetrics revolution.