The Secret of Basketball
The Book of Basketball, the new book by ESPN.com writer, Bill Simmons, contains everything you ever want to know about the history of the NBA. It should, it’s 700 pages long.
Simmons, a confessed hoop junkie, writes about the merging of the ABA and NBA. He reveals how the game was marketed to make it what it is today. He raises the question: Who was the best, Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell. He ranks the top 100 NBA players, and more than anything he reveals the secret of basketball, according to Isiah Thomas.
If you’re old enough to remember, when Isiah’s Pistons played Larry Bird’s Celtics they wanted to destroy one another. Simmons, in an interview with Thomas, talks about the rivalry and finally gets comfortable enough to ask Thomas the big question: “What’s the secret of basketball?”
Thomas gives an answer that’s worthy of a Zen Master, “The secret of basketball is that it’s not about basketball.”
Simmons in response writes, “That makes no sense, right? How can that possibly make sense?”
Thomas then proceeds to explain his cryptic remark in two or three pages. For this review will boil the secret down to Isiah’s essential philosophy, “Year after year, contenders fall short for reasons that had little or nothing to do with basketball. Year after year, championship teams prevail because everyone committed themselves to their roles.”
Here are a couple more Thomas gems from the book: “The art of winning is complicated by statistics, which in pro ball is money. Well, you got to fight that to have a winning team.”
“Lots of times, on our team, you can’t tell who the best player was. Cause everybody did something good. That’s what makes us good. The other team has to worry about stopping eight or nine people instead of two or three. It’s the only way to win. The only way to win. That’s the way the game was invented,” Isiah said, and went on to say you have to create an environment that won’t accept losing.
And guess who Simmons selects as the best NBA player of all time?
You’re right, it’s Michael Jordan.
Here are Simmon’s top ten NBA players:
- Michael Jordan
- Bill Russell
- Kareem Abdu-Jabbar
- Magic Johnson
- Larry Bird
- Wilt Chamberlain
- Tim Duncan
- Jerry West
- Oscar Robertson (How he could rank the Big O so low I don’t know)
- Hakeem Olajuwon
The book is stacked with interesting statistics, bios on the players and insider stories of the game beyond the game.
For example, here are some of the unbelievable stats from the 1962 season:
Wilt averaged 50 points.
Oscar averaged a triple double.
Russell averaged 22.6 boards.
Simmons tries to put these numbers in perspective by talking about how the game has changed with better conditioned athletes top to bottom. He points out in 1962 the NBA teams played lackadaisical defense, were out of shape and played a horizontal game compared to the modern vertical game.
The book will surely initiate hoop arguments and heated discussions amongst the faithful. It’s a basketball junkie’s delight.