There is some kind of trigger in all of our brains that causes us to cringe when presented with a monstrously thick book. There are all those books they made us read in school, for one thing. Or maybe we’re just lazy.
ESPN’s “The Sports Guy” Bill Simmons chose to laugh in the face of your hesitations (and aims to get you laughing too) with his 700-page Book of Basketball. Don’t be scared. As the author of The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell points out in the forward that Simmons’ book “isn’t a novel. It is, rather, a series of loosely connected arguments and riffs and lists and stories that you can pick up and put down at any time.” Sure, some parts drag on a bit long (like the 27 pages arguing that Bill Russell is better than Wilt Chamberlain), but it’s the type of book you can read in chunks and keep coming back to without losing anything.
If you’re a basketball fan, the rationale for reading Simmons’ epic is self-evident; it lives up to its title as the definitive NBA book. It’s an opinionated encyclopedia on the ins and outs of pro hoops. The essential goal is to sift through NBA history and determine what people really mattered and why. This ranges from the broad (ranking the 96 best players ever) to the precise (such as how cocaine almost ruined the league and why Kareem Abdul- Jabbar was a ninny).
For those who aren’t hoops fanatics, there is plenty to hold your interest. Simmons hasn’t become the country’s most-read sports columnist with dry writing. Simmons cracks so many pop-culture jokes here that readers may wonder if he was getting paid for every time he referred to Boogie Nights.
Besides, some stories he offers up go beyond what would interest only hardcore NBA fans. Are you telling me you don’t want to read about how Simmons learned “the secret” to basketball from his former nemesis, Isiah Thomas, while at a topless pool in Vegas?
Yeah, I didn’t think so.