Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Go Get It

I have a friend who loves Led Zeppelin. Can't get enough of their songs. And he has been listening to them since he had ears. Recently, he told me that he wished he had never heard one Zeppelin song. I was puzzled, and asked him why. He responded:"Because you know how great it would be to discover them now for the first time?"

I just finished reading the #1 book on the New York Times best seller list, "The Book of Basketball" by Bill Simmons.

And what I think/feel about this book is how my pal feels about Zeppelin: I wish I never read it so I could experience again the joy I got out of reading it for the first time. (Not that I won't ever read it again, it will be on my book shelve and within arms reach as long as I have breath.)

Its a book about the NBA. The players & teams that mattered. And why they mattered.

The book is about the Secret. The Secret Bill Simmons learned from Isiah Thomas-the same Isiah that Simmons rightfully has trashed as an NBA executive- at a chance encounter with Isiah at a Vegas topless pool with blackjack tables.

Its about the players & teams that lived the Secret. And those that did not.

If you love the NBA now, or loved it in your past, you need to run a Magic Johnson- like Laker fast break with Worthy & Cooper on the wings to the nearest bookstore and start devouring this magnificent book.

The analysis is first rate, and filled with the unmatched passion Simmons has for the NBA.

Check out his analysis of Julius Erving. After stating that as time goes on, some will say that Doc didn't have a reliable jump shot and didn't post many players, Simmons chimes in with this:

As the years pass, I'm sure people will pick Doc's resume apart with everything mentioned in the first paragraph, his star will fade, and that will be that. All I can tell you is this: I was there. I was young, but I was there. And Julius Erving remains one of the most gripping, terrifying, and unforgettable players I have ever seen in person. If he was filling the lane on the break, your blood raced. If he was charging toward a center and cocking the ball above his head, your heart pounded. Over everything else, I will remember his hands-his gigantic,freak-show, Freddy Krueger fingers-and how he palmed basketballs like softballs. One signature Doc play never got enough acclaim: the Sixers would clear out for him on the left side, with Doc's defender playing five feet off and forcing him to the middle as always, only every once in a while, Doc would take the bait, dribble into the paint like he was setting up a baby hook or something... and then, before you could blink, he'd explode toward the rim, grow Plastic Man arms and spin the ball (again, which he was holding like a softball) off the backboard and in with some absurd angle. He did it easily and beautifully, like a sudden gust of 110 mph wind, like nothing you have ever seen. His opponents would shake their heads in disbelief. The fans would make one of those incredulous moans, followed by five seconds of "Did you just see that?" murmurs. And Doc would jog back up the court like nothing ever happened, classy as always, just another two points for him.

I will not forget watching Julius Erving play basketball. Ever.

I tell you, the book is a slam dunk, and please don't forget to read the Epilogue, where Simmons pays a visit to a man who knows the Secret, and cherished it and lived it more than anybody.

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