Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Sports Guy and I

As a basketball nerd and a huge fan of ESPN's Bill Simmons, I was extremely excited when I learned that he was writing a comprehensive book on basketball "The Book of Basketball".   This excitement increased last week when the book arrived in the mail, and came to an apex on Monday when I attended the book signing at the ESPN Zone in Chicago.

I didn't really know what to expect when I showed up to the 5:30 book signing, and when I arrived the line was already stretching around the block.  To call it a sausage fest would be an understatement.  It felt like every 20-something male in the city had shown up.  The line took about two hours to get to Bill, but the last 45 minutes or so were inside the Zone and I was able to watch the Chase Utley make some history against the Yankees (quick side note - there is no way the Phils can start Hamels in the possible game 7, right?  If a player says that he wants the season to be over during the World freaking Series, then you can't play him after that, plus he has a ERA of 8 this playoffs.  I would pitch Matt "Lawn Gnome" Stairs before I started Hamels again).  By the time I finally reached Simmons, my heart was racing and there were so many things that I wanted to ask him and talk to him about (I am pretty sure he would be interested in joining the freekeon staff).  What I got was a handshake, some brief eye-contact and he signed my book.  All in all, it was a great expirience.

As far as the actual book goes, it is an exhaustive encyclopedia of Simmons on basketball that runs for 700 pages.  I never thought that I would be excited to read a book this large.  It is so much Simmons that if you hit someone over the head with it they would die instantly just from the weight of the Vince Carter jokes alone.  I don't know what would happen if you hit Vince Carter over the head with it, but Vince's screams might echo for generations to come. 

I will say that the book is full-on, unabashed, un-edited by ESPN, Simmons.  He gets into why Russell is so much better than Wilt.  He also makes you care about it, and understand the players even though you have never seen them.  He writes about his connection to Larry Bird, watching his every move and idolizing him as a youngster in a way that resonated with me with my childhood and Jordan.  Simmons also reveals the "Secret" to winning basketball (don't get excited Bruce, it's not 'take over a really good program and the recruiting will kind of work itself out').

He writes about the history of the NBA in a chapter called "How the hell did we get here" with many interesting anacdotes on the old league.  Like the time that Kermit Washington broke Rudy Tomjanovich's face and the circumstances around it, and why no one will ever break George McGinnis's record of 422 turnovers in 1975.

If you didn't think that Bill Simmons was a nerd before this book, you definitely will after reading it.  There are constant references to other basketball books and old NBA footage, and in the bibiography he lists the nearly 100 books that he used.
The book is littered with funny footnotes that Simmons uses to spice it up the text with additional jokes.  Example: in a reference to Wilt criticizing Russell for a crucial turnover in the finals, he footnotes - This is like Lindsay Lohan hearing that Dakota Fanning sipped champagne at a wedding one night, then screaming, "See, see, I'm not the only one who messed up".

The book is in-depth with the subjects that it tackles, but the Simmons humor makes it an easy read.
He has a chapter dedicated to What ifs, like "What if Memphis instead of Cleveland had landed Lebron" and "What if Artest had never charged into the stands in Detroit".  He also ranks the top NBA players of all-time from 96 - Tom Chambers to 1 - Jordan (what, you were expecting Eddie House?).

Basically, it's more basketball than you can handle.
The book has all of the classic Simmons writing that fans of the column should appreciate and many great insights on the NBA delivered by its most devoted fan.

To Bill Simmons:

I think you're great


  1. The man-love you’ve displayed is almost nauseating; you’re lucky your slobber-crush is on a quality writer and ESPN’s lone redeeming staff member.

  2. All and all that was a great read and some high-class journalism, as you actually provided not one, but two pieces of photo evidence! Still, I’ve got to Slammin’ Sam the award for “Best Article Talking about a Bill Simmons Book” as he included page numbers in his post – bells and whistles will only get you so far my friend.

  3. But I referenced a 1950's musical in my title, - the real indicator of a successful post.


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