Book Review: “The Book of Basketball” by Bill Simmons

"The Book of Basketball" by Bill Simmons

The Book of Basketball
Author: Bill Simmons
Original Release: October 27, 2009

Bill Simmons’ “The Book of Basketball” is huge. Well, perhaps “huge” is an understatement. This sucker is massive, a full 700 pages of material. This is the Sports Guy given free reign to write as much as he wants about his favorite subject, basketball.

The Book of Basketball is essentially split up into two main sections. The first half of the book is all over the place, but its main focus is on the history of the sport from its inception through 1984. Why stop at 1984, you ask? As Simmons says, “I needed something extra for the paperback.” Outside of the written history, Simmons lists his top 33 “What If?” scenarios and includes a lengthy chapter on the immortal Wilt Chamberlain vs. Bill Russell debate (his take? Russell, easily). In the second half of the book, Simmons creates his fantasy Hall of Fame in what is essentially his list of the top 96 players of all time, all of whom are ranked in different tiers. It is a very, very long list, and ideally could have been a full-length book in its own right. He also writes about the best teams of all time, and his theoretical best lineup using players of all eras. To put it mildly, this is an exhaustive book.

Given the elongated nature of this opus, it is not surprising that Simmons has a tendency to ramble. He gets off on tangents very easily, often writing about random pop culture nuggets in comparison to the NBA. He is able to get away with this for the most part by including footnotes at the bottom of nearly every single page in the book. Seriously, the dude has a footnote fetish. Some pages have footnotes that take up at least half of the text. This bizarre format definitely takes some getting used to, but the notes are usually entertaining.

This free-form rambling is both a gift and a curse, although Simmons does have a knack for some well-timed jokes. He is a genuinely funny writer, and I found myself laughing a lot while reading. I could have done without some of his 80s pop culture references (was a rant comparing Kobe Bryant to Teen Wolf really necessary?), but for the most part this is a wildly entertaining book.

If you are a fan of the sport, you will enjoy The Book of Basketball. While its excessive length is daunting and could have been trimmed a bit, I found the book to be a surprisingly quick read. Nearly every subject in NBA history is touched upon, and really, who doesn’t enjoy reading lists about the greatest (of anything) of all time? Bill Simmons is a man who knows the game inside out and isn’t afraid to tackle any issue, even discussing racial differences at length, and this makes him all the more gratifying.

8/10

– Helpful tip: If you do end up reading this book, make sure you have this Interactive Guide open in your browser. It has video clips and other helpful media to correspond with what Simmons is talking about.

Quick & Dirty #3

MOVIES

Dog Day Afternoon [1975, Lumet]
After hearing of Lumet’s death, I wanted to visit some of his well-regarded movies that I have missed. This is about a couple of guys (Al Pacino and John Cazale) who attempt to rob a Brooklyn bank but prove to be incredibly inept at doing so. Soon they are locked into the bank with a group of hostages, and a full-blown media circus erupts. Things get even crazier when the police/media find out Pacino’s character is robbing the bank to pay for his gay lover’s sex change operation. Very, very entertaining film, although a little could have been trimmed off the running time. 8/10

It’s Kind of a Funny Story [2010, Boden, Fleck]
A suicidal teenager (Keir Gilchrist) checks himself into a mental hospital. He befriends another patient (Zach Galifianakis) and falls for a teenage girl (Emma Roberts). A bit slow paced, but the acting is strong and the movie balances both comedy and drama with good results. Plus it has one of the better Queen & David Bowie lip sync performances you will ever see. 7/10

Restrepo [2010, Hetherington, Junger]
Powerful documentary that follows a U.S. platoon in Afghanistan. The movie gets its title from an outpost named OP Restrepo, named after PFC Juan Sebastián Restrepo who was killed during the campaign. Part of the film follows the platoon on the extremely dangerous Operation Rock Avalanche mission in which a number of people, both soldiers and civilians, are injured and/or killed. A very emotional movie, although it is a little slow in the early stages. 8/10

The Lady Vanishes [1938, Hitchcock]
The first British Hitchcock film I have seen. I liked it, but not as much as others. The movie starts off a little slow as Hitchcock introduces us to a variety of characters, but it picks up once everyone is aboard the train. This was funnier than I expected, with a lot of witty dialogue and interactions between characters. 7.5/10

The Parking Lot Movie [2010, Eckman]
A documentary focused on a Virginia parking lot and its employees. Basically it is a bunch of guys bitching about people and their cars. Some entertaining banter, but this felt utterly pointless overall. It makes me wish I made a documentary about my pizza delivery days — I had far more interesting encounters doing that. 6/10

VIDEO GAMES

Fallout: New Vegas [Xbox 360, 2010]
I’m not sure what took me so long to pick this up, especially since Fallout 3 remains one of my favorite games on the 360. New Vegas is basically FO3 with a new story and new areas to explore. It’s basically more of the same, but I couldn’t be happier about it. It seems the game-breaking glitches reported upon the game’s launch have been fixed, so that is a relief. I am still working my way through it, but a full review will be coming at some point.

MLB 11: The Show [PS3, 2011]
I am very happy that it is once again baseball season, and I had to pick up the latest edition of MLB The Show. This year introduces new analog pitching/hitting controls, which is quite an interesting change. I love the analog pitching since it makes you feel like you are actually throwing a baseball (well, as close as you can get with a controller in your hand). The hitting has a steep learning curve and I am still getting used to it, but it feels fluid as well. I am loving the game so far, although I am getting frustrated with my “Road to the Show” closer who is dominating AAA but still hasn’t been called up to the majors. Full review will be coming soon.

Out of the Park Baseball 11 [PC, 2010]
On the simulator side of the baseball gaming spectrum, I started playing my old save file from last year’s Out of the Park game. I picked up right where I left off, trying to defend my championship. For whatever reason, my starting lineup got hit with a nasty injury bug near the end of this season. At one point, I only had two of my starting batters healthy! I was still able to hang onto first place thanks to some strong performances from my role players. The new version of OOTP is coming out very soon, and I can’t wait to try it!

BOOKS

The Book of Basketball [Simmons]
Holy hell, this book is huge! Bill Simmons is a basketball nut; I’m not sure many other people could write a 700 page book about the sport (and have it be entertaining, no less!). There have been some pretty fun chapters so far, including a detailed discussion on Chamberlain vs. Russell and a number of interesting “what if?” scenarios. Simmons’ Boston homerisms are a little much at spots, but this has still been a great read.

Watchmen [Moore, Gibbons]
This is my very first graphic novel, a present I received for my birthday last week. I am nearly halfway through and I am loving every page so far. I can’t wait to read what happens, and I could see myself picking up more graphic novels in the future. Does anyone have any recommendations as to what to read next?