In the early 1990s, Tommy Morrison, a young roughneck from Jay, Oklahoma, burst onto the boxing scene to become one of the most controversial fighters of his era. Handsome, eloquent, and dynamic, Morrison parlayed destructive knockout power and a homespun personality into celebrity status throughout middle America, where boxing rarely prospered.
But it was his starring role in Rocky V alongside Sylvester Stallone that propelled him to stardom–and ultimately led to his tragic downfall. His brush with Hollywood fame triggered a limitless appetite for parties, liquor, and sex. When Morrison was shockingly diagnosed with HIV in 1996, his life imploded, and his subsequent descent into drugs, prison, bigamy, and conspiracy theories made Morrison notorious long after his glory days had ended.
In The Duke, Carlos Acevedo chronicles Morrison’s tumultuous life from his days as a teenaged Toughman contestant, to his victory over George Foreman, to his struggles with HIV and depression, to his death at forty-four, when his delusions finally overtook him.
From its early days as a sport to build “muscular Christianity” among young men flooding nineteenth-century cities to its position today as a global symbol of American culture, basketball has been a force in American society. It grew through high school gymnasiums, college pep rallies, and the fits and starts of professionalization. It was a playground game, an urban game, tied to all of the caricatures that were associated with urban culture. It struggled with integration and representations of race. Today, basketball’s influence seeps into film, music, dance, and fashion. Hoops tells the story of the reciprocal relationship between the sport and the society that received it.
In Hoops: A Cultural History of Basketball in America (Rowman and Littlefield, 2021), Thomas Aiello presents the only contemporary cultural history of the sport from the street to the highest levels of professional men’s and women’s competition. He argues that the game has existed in a reciprocal relationship with the broader culture, both embodying conflicts over race, class, and gender and serving a s public theater for them. Aiello places cultural icons like Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, and Kobe Bryant in the context of their times and explores how the sport negotiated controversies and scandals. Hoops belongs on the bookshelf of every reader interested in the history of basketball, sports, race, urban life, and pop culture in America.
When Lily and Alex entered a packed gymnasium in Queens, New York, in 1972, they barely recognized their son. The boy who escaped to America with them, who was bullied as he struggled to learn English and cope with family tragedy, was now a young man who had discovered and secretly honed his basketball talent on the outdoor courts of New York City. That young man was Ernie Grunfeld, who would go on to win an Olympic gold medal and reach previously unimaginable heights as an NBA player and executive.
In By the Grace of the Game, Dan Grunfeld, once a basketball standout himself at Stanford University, shares the remarkable story of his family, a delicately interwoven narrative that doesn’t lack in heartbreak yet remains as deeply nourishing as his grandmother’s Hungarian cooking, so lovingly described. The true improbability of the saga lies in the discovery of a game that unknowingly held the power to heal wounds, build bridges, and tie together a fractured Jewish family.
If the magnitude of an American dream is measured by the intensity of the nightmare that came before and the heights of the triumph achieved after, then By the Grace of the Game recounts an American dream story of unprecedented scale. From the grips of the Nazis to the top of the Olympic podium, from the cheap seats to center stage at Madison Square Garden, from yellow stars to silver spoons, this complex tale traverses the spectrum of the human experience to detail how perseverance, love, and legacy can survive through generations.
There have been other biographies of Roger Federer, but never one with this kind of access to the man himself, his support team, and the most prominent figures in the game, including such rivals as Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Roddick. In The Master: The Brilliant Career of Roger Federer(Twelve, 2021), New York Times correspondent Christopher Clarey sits down with Federer and those closest to him to tell the story of the greatest player in men’s tennis.
Roger Federer has often made it look astonishingly easy through the decades: carving backhands, gliding to forehands, leaping for overheads, and, in his most gravity-defying act, remaining high on a pedestal in a world of sports rightfully flooded with cynicism. But his path from a temperamental bleach-blond teenager with dubious style sense to one of the greatest, most self-possessed, and elegant of competitors has been a long-running act of will, not destiny. He not only had a great gift. He had grit.
Christopher Clarey, one of the top international sportswriters working today, has covered Federer since the beginning of his professional career. He was in Paris on the Suzanne Lenglen Court for Federer’s first Grand Slam match and has interviewed him exclusively more than any other journalist since his rise to prominence. Here, Clarey focuses on the pivotal people, places, and moments in Federer’s long and rich career: reporting from South Africa, South America, the Middle East, four Grand Slam tournaments, and Federer’s native Switzerland. It has been a journey like no other player’s, rife with victories and a few crushing defeats, one that has redefined enduring excellence and made Federer a sentimental favorite worldwide.
The Master tells the story of Federer’s life and career on both an intimate and grand scale, in a way no one else could possibly do.
In 2016, amid an epidemic of police shootings of African Americans, the celebrated NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began a series of quiet protests on the field, refusing to stand during the U.S. national anthem. By “taking a knee,” Kaepernick bravely joined a long tradition of American athletes making powerful political statements. This time, however, Kaepernick’s simple act spread like wildfire throughout American society, becoming the preeminent symbol of resistance to America’s persistent racial inequality.
Critically acclaimed sports journalist and author of A People’s History of Sports in the United States, Dave Zirin chronicles “the Kaepernick effect” for the first time, through interviews with a broad cross-section of professional athletes across many different sports, college stars and high-powered athletic directors, and high school athletes and coaches. In each case, he uncovers the fascinating explanations and motivations behind a mass political movement in sports, through deeply personal and inspiring accounts of risk-taking, activism, and courage both on and off the field.
A book about the politics of sport, and the impact of sports on politics, The Kaepernick Effect is for anyone seeking to understand an essential dimension of the new movement for racial justice in America.
Pressure plays, buzzer-beaters, and mindfulness meditation: A team of teenagers goes for the championship in Namibia’s professional basketball league.
Ben Guest takes a high school coaching gig on the other side of the world. On the first day of practice one of the ten players can’t complete a simple defensive slide. Follow their journey over two seasons as the team loses a heartbreaker in the high school league championship game and then take their talents to Namibia’s professional league, the KBA.
Guest models a different way of coaching: meditation, team-led decision making, and surrendering to what is. This expertly-told memoir includes cameos from Coach K and Bob Knight, and a detour through the Mississippi Delta, until we find ourselves on the biggest stage of Namibian basketball: The KBA Finals.
Both a symbol of the Mubarak government’s power and a component in its construction of national identity, football served as fertile ground for Egyptians to confront the regime’s overthrow during the 2011 revolution. With the help of the state, appreciation for football in Egypt peaked in the late 2000s. Yet after Mubarak fell, fans questioned their previous support, calling for a reformed football for a new, postrevolutionary nation.
In Egypt’s Football Revolution, Carl Rommel examines the politics of football as a space for ordinary Egyptians and state forces to negotiate a masculine Egyptian chauvinism. Basing his discussion on several years of fieldwork with fans, players, journalists, and coaches, he investigates the increasing attention paid to football during the Mubarak era; its demise with the 2011 uprisings and 2012 Port Said massacre, which left seventy-two fans dead; and its recent rehabilitation. Cairo’s highly organized and dedicated Ultras fans became a key revolutionary force through their antiregime activism, challenging earlier styles of fandom and making visible entrenched ties between sport and politics. As the appeal of football burst, alternative conceptions of masculinity, emotion, and politics came to the fore to demand or prevent revolution and reform.
The battle between Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns is remembered as one of the greatest fights of all time. But in the months before the two finally collided on April 15, 1985, there was a feeling in the air that boxing was in trouble. The biggest name in the business, Sugar Ray Leonard, was retired with no logical replacement in sight, while the American Medical Association was calling for a ban on the sport.
With Hagler–Hearns looking like boxing’s last hurrah, promoter Bob Arum embarked on one the most audacious publicity campaigns in history, hyping the bout until the entire country was captivated. Arum’s task was difficult. He’d spent years trying and failing to make Hagler a star, while Hearns was a gifted but inconsistent performer. Could Arum possibly get a memorable fight out of these two moody, unpredictable warriors?
The Hagler–Hearns fight is now part of history, but The War by Don Stradley explores the many factors behind the event, and how it helped establish what many feel was boxing’s greatest era. No book, not even George Kimball’s classic, Four Kings, has focused solely on this legendary fight involving two of those “Four Kings” that boxing fans have revered for their skills and willingness to take on challenges that many fighters do not take in today’s boxing landscape.
With additional commentary from many who were there, Stradley shows the unlikely path taken by two fighters searching for greatness. They didn’t care how many punches they endured, as long as it led to stardom. When the fight was over, however, each learned that fame inflicted its own kind of damage.
In July 1947, not even three months after Jackie Robinson debuted on the Brooklyn Dodgers, snapping the color line that had segregated Major League Baseball, Larry Doby would follow in his footsteps on the Cleveland Indians. Though Doby, as the second Black player in the majors, would struggle during his first summer in Cleveland, his subsequent turnaround in 1948 from benchwarmer to superstar sparked one of the wildest and most meaningful seasons in baseball history.
In intimate, absorbing detail, Luke Epplin’s Our Team traces the story of the integration of the Cleveland Indians and their quest for a World Series title through four key participants: Bill Veeck, an eccentric and visionary owner adept at exploding fireworks on and off the field; Larry Doby, a soft-spoken, hard-hitting pioneer whose major-league breakthrough shattered stereotypes that so much of white America held about Black ballplayers; Bob Feller, a pitching prodigy from the Iowa cornfields who set the template for the athlete as businessman; and Satchel Paige, a legendary pitcher from the Negro Leagues whose belated entry into the majors whipped baseball fans across the country into a frenzy.
Together, as the backbone of a team that epitomized the postwar American spirit in all its hopes and contradictions, these four men would captivate the nation by storming to the World Series–all the while rewriting the rules of what was possible in sports.