Podcast with Thomas Beller author of Lost in the Game

https://newbooksnetwork.com/lost-in-the-game

For players, coaches, writers, and fans, basketball is a science and an art, a religious sacrament, a source of entertainment, and a way of interacting with the world. In Lost in the Game Thomas Beller entwines these threads with his lifetime’s experience as a player and journalist, roaming NBA locker rooms and city parks as a basketball flaneur in search of the meaning of the modern game. He captures the magnificence and mastery of today’s most accomplished NBA players while paying homage to the devotion of countless congregants in the global church of pickup basketball. He shares his own stories from the courts, meditating on basketball’s role in city life and its impact on the athlete’s psyche as he moves from youth to middle age. Part journalistic account, part memoir of a slightly talented player whose main gift is being tall, Lost in the Game charts the game’s inexorable gravitational hold on those who love it.

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Podcast with Ray Scott, author of The NBA In Black and White

https://newbooksnetwork.com/the-nba-in-black-and-white

A memoir of hard lessons learned in the racially segregated and sometimes outright racist NBA of the early ‘60s by celebrated NBA player and the first Black Coach of the Year, Ray Scott. Introduced by Earl “the Pearl” Monroe.

“There’s a basic insecurity with Black guys my size,” Scott writes. “We can’t hide and everybody turns to stare when we walk down the street. … Whites believe that their culture is superior to African-American culture. … We don’t accept many of [their] answers, but we have to live with them.”

Ray Scott was part of the early wave of Black NBA players like Bill RussellWilt Chamberlain, and later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who literally changed how the game of professional basketball is played—leading to the tremendously popular financial blockbuster the NBA is today. Scott was a celebrated 6’9” forward/center after being chosen by the Detroit Pistons as the #4 pick of the 1961 NBA draft, and then again after he was named head coach of the Pistons in October 1972, winning Coach of the Year in the spring of 1974—the first black man ever to capture that honor.

Scott’s is a story of quiet persistence, hard work, and, most of all, respect. He credits the mentorship of NBA player and coach Earl Lloyd, and talks about fellow Philly native Wilt Chamberlain and friends Muhammad Ali and Aretha Franklin, among many others. Ray has lived through one of the most turbulent times in our nation’s history, especially the time of assassinations of so many Black leaders at the end of the 1960s. Through it all, his voice remains quiet and measured, transcending all the sorrows with his steadiness and positive attitude. This is his story, told in collaboration with the great basketball writer, former college player and CBA coach Charley Rosen.

Podcast with Jake Uitti, co-author of Muggsy: My Life from a Kid in the Projects to the Godfather of Small Ball

https://newbooksnetwork.com/muggsy-2

Growing up, Muggsy Bogues was always told he should do something else, anything besides basketball. He never acknowledged his many doubters except to prove them spectacularly wrong.

Twenty years after receiving his first basketball as a toddler, he stood proud—at five-foot-three—as the starting point guard for the Charlotte Hornets in the NBA.

From the East Baltimore playground courts where he earned his nickname by “muggin'” opponents for possession of the ball, to Dunbar High School where he excelled alongside future NBA players, Bogues set the tone in his early years for the great heights he’d reach professionally.

In this new autobiography, Bogues delves deep into his life and career, reflecting on legendary battles with Michael Jordan, John Stockton, and other generational stars of ’80s and ’90s hoops. He shares far-ranging anecdotes from playoff runs in Charlotte, filming Space Jam, and even watching a young Steph Curry grow up.




Podcast with Randall Balmer about his book Passion Plays: How Religion Shaped Sports In North America

https://newbooksnetwork.com/randall-balmer-passion-plays-how-religion-shaped-sports-in-north-america-unc-press-2022

Randall Balmer was a late convert to sports talk radio, but he quickly became addicted, just like millions of other devoted American sports fans. As a historian of religion, the more he listened, Balmer couldn’t help but wonder how the fervor he heard related to religious practice. Houses of worship once railed against Sabbath-busting sports events, but today most willingly accommodate Super Bowl Sunday. On the other hand, basketball’s inventor, James Naismith, was an ardent follower of Muscular Christianity and believed the game would help develop religious character. But today those religious roots are largely forgotten.

Here one of our most insightful writers on American religion trains his focus on that other great passion—team sports—to reveal their surprising connections. From baseball to basketball and football to ice hockey, Balmer explores the origins and histories of big-time sports from the late nineteenth century to the present, with entertaining anecdotes and fresh insights into their ties to religious life. Referring to Notre Dame football, the Catholic Sun called its fandom “a kind of sacramental.” Legions of sports fans listening to Passion Plays will recognize exactly what that means.

Podcast with Paul Russell Semendinger, author The Least Among Them

The Least Among Them: 29 Players, Their Brief Moments in the Big Leagues, and a Unique History of the New York Yankees

https://newbooksnetwork.com/the-least-among-them

The Least Among Them: 29 Players, Their Brief Moments in the Big Leagues, and a Unique History of the New York Yankees (Artemesia, 2021) is a most special baseball book that looks at the New York Yankees history in an original, unique, and never before written manner. Throughout their history, the New York Yankees have been defined by the legends and the successes of their most famous players. But, as part of their long history, the Yankees have also fielded players that have become lost to history. This book is those players’ story, telling the unique histories of the men whose entire major league baseball career lasted but a single game with that game being played as a New York Yankee. While these players may be forgotten, their stories are compelling. Filled with a unique Yankee history, single game stats, and a love of baseball, The Least Among Them tells the story of baseball’s most successful franchise in an entirely new way.

Podcast with Carlos Acevedo, author of The Duke: The Life and Lies of Tommy Morrison

https://newbooksnetwork.com/the-duke

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.

Podcast with Thomas Aiello, author of Hoops: A Cultural History of Basketball in America

https://newbooksnetwork.com/hoops

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.

Podcast with Dan Grunfeld about his book By the Grace of the Game: The Holocaust, a Basketball Legacy, and an Unprecedented American Dream

https://newbooksnetwork.com/by-the-grace-of-the-game

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.

Podcast with Christopher Clarey about his book The Master: The Brilliant Career of Roger Federer

https://newbooksnetwork.com/the-master

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.

Podcast with Dave Zirin about his book The Kaepernick Effect: Taking a Knee, Changing the World

https://newbooksnetwork.com/the-kaepernick-effect

The Kaepernick Effect: Taking a Knee, Changing the World: Zirin, Dave:  9781620976753: Amazon.com: Books

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.

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