cover image Elevating the Game: Black Men and Basketball

Elevating the Game: Black Men and Basketball

Nelson George. HarperCollins Publishers, $20 (261pp) ISBN 978-0-06-016723-3

Black players have remade basketball, becoming the very soul of the game; such is the thesis of George ( The Michael Jackson Story ) in this notable history of the role of African Americans on the court. He shows that as early as the 1920s, Marques Haynes revolutionized dribbling, a skill advanced even further by Robert Davies in the 1940s. George also attributes the origin of what he characterizes as ``urban ball'' to the games played around the housing projects of New York City and Chicago, urban ball being a theatrical game that puts a premium on flash, guile and recklessness in contrast to the more conservative white version. The book bows in the direction of coach John McLendon of Tennessee A & I with his fast-break strategy; Elgin Baylor with his exceptional hang-time (carried to its zenith by Michael Jordan); Julius Erving with his dunking; and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with his sky-hook. Yet the author adamantly urges young black males not to aspire to careers in professional sports, because, he cautions, jobs do not exist in any reasonable quantity. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour. (Feb.)