Values of the Game
By Bill Bradley, Artisan, $30
Confronted with the deplorable (I suppose) absence of an NBA season, basketball fans of a literary bent may take heart in the appearance this holiday season of a plethora of books on their stalled sport. Some are even worth reading.
Consider, for example, Values of the Game, in which the former senator from New Jersey takes a loving look back on the game that brought him to national prominence. Bradley reflects on his career as a Princeton All-America and a key member of the two-time NBA champion New York Knicks of the early 1970s.
Bradley doesn't simply recall his playing days. Instead, he defines the truths he learned on the court. The result is a book heavy on homilies but leavened with insights, at least one of which seems foreign to the modern game: "The society we live in glorifies individualism. Basketball teaches a different lesson: that un-trammeled individualism destroys the chances for achieving victory." Victory, in fact, is "the bond that selflessness forges."
Another howler goes like this: "To take money for hawking basketball shoes or shaving lotion would have demeaned my experience of the game." Oh my, oh my.
For the Love of the Game
By Michael Jordan, Crown Publishers, $50
One player with no such lofty scruples is that demon hawker of shoes, and much else: Jordan. His Airness stoutly defends his salesmanship, even though when he signed on with Nike as a rookie in 1984, the league fined him again and again for displaying footwear on court that was deemed out of sync with the rest of his Chicago Bulls apparel. " Nike didn't blink," writes Jordan. " Nike said they were willing to pay every penny, and I agreed. It would have cost millions of dollars to come up with a promotion that produced as much publicity as the league's ban did."
Jordan's book is about much more than shoes. He not only reviews his entire NBA career—including his ill-considered baseball sabbatical—but he also comments candidly on some of the more notable participants who have been a part of it, neatly carving up front office turkeys Jerry Reinsdorf and Jerry Krause, among others.
While you're out there shopping, here are some volumes on other sports for your perusal.
Women Who Win
By Christina Lessa, Universe, $45