THE EXISTENCE of a Chinese man who stands 7'6", has a soft shooting touch, plies his trade on a basketball court in Houston and graces billboards in Beijing would seem to be a cosmic fluke. But in the exhaustively reported Operation Yao Ming: The Chinese Sports Empire, American Big Business, and the Making of an NBA Superstar (excerpted in the Sept. 26 issue of SI), Brook Larmer deftly shows that the emergence of Yao, and Yao Inc., was no accident. Rather it was the inevitable result of careful genetic planning, political and social upheaval, the rise of the global economy--and some very devoted mothering. Larmer vividly depicts the brutal intertwining of sports and revolution in Communist China, but his real achievement is a sharp and compelling portrait of one of the NBA's most mysterious stars.
Two authors winningly pursued the Tour de France champion
THE TITLE SUBJECT wasn't thrilled with it, but that may be all the more reason you'll enjoy Dan Coyle's Lance Armstrong's War. In 2004 Coyle glommed on to four Tour de France contenders, foremost among them one aerobically freakish Texan, whose attempts to keep the author at arm's length failed to prevent Coyle from delivering a literary tour de force: the liveliest, best-written and most deeply reported book on the seven-time Tour winner yet.
Martin Dugard's Chasing Lance is a more straightforward account of Armstrong's victory in the '05 Tour. Dugard is a history buff unable to help himself: His fast-paced account of Armstrong's final race is laced with references to such Gallic icons as De Gaulle, Saint-Exup�ry and the Maginot Line, and his descriptions of the Tour's towns are complemented by keen psychological portraits of the riders.
The Most ...
DELVING INTO THE MINDS OF GREAT COACHES.
Pulitzer Prize winner David Halberstam cracks one of the NFL's toughest nuts in The Education of a Coach, a rare close-up of the Patriots' Bill Belichick (SI, Oct. 17). Buzz Bissinger lets us manage along with the Cardinals' Tony La Russa (above) in Three Nights in August (SI, March 21). And in The Last Coach: A Life of Paul 'Bear' Bryant, Allen Barra paints a rich portrait of the man in the houndstooth hat.
THE RED SOX LIT GLUT.
No fewer than a dozen books on the 2004 World Series hit shelves, ranging from the sublime (Faithful, by Stewart O'Nan and Stephen King) to the ridiculous ( Johnny Damon's Idiot) to the repetitive (Reversing the Curse, Curse to Verse). We get it already: They won.
Powerful Examples of Sports as Social Prism
In BEYOND GLORY: JOE LOUIS VS. MAX SCHMELING, AND A WORLD ON THE BRINK, David Margolick's account of the 1938 bout between the black heavyweight champ and Hitler's great white hope, the author reminds us that sports is not always a distraction from reality; sometimes it sharpens our focus on the world. Wayne A. Rozen does the same in AMERICA ON THE ROPES: A PICTORIAL HISTORY OF THE JOHNSON-JEFFRIES FIGHT, a disturbing study of how race became the undercard to a 1910 prizefight.
Absorbing Fish Stories
THE DEVIL'S TEETH, Susan Casey's account of her adventures with shark researchers off the California coast (SI, May 2), is a mesmerizing portrait of scientists living on the edge--and dangerously close to their subjects. With SOWBELLY: THE OBSESSIVE QUEST FOR THE WORLD RECORD LARGEMOUTH BASS, Monte Burke delivers a sort of real-life Moby-Dick, introducing readers to some serious anglers and their white whale: a largemouth bigger than the 22-pound, four-ounce monster caught in Georgia in 1932.
Convincing Reason to Buy a Motor Home
In 2002 SI special contributor Jeff MacGregor hopped behind the wheel of an RV for a seasonlong tour of NASCAR Nation. The result: SUNDAY MONEY, a sharp, witty--and, at times, disturbing--look (SI, April 11) at one of the country's most colorful subcultures.