The Soul of Basketball: The Epic Showdown Between LeBron, Kobe, Doc, and Dirk That Saved the NBA

Ian Thomsen. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-0-547-74651-7
Through an array of profiles, contributor Thomsen insightfully examines the 2010–2011 NBA season, which saw players and coaches negotiating the league’s rise in popularity, massive financial success, and increased marketing savvy. Realizing that the NFL and MLB had “recognized their own symbolism” (“Baseball was peace. Football was war”), the NBA board questioned what its “higher calling” might be. Thomsen focuses on four key players he believed helped, knowingly or not, NBA’s mission. Veteran Celtics coach Doc Rivers tried to maintain his team’s winning team-first tradition in an era when players were more concerned with individual accomplishments; superstar LeBron James turned the scrappy inner-city narrative into unheard-of success, but experienced backlash when he announced on his vanity show The Decision that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat; Kobe Bryant early on emulated Michael Jordan, but because of accusations of sexual assault, instead followed the “controversial path of Jordan’s adversary Isiah Thomas”; and Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki was the underdog who became a star. Thomsen’s ability to get personal, especially with unlikely sources, will hook readers, as when he captures the stoic Larry Bird gushing over LeBron James’s otherworldly skills, proclaiming him “the one guy I could watch play basketball all day long.” By thoughtfully plumbing the NBA’s biggest names, Thomsen offers a fascinating, thorough look at pro basketball’s continuing evolution to becoming the “sport of the American Dream.” (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/12/2018
Release date: 04/10/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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