cover image Lost in the Game: A Book About Basketball

Lost in the Game: A Book About Basketball

Thomas Beller. Duke Univ, $22.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1478-01883-4

Basketball is a special sport because “in the act of playing you forget where you are,” writes English professor Beller (J.D. Salinger: The Escape Artist) in this heartfelt ode to the game. Beller recounts his own collegiate basketball career and discusses the culture of New York City playground basketball (it’s the “primal scene” of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s “basketball initiation and education”), the agony of being a Knicks fan (it teaches “a certain emotional reserve, lest you get burned again”), the formidable Golden State Warriors (“The whole players-on-string, cut-and-move system... created a beautiful game to watch”), and the dawn of the superstar era (LeBron James’s 2010 announcement that he was “going to take [his] talents to South Beach” signaled a sea change for big-name players, who became “their own team builders,” Beller writes). Beller champions the sport as a lens through which to view life, and his devotion to it is palpable throughout: “I enter the world of the playground and pickup ball with the sense of relief and enclosure with which I once entered bars.” Basketball aficionados will get swept up in this incisive study. Agent: Rob McQuilkin, Massie & McQuilkin. (Nov.)