Tall Men, Short Shorts: The 1969 NBA Finals: Wilt, Russ, Lakers, Celtics, and a Very Young Sports Reporter

Leigh Montville. Doubleday, $29 (336p) ISBN 978-0-385-54519-8
Sportswriter Montville (Sting Like a Bee) masterfully combines memoir and sports history in this thrilling deep dive into a legendary NBA championship battle. As a 24-year-old novice reporter for the Boston Globe in 1969, he had a first-row seat to an epic duel that went the full seven games and pitted Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics against Wilt Chamberlain’s Los Angeles Lakers. The Celtics, Montville writes, were “at the end of their dominance”—they’d finished fourth in their division, and their leader, Russell, was playing his final year. The Lakers, meanwhile, had just brought on Chamberlain, who many considered the “most stupendous” player in the league. Historically, the Lakers had routinely been bested by the Celtics, but the L.A. team’s two games to none lead at the outset of the Finals gave them the upper hand. Instead, Boston won by two points in the seventh game, with Chamberlain injured on the bench in the final, crucial minutes. Montville recounts his race against “the tightest of deadlines” to file game reports—including the first game’s “53 beautiful backcourt points” scored by Jerry West—that he hoped would catapult his career. In vividly evoking the ups and downs that led to this monumental match-up, Montville paints a humanizing portrait of the game. This is another success for a gifted writer. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM Partners. (July)
Reviewed on : 04/19/2021
Release date: 07/13/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 1 pages - 978-0-385-54520-4
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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