cover image Best Seat in the House: A Basketball Memoir

Best Seat in the House: A Basketball Memoir

Spike Lee. Crown Publishers, $23 (327pp) ISBN 978-0-609-60029-0

The New York Knicks haven't won the NBA championship since 1973, when filmmaker Lee was a scrappy teenager in Brooklyn. Today, Lee is part of the basketball industry--not as a player, but as a trenchant critic of the NBA and the racial politics of professional sports, and as a voluble presence at most Knicks games, hectoring opponents and referees from his $1000 courtside seat. In this disjointed but high-spirited memoir, Lee uses the history of pro basketball and the evolution of the Knicks since the 1970s as a prism for his own life story. Once a marginalized sport, according to Lee, stigmatized as ""too black,"" basketball has come into its own as an entertainment business. Anecdotes about memorable players and games are intercut throughout the events of Lee's life, such as his mother's death when he was a college student; the breakthrough of his film She's Gotta Have It; and the tumultuous production of his biopic of Malcolm X. This narrative strategy sometimes misfires, as Lee's personal nuances are lost to long rafts of statistics and game replays. What holds the book together, though, are such fine set pieces as a conversation with Woody Allen (in many ways Lee's alter ego, Allen schedules his shoots around Knicks games); portraits of basketball greats like Walt Frazier and Michael Jordan; and an outspoken candor on the racial politics of this most racially complex of professional sports. Author tour. (May)