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Can I Keep My Jersey?: 11 Teams, 5 Countries, and 4 Years in My Life as a Basketball Vagabond
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Can I Keep My Jersey?: 11 Teams, 5 Countries, and 4 Years in My Life as a Basketball Vagabond [Format Kindle]

Paul Shirley , Chuck Klosterman
5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)

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Descriptions du produit


September 15

My home here in Atlanta is a hotel connected to the CNN Center—the epicenter of the world of cable television. As such, one would think that I have a plethora of televisionary options to fill my non- basketballing time. Not so. I think I have two channels that are not somehow related to CNN. And I doubt that either of them is going to show the Kansas City Chiefs game that I am fixated on watching, if only because it would breathe some normalcy into my current existence.

I’m here trying to make the Atlanta Hawks. My days are filled with basketball workouts, obsession about the repercussions of those workouts, and avoidance of the out-of-doors—strangely, it’s really hot in the South. My chances of success in this endeavor weren’t great to start with. (Chances of making the team, that is. I’m pretty good at staying inside.) However, I’d feel better about my odds of making the team if I had the use of all of my digits.

I should explain.

My brother Dan volunteered (was coerced) to take me to the Kansas City airport. As I robustly tossed my duffel bag into the trunk of his teal Grand Am, an as-yet-unidentified metal protrusion in that trunk nearly tore off the top of my right index finger. I said, “Darn it,” and went back inside to patch myself up before he drove me to the airport. Obviously, worse events could have befallen me—a car accident, a tornado, or a raging case of syphilis each would have caused me far more strife. Nonetheless, I could have done without an additional hurdle in an already uphill climb.

My seemingly insignificant injury resulted in a condition wherein I now occasionally have no idea where a basketball will go when it leaves my hand. Which would have been fine had I not been bound for an NBA training camp. (Additionally, I am struggling to type the letters Y, U, H, J, N, and M. So perhaps I should amend the previous statement—stenographer’s boot camp would have been a challenge as well.)

Most players in the NBA do not fight for their jobs each year. Generally, they have guaranteed contracts—often for multiple years. For one of those players, training camp is merely the season’s beginning. That player endures the twice-daily practices safe in the knowledge that he will be on the team for the entire year. Because the team has already committed to paying him a salary for the season, it would make no sense to release him. I have never been the player in the example.

Most teams maintain one or two open roster spots and allow players like me, who will jump at the chance to make an NBA team, to fight among like-minded souls for the remaining slots. (Note: it is not an actual fight . . . although that would make camp more interesting. I envision gladiator-style arena battles for the final roster spot, audience participation, a vote at the end . . . it could work.) The team guarantees the combatants nothing more than a per diem and a fair shot. It is debatable how fair that shot really is, but at least the per diem isn’t bad—$95.

The difficulty in wrangling even an unpaid NBA training camp invitation amazes me. Last year—my rookie season—I had to fly to Los Angeles for a two-day tryout with the Lakers before they would commit exactly zero dollars for my training camp services. This year, I needed to impress the Atlanta Hawks coaches in yet another tryout setting. To this end, I went early in the fall to a two-day workout with the Hawks in order to fight for a position as low man on the proverbial totem pole. While I was there I played well enough that the team invited me to training camp, starting October 1.

Camp with the Hawks will be populated by several players in a like situation—guaranteed nothing and hoping to remain on the team through the madness that is two-a-days, preseason games and practices that seem—and might be—make-or-break. If I manage to survive the laid-back atmosphere and find a roster spot on the Atlanta Hawks when the first game of the actual season finally arrives, I will have accomplished the most outlandish goal I’ve ever had—to play in the NBA. Not that I’m taking this too seriously or anything.

I spent the summer loosely affiliated with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Again. The NBA holds a brief summer league each year. Although summer league teams play under the banner of NBA teams, only a few of the players on each squad wind up playing for the team in the winter. The summer league is a chance for a team’s personnel to get an early look at players they drafted, young players who may be in line for a longer contract, and jackasses like me who are hoping that someone watching might take a liking to what they see. I played quite well in the NBA’s summer league in Salt Lake City, but Cleveland wasn’t interested in paying me to play for them during the season. (Such is my assumption, anyway; I think I would have noticed the six-year contract if it had arrived in the mail.) I surprised the Cavaliers’ coaching staff by keeping pace with one of the team’s new toys—their first-round draft pick, Carlos Boozer, of Duke fame. As I displayed my basketball wares alongside fellow free agents, rookies, and near-rookies, it was apparent that I belonged on the court. But the team drafted Boozer and so has a vested interest in his future success. Consequently, he returned to Cleveland safe in the knowledge that he had a shiny two-year contract that would pay him roughly $1 million. I returned to Meriden, Kansas, safe in the knowledge that I had a lopsided bed in my parents’ basement and access to my old high school gym from ten to eleven every morning. I played far better this summer than last but—as seems to be the trend in my life—had nothing more to show for it.

When I went to training camp with the Lakers last year, I thought there was a 5 percent chance that I would make the team—odds similar to the survival rate after a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. This year with the Hawks, that probability has improved to 20 percent. (Lymphoma.) Neither number is sufficient to warrant heavy action in Las Vegas, but it is encouraging that the trend is not the opposite one. (Source: my own warped view. I have no evidence to back up my statistical claims.)

After passing my late August audition with Atlanta, I returned to Kansas and continued the workout routine that I had embraced for most of the summer so that I would be prepared for training camp. The Hawks offered to let me join the team’s pre-preseason training sessions anytime after Labor Day. I would have rather stayed in the warm uterus of the heartland, but the Hawks’ offer was not one to be spurned by an unguaranteed free agent who has never played in the NBA. To that end, I packed and prepared for an indeterminate amount of time in Atlanta.

I spent my first two days here in Atlanta participating in a mini-camp with the Hawks. The NBA recently decided to allow such events sporadically throughout the summer and fall so that each team can get together for extra work and/or confirm that none of its respective players has been recently incarcerated. Since my mini-camp experiences with the Hawks, my time has been consumed by individual workouts and pickup games while we prepare for the beginning of training camp in two weeks.

Mini-camp consisted of laid-back practices where, according to NBA rules, the drills could not go beyond three-on-three. So the two days ostensibly were not too difficult. However, it always re-surprises me that such a high level of concentration is required if one wants to have any success at the NBA level. The slightest wandering of the mind—especially when one is trying to learn a basketball system or philosophy from scratch—makes catching up a challenge. Over the years, I have come to understand that there are two intelligence-level options among basketball players: (1) A player can be relatively intelligent, and so can concentrate for long periods of time, or (2) he can be a Neanderthal. In the latter case, a coherent thought rarely sails through the participant’s brain. The relative emptiness inside that player’s cranium makes it easy to focus on simple activities. For example, when one has no other worries, the instruction “Put ball in basket” becomes a fairly easy command to follow. The rest of us are balancing the need to call about health insurance, concerns about our dinner plans, and confusion about our purpose on this earth. Meanwhile, the moron already scored and is pointing to the sky on his way back down the court.

Surprisingly, many NBA players fall into the former category—the smart-guy group. I make note of the unrecognized good fortune of the idiot only because I am envious. Such ease of focus has been demonstrated to me by many former teammates; it proves maddening for me to admit that it is so effective. The proverbial blank canvas, perhaps. For better or worse, I fall more easily into the category of the relatively intelligent soul. Thus my need for extreme concentration at all times, if only to dumb myself down. What a waste of brain cells.

September 22

Late this week I signed a contract with the Hawks, which sounds a lot better than it really is. As previously mentioned, my contract is valid only if I am on the team’s roster at the end of training camp. I will admit that it is somewhat intoxicating to sign my name to a contract that states that I will receive $512,435—the minimum yearly salary for a player with my experience. Because I went to training camp with the Lakers last season, I am no longer considered a first-year player—even though I was not on an NBA team during the regular season. The NBA regulates minimum salaries according to years of service. (Which makes it sound like the army. Life in the NBA is decidedly dissimilar to life in the armed forces.) I now qualify as having had one year of that service, so my salary escalates ac...

Présentation de l'éditeur

He’s been called a journeyman. Even Paul wouldn’t dispute that classification. Regardless, Bill Simmons,’s “The Sports Guy,” has said of Paul Shirley, “We could finally have an answer to the question ‘What would it be like if one of our friends was an NBA player?”

There’s no denying that Paul Shirley is the closest thing pro basketball’s got to Odysseus. In Homeric fashion, he has logged time practically everywhere in the roundball universe, from six NBA cities to pro leagues in Spain and Greece to North America’s pro ball Siberia, the minor leagues. Hell, he’s even played in the real Siberia. And in Can I Keep My Jersey?, Shirley finally puts down roots long enough to deliver one of the great locker-room chronicles of the modern age.

With sharp elbows and an even sharper wit, Shirley–whose writings have been described as “wildly entertaining” by The Wall Street Journal–drops hilarious commentary, revealing which teams have the best cheerleaders (he’s spent many a time-out watching them ply their trade), why Christ is rapidly becoming every team’s “sixth man,” and even the best ways to get bloodstains out of your game uniform, using only an ordinary bar of soap and a hotel bathroom sink.

From sharing the court with Kobe and Shaq to perusing the food court at some mall in a bush-league burg; from taking pregame layups to getting laid out by a stray knee from an NBA power forward; from hopping a limo to the team’s charter jet to dashing to catch the van home from a B-league game in Tijuana, Shirley dishes on what it’s like to try to make it as a professional athlete. Can I Keep My Jersey? is a rollicking, thoughtful, even thought-provoking insider’s look at a pro baller’s life on the fringe. Like Jim Bouton’s Ball Four or John Feinstein’s A Season on the Brink, Shirley’s odyssey deserves to find a home on every sports fan’s bookshelf.

From the Hardcover edition.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 510 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 336 pages
  • Editeur : Villard; Édition : 1 (24 avril 2007)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B000QCQ8WG
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°475.128 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Commentaires client les plus utiles
5.0 étoiles sur 5 i loved 24 août 2012
Par Goncalves
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
i enjoyed reading that book
very nice, very easy to read
j'ai adoré lire ce livre
très facile à lire
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 3.6 étoiles sur 5  63 commentaires
24 internautes sur 29 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Great potential, poor execution 24 décembre 2007
Par Vallejo Reader - Publié sur
A reasonably intelligent young man gets paid a more than decent wage to play a game he sometimes loves. Along the way he travels the world, deals with uncertainty and illness, and lives and works with people from profoundly different backgrounds than his own. In the hands of someone with an open mind, a curious nature and a willingness to learn, the result might have been an insightful and fascinating book. Bill Bradley's Life on the Run, or Ken Dryden's The Game are two classic examples of how a sports memoir can be about much more than a game.

Paul Shirley had the chance for such a book, especially given his position of the far edge of his profession, where he had to fight hard to keep his professional career alive. Instead, what emerged was a book that, while periodically clever, grows increasingly tiresome as the pages turn.

Almost everyone Shirley meets is, for him, somehow lacking. Yet when Paul Shirley makes so few friends on so many teams in so many countries, the obvious question is whether it might just be the author who is at fault.
A subtitle for the book might have been "My deep contempt for just about everyone I ever met and most countries, too." Contempt isn't witty and it isn't smart. It's just boring, isolating and, in the end, a little sad.

The basic plot repeats with each chapter: A) anxiety about getting a job, B) getting a job, C) how the new job proved boring/stupid/unworthy, D) how the location of the job proved dreadful, E) how the people with whom the author worked proved too dumb or too religious to be worth the author's time, conversation or interest and F) how it all fell apart, causing him to return to A) above.

Shirley can be funny and, almost despite himself he does impart some information about what it's like on the margins of professional sports. For that I award the book two stars, but when I think of what the book might have been, I'm tempted to drop it back down to one.

This is a young man of talent, but his insecurity and ego keep him from learning much, and that's a tragedy. My hope is that the book is colored by the author's relative youth and that, in later years, he might prove more reflective about his experience and its lessons. This first effort, however, just seems both shallow and self-absorbed when it could have been so much more.

Here's hoping Shirley someday finds a way consistently to live up to his potential as both a basketball player and an author. I honestly wish him well.
31 internautes sur 40 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Paul surely writes well 17 mai 2007
Par Josh Hummert - Publié sur
As a Jayhawk, I would never in a million years have thought that I'd be writing in praise of Paul Shirley when he played for Iowa State. However, starting with his blogs as a member of the Phoenix Suns, I really came to appreciate Shirley's talent as a writer and the insight he gives into the world of professional basketball. Shirley looks at the world of basketball through the eyes of somebody who has grown up loving the game (he is, after all, from Kansas) and who happened to have the ability to play (or sit on the bench) professionally.

While Shirley's humor sometimes misses its mark, the writing is engaging and much more interesting than your typical basketball player's memoir. The effort and dedication required to become even an average division I basketball player results in a lot of sentences in basketball memoirs like, "on Tuesday I went to the gym and shot 10 thousand three pointers." Not exactly the ideal grist to create a memorable book, but Shirley has succeeded in writing a book that addresses the reality of a life in basketball while maintaining a refreshing sense of humor about it.
16 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Paul Shirley 11 août 2007
Par T. Snyder - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Chances are the readers of "Can I Keep My Jersey?" are one of two types:

1) People who are basketball fans in general and have never read Paul Shirley before.

2) Readers who got hooked on Paul Shirley via his NBA Blog, or via Bill Simmons' columns on ESPN's Page 2. If you found this book by way of either of these methods, I'm sure you'll love it.

If you're in group 1 and you have a smart-a&#, sarcastic, dry, witty, smart sense of humor, I think you'll like Paul's writing.

I loved hearing about his experiences in foreign countries most of all. Paul gives you a look at being a complete fish out of water in places most tourists never go. If you've traveled outside the US, you'll definitely relate to some of his uncomfortable, awkward stories.

You also get a first-hand tour of the dredges of professional basketball in the USA - the CBA and the ABA. Personally, having been to the wonderful world of Yakima, Washington, I found his CBA stories about his time there to be particularly entertaining.

Again, this book isn't so much about the NBA or famous basketball players, it's about Paul's travels across the world while doing his job. I get the idea that while Paul loves playing basketball, he may not enjoy the rigmarole of playing in 3rd-world countries; it sort of seems like a paycheck for him in some points. Also, after making it into the NBA, he really brought an everyman-view to the NBA lifestyle too.

I breezed through this book. If you're in his target demographic (I am) and would enjoy reading things like blogs, I would recommend it. If you're not though, I'm not so sure...
7 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Wrote himself out of the the NBA 15 juin 2009
Par Amazonie - Publié sur
I'm pretty sure Paul Shirley will never play in the NBA again. This has nothing to do with his basketball skill, but more of his no-holds barred recap throughout the book of his experiences in the league. It's obvious no team or management will want their choices second-guessed or laughed at in any other future book Shirley might have. This insight is the most interesting factor about this book. You get these tales and a sneak peak behind the scenes of the NBA. That's kinda neat.

However, Shirley's view on traveling, fans, and anything foreign (i.e. not from his hometown of 600 people in Kansas) is just aggravating. A little appreciation of his life and experiences could have really made this an exciting story to read, instead it's a woe-is-me view that is frustrating to a well-read or well-traveled reader.

The writing has it's moments. The quality is there, and as another reviewer noted - the editor could have gone a long way to curb some of the unnecessary banter. Shirley's second and third-guessing of his own phrasing, writing, and stories are distracting and drags interesting stories into self-indulgent and unnecessary debates (that he has with himself.) As a fan of Shirley's blog and articles, I found myself disappointed with this book.
4 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 FIFTY- FIFTY 22 octobre 2008
Par Bobby Butler - Publié sur
I have to admit through the first 100 pages I loved the book, thought Paul was funny though a bit cynical, and actually cared about his journey in basketball and life. However, that changed as I got deeper into his story and like many of the reviewers here got sick of his whinning. Perhaps this is the true reality of professional sports for individuals with talent or size but in most cases not enough skill or athleticism. You just grow bitter and have trouble finding your niche. I have no doubt that Paul's intelligence level made his experience even more difficult and so I can find some empathy for the guy. What I struggle with was his attitude especially in light of the financial rewards he was reaping and the experiences he was being afforded. Paul could have stopped playing and chosen another line of work.
What I liked about the book was reading about international basketball and the different cultures and places that Paul experienced. I also enjoyed the stories about the NBA teammates Paul shared his playing days with.
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