- Publié sur Amazon.com
In his intro, the author mentions his PhD and street-cred hybrid, saying he's "Einstein plus Shaft." His name -- Todd Boyd. No "Dr." or middle names or initials. Todd Boyd -- Tight.
The writing isn't professor-foggy or professor-take-10-pages-to-make-a-one sentence-point; the words are sharp and clear. There are no big words in quotations, no use of "so-called" and only one "indeed" in the whole book. Nice. And while the writing style doesn't convey the speed and aggression of b-ball, or the inside game (Pat Riley and Phil Jackson's books have more sweat and sneaker squeaks), Boyd has the objective distance and big picture theories of a cultural historian.
Boyd covers basketball since the 1970's. I'll just kick it freestyle with some of his points:
- Kareem exemplified the 70's stars' stoicism. He played basketball -- he was not there to entertain the white man. Boyd compares these types of players to jazz greats who were not looking for popular approval. (Like Miles Davis, who would turn his back to the audience while he played).
- The ABA allowed "street ball" play, while the NBA of the 70's was more conservative. When the ABA folded/merged with the NBA, street style was injected into the NBA. And today, street style is the style.
- In the late 70's, the image of the NBA was of lazy cocaine users. Boyd notes that the NBA was no more coked up than other sectors of the entertainment industry. Boyd does not mention that ballers are athletes worshiped by kids. (And Boyd doesn't mention that Magic, Bird, and Commissioner David Stern all came into the league and upgraded the league's image).
- Magic redefined "position" by playing all five spots to win the championship his rookie year. This helped break the limitations of position -- players could roam all over -- and furthered the street style.
- Magic smiled a lot, which was a break from the Jabbar stoic style. Magic made it okay to entertain without seeming minstrel. Boyd claims that it was demeaning that Magic was always mentioned in the same breath as Bird. I say Bird was the second-best all-around player, and they elevated each other. I think Magic would agree.
- The Celtics and Duke University teams were whiter by design. It's no accident. (I'd add the Utah Jazz).
- The Detroit Pistons were viewed as Bad Boys because they - and Detroit - were so black. (Plus Lambeer :-). Boyd claims they were hated for the same physical play of the whiter Celts. I say the Pistons played nastier.
- Iverson is Boyd's poster boy for hip-hop style in basketball. He does what he wants, and f*%& 'em. Boyd doesn't seem to have a problem with Iverson showing up late or missing practices. Hey, f#*^ 'em. Uh, those are his teammates he's f&$%ing!
- Boyd likes that high schoolers can and do jump straight to the pros. And he doesn't think high schoolers should have to pass a test to play college ball. He claims that it's NCAA affirmative action for whites. (Chris Rock voice here....) Too many black players? Give the ghetto kids a test! If you have $200, how many pairs of duck shoes can you buy at Land's End, and still have enough to buy a jar of mayonnaise?
- The NBA is increasingly non-white, and the whites are increasingly foreigners. The college game is whiter, as it's more controlled, and the best players - who are also black - go from high school to the pros... or stay in college for a year or two before going pro.
- And Boyd weaves Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, and of course hip-hop into the mix.
- Plus a lot more. For example, Boyd highlights David "Skywalker" Thompson, the most electrifying player of his era. He literally took the air game to a whole new level. His career was cut short (you could say his was the promise that Jordan later delivered on), and I'm glad Boyd told his story.
- A couple things Boyd does not mention, that my creative license allows: 1) In the 1920's, Dr. Funkenstein was the first "black" player in the league. A white man who wore blackface, Funkenstein dazzled the crowd by dribbling between his legs, passing behind his back, and doing a "jump shot". (I find the whole concept offensive: Could you imagine Allen Iverson in white face, high striped socks and short shorts while shooting set-shots and being lauded because "He doesn't have much natural talent, but he plays with a lot of HEART!"). 2) If you look closely at Kevin McHale, you can see the scars on his neck from where they took the bolts out. Was he created in a lab as part of a honky Boston conspiracy? 3) In the early 1970's, Twinkle Toes Jackson elevated the game and electrified crowds as "Master of The Lay-up." Twinkle was the first to take off from the free throw line for a lay-up. While he was in flight, the crowd went c-raaazy! Flash bulbs popped everywhere! Then Dr. J started "slam dunking", and Twinkle saw his glory fade. Twinkle compensated for his increasingly anti-climactic layups by improving his trash talking skills, and became one of the best trash talkers ever.