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The Breaks of the Game

4.17  ·  Rating Details ·  7,665 Ratings  ·  220 Reviews
The Breaks of the Game focuses on one grim season (1979–80) in the life of the Bill Walton–led Portland Trail Blazers, a team that only three years before had been NBA champions.

As Halberstam follows this collection of men through the months, through the losing streaks and occasional victories, the endless trips and the brutal schedules, we come to know them and their worl
ebook, 416 pages
Published July 17th 2012 by Hyperion (first published 1981)
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Jeff Kelly
Jan 17, 2009 Jeff Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The late, great David Halberstam followed the Trail Blazers during the 1979-1980 season, two years after their acclaimed victory over the Sixers.

The Breaks of The Game, the book that resulted, remains one of the best sports books I have ever read and a work that has easily stood the test of time.

The author of more than 20 books on topics as diverse as the Vietnam War, the modern civil rights struggle, the decline of the American auto industry, and the history of American media , Halberstam ret
Mar 01, 2011 Kyle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The Cuckoo Man was Jack Nicholson, the movie star, a devoted follower of Laker basketball who had a seat right next to the Laker bench. In the championship season, when Portland had played Los Angeles, Nicholas had thus sat only about three feet away from the last man on the Portland bench who, in this case, happened to be Lloyd Neal, and everything that Nicholson said, every cry praising Kareem or belittling Walton, thundered in the ears of the Portland players. It was as if he had been chosen ...more
Christopher Mezzetta
This book is a masterpiece. It's the best sports lit/sports history book I've ever read. So much was changing in the NBA in 1979; it was the birth of the modern league. Young David Stern. Magic and Bird were rookies. Incorporation of the four ABA teams and its players. Transition to a more "black" sport, or at least a less white sport. Crazy salaries for the younger players, while older players and coaches miss out on the money. Television contracts. Expansion teams. Everything was changing and ...more
Dec 12, 2011 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: basketball
Fascinating book! It's a conversational history of the NBA until 1981, told through the lense of the 1979-80 season of the Portland Trailblazers. As the team's season touches on various characters and issues, Halberstam pauses to explore them. Great character sketches/bios of most of the great players up until that point, the most interesting discussions I've read of the defining issues of the NBAs early years (race, TV rights, team ownership etc), as well as plenty of basketball content -- team ...more
Christian Holub
Jul 05, 2011 Christian Holub rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: journalism
I told my dad I was reading this book because its reputation precedes it as one of the best sports books ever written. His matter-of-fact answer: "well, that's because Halberstam is one of the best writers ever." 362 pages later, I can't help but agree. He may not be a hoity-toity modernist prose stylist like those names more often thrown around as candidates for that prestigious title, but he does possess a unique gift to seamlessly interweave logistics and information (about everything conceiv ...more
May 29, 2014 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Truly a fantastic, fascinating book. As a life-long Blazer fan, I started the book with the hopes of understanding the roots of my hometown team. What I found was an in-depth examination of the NBA in a period of evolution and stunted growth, with the '79-'80 Blazers as a vehicle to move the narrative forward. Halberstam's coverage of racial, social, and economic actions and consequences is direct and objective and provides far more of a historical read than I had expected. As it relates to my b ...more
Dec 15, 2015 Sebastien rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. This is a phenomenal book. Halberstam gets into the nuts and bolts of not just basketball, but people, society, economics, and capitalism. Halberstam is A) a flat out great writer B) a compassionate progressive soul C) smart as heck D) an amazingly astute observer of life and people.

Writing about the Portland Trailblazers circa 1980, he delves into the Blazers' players, management, and ownership. Often times he uses these great long story arcs and background expositions that helps bring lif
Feb 11, 2009 Yofish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Halberstam is a really good writer. He follows the Portland Trailblazers through the 79-80 season, talking extensively with coaches, players, etc. Tells a pretty compelling story. Remember that this is when Magic and Bird are just coming into the league, and noone was sure whether/how long the NBA would survive. Long, interesting story of the history of the TV contract. (Started with ABC/Arledge. He feels screwed when he feels the league unfairly moves to CBS. Invents Superstars to dig into thei ...more
Aug 12, 2009 Chris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book because I read somewhere that it was one of the greatest sports books ever written. Halberstam is a good writer and a master of the vignette. He does a great job of giving a sense of his subjects in just a few pages. Still, I'm not that interested in Bill Walton, who figures large, and I wasn't familiar with a number of the players. I did, however, become a fan of Kermit Washington's career.

I was surprised how dated the book seemed; the NBA of the late 70s was all black/white
Jul 31, 2012 Matthew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Halberstam's The Breaks of the Game chronicles the turbulent season of the Portland Trailblazers two years removed from their Championship season.

The book doesn't tell the story of the cohesive team as much as the individual stories that make for a tediously long NBA season.

Incredible insight into the responsibility these grown men feel being paid a princely sum to play a child's game. From the coaches to the general manager to the lead scout the player personnel feel the pressure of the surmoun
Feb 02, 2012 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports, non-fiction
Amazing how topical a book can be 35 years after it was written. I happened to be reading this when Jack Ramsey passed. I love the way Halberstam writes, telling the main story, but leaving on tangents to give you mini biographies on all the bit players involved in the story, and then returning to the main story. One of these days, I will have to read one of his non-sports books (The Fifties, The Best and the Brightest, etc.).
Schuyler Wallace
Although this is a review of David Halberstam’s ‘The Breaks of the Game,” I’ve included a lot of material about Halberstam and his works in general, somewhat unorthodox in the world of reviewing So let’s get right to the actual review first, and you can then shut down if you don’t want to know anything else about his iconic writing.

This is a review of his second basketball book, “The Breaks of the Game,” in which he recounts his stay with the 1979-80 Portland Trailblazers and superstar Bill Walt
Mar 28, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dozens of small dramas make up this book. It's not just about the game of basketball, it's about all the people who make it happen -- players, coaches, wives, agents, reporters, owners, TV execs, etc. All of these stories come together to create a complete picture of what makes a professional basketball team really tick. It is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at a typical season on a typical team.

Having recently read Terry Pluto's Loose Balls, about the American Basketball Association, this
Chris Perry
Mar 04, 2014 Chris Perry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An expansive book ostensibly chronicling the 1979-1980 season of the Portland Trail Blazers, Halberstam (seemingly) captures the poetry of NBA basketball at the time. The best and most insightful parts came in discussing the minutiae of the game - what the trainer does day in and day out, how Weinberg, the owner, pursued negotiations with his arch-enemy and closest friend Howard Slusher (which may be the best name for a sports agent ever). I found the formatting of the book a little annoying. Wi ...more
Apr 02, 2014 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Breaks of the Game, David Halberstam explores the 1979-80 Blazers. Explores might be a strange word choice, but I'm not sure what else to call what he does. In telling the story of their season, he provides backstory on everyone from the President on down to the janitor. He gets to know the players, their wives, their agents, their 4th grade teachers. It is amazingly comprehensive, and gives what might be a rather blasé season (a first round playoff exit) an epic lens, since we know what is a ...more
Nov 11, 2015 Stevie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I won this book fair and square from Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you Mitch. This is the greatest basketball book ever! Bill Simmons will tell you so in the introduction and I will agree with him in my review. Note to Goodreads Giveaways: I have mentioned the contest in my review. Please keep this in mind when choosing the winner of the "Psycho Path Test" by Ron Jonson contest of which I am also participating. I will mention you again when I review that book. As a matter of fact, if you want to go ...more
May 14, 2017 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The foreword from Bill Simmons should have been my warning, but as a life-long Blazers fan I was intrigued to read about the early days of the franchise. And this book delivered that in pieces, although it also splintered into asides on Kareem, Dr. J, TV network executives, etc. It was wordy and all over the place, and many of the Blazer moments in the book seemed like a second-hand account of a situation rather than first-hand observations.

I read this one over a period of months just because i
Josh Withers
May 22, 2017 Josh Withers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a basketball fan, this was a fantastic book. As someone who loves NBA history, it was amazing and fascinating. As a fan of the Portland Trail Blazers, it was enlightening, agonizing, beautifully nostalgic and necessary.

Read it.
Feb 23, 2013 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's easy to see why this book is so highly regarded by so many people "in the know"; it feels like a model of the form, often duplicated but rarely as successful. It's now SOP for a championship-winning team to have a book or two published about it by beat writers of the team's local papers, but somehow those always seem like disappointments, ephemeral and superficial. Perhaps you need someone who is not associated with the game to get a true perspective, to give the game its proper scope in th ...more
When you look at David Halberstam's massive output ("The Best and the Brightest," "The Coldest Winter," "War in a Time of Peace"), the idea that the great author wrote about the Portland Trail Blazers a couple of years after winning the NBA title seems a little odd. Let's not wonder why - let's just celebrate Halberstam's wide-ranging interests. "The Breaks of the Game" may be the best book on American sports I've ever read.

In 1977 the Blazers won the NBA title with a legendary mix of youth, spe
Aug 15, 2011 Robert rated it it was amazing
The Breaks of the Game is a book I have heard about for a long time as one of the best-written sports books and now I understand why. David Halberstam was an excellent writer. He writes about sports in a way that makes it a compelling human drama unlike any other sports book I have ever read.

The book is set during the 1979-1980 Portland Trailblazers’ season, but Halberstam does an excellent job of moving back and forth from what is currently happening during the season to the backstories of vari
Sep 25, 2012 Mitchell rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is about the Portland Trail Blazers' 79-80 season, the year after Walton left in a cloud of accusations of malpractice. Two years before, Portland had won their only championship with a Walton led team that specialized in fast breaks started by superb outlet passes. The next year, they were 50-10 when Walton finally had to stop playing because of his foot, in which was later discovered to be a stress fracture. I got this book mainly because Bill Simmons references it occasionally as be ...more
Feb 12, 2015 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: basketball
When I read The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy, I kept coming across references Bill Simmons made to this book. In that book and elsewhere, Simmons hailed this tome as a masterpiece of sports journalism. After reading it, I am convinced that it is the best book ever written about professional basketball, and one of the best books ever written about all of professional sports.

Sports journalism often doesn't draw the same analytical attention and precision seen in politica
Jun 30, 2013 Ben rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Books based on following a sports team for a whole season aren't necessarily a dime a dozen, but they aren't an uncommon trope either. But to call this book just the story of the 1979-80 Portland Trailblazers is to do a disservice to the incredible work that Halberstram has done here. While the main story focuses on the Blazers, he manages to paint a very well done picture of what the entire NBA was like at that time--a growing league, but also one in a very tenuous place. The discussion of the ...more
Marty Johnston
This book did a good job of chronicling a full NBA season. At times the book became slow reading, but all in all it was an enjoyable book.
John Diaz
Dec 11, 2007 John Diaz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A tremendous book, not just a tremendous sports book. Halberstam traveled with the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers during the 1979-80 season, and it was a really interesting portrait of how a professional basketball team operates whether it be the coaching staff, front office, or the locker room and the players.

The players deal with injuries and not just that, but deal with pressures from the team to get back on the floor and deal with pressures from other players trying to take their spot. Other p
Jun 25, 2012 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A solid read, good, but, for a book high on many lists of the best sportswriting ever (why I chose to read it), it doesn't make that leap to greatness, at least for me. It's not that it's about a team that played 33 years ago; a good writer, and Halberstam is that, can make just about any topic interesting. It's just that there are long digressions that take you away from the flow of the story and sometimes their placement appears haphazard. Sometimes within those digressions and flashbacks ther ...more
Dec 09, 2011 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the third book by David Halberstam which I've attempted to read, and the first that I've finished. "The Best and the Brightest" started well and bogged in the endless details, but I was so young and busy then; perhaps I'd finish it today. "Summer of '49" was a short experiment, too archival and remote to matter.

"Breaks of the Game" is as different from those books as it is from every other sports-book I've ever read--it's quick and lean, with clean characters whose essential natures jum
Tom Gase
Look, David Halberstam is one of my favorite writers of all time, and I know a lot of people ranked this book very high (Sports Illustrated had it in its Top 20 off all time for sports books), but I just thought it was okay. Halberstam has done way better (See Summer of 49, The Best and the Brightest, Teammates) than this book, which chronicles a season of the 1979-80 Portland Trailblazers. Very well-researched as usual from Mr. Halberstam, but I thought this book strayed from the main point a l ...more
I started paying attention to the NBA in 1993 when Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls faced Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns. Barkley, that year's MVP, became my favorite player and the underdog Suns became my favorite team. From then on, I was a die-hard pro hoops fan who knew every player on every team through the '90s until today. But after reading Bill Simmons' Book of Basketball, I realized I was missing decades of NBA history, particularly the '70s and '80s when the NBA transitioned ...more
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David Halberstam (April 10, 1934–April 23, 2007) was an American Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author known for his early work on the Vietnam War and his later sports journalism.

Halberstam graduated from Harvard University with a degree in journalism in 1955 and started his career writing for the Daily Times Leader in West Point, Mississippi. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, writing for
More about David Halberstam...

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“When you are discussing a successful coach,” sports psychologist Bruce Ogilvie once said, not of Ramsay but of the entire profession, “you are not necessarily drawing the profile of an entirely healthy person.” 1 likes
“A good team was simply a group of very disparate athletes who assembled each day from radically different lives and—with luck—for one shared moment put aside their differences, their dislikes, their egos and their rivalries, harnessing their energies towards a common goal.” 0 likes
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