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The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  2,592 Ratings  ·  125 Reviews
With unerring insight into the deeper truths of professional sports, John Feinstein explores in riveting detail what happened one night in December 1977 when, as a fistfight broke out on the court between the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers, Kermit Washington delivered a punch that nearly killed All-Star Rudy Tomjanovich. The punch-now legendary in the annals of ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published November 4th 2003 by Back Bay Books (first published November 5th 2002)
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Jan 29, 2008 Amy rated it it was amazing
the best and only sports-oriented book i've ever read. so, with that in mind, i would highly recommend this engrossing book. good read for a sociologist, historian, social justice oriented mind. the timing of this historical event is very relevant to the story, but it's also about two very good basketball players and one moment that changed both their lives for good.
Jon(athan) Nakapalau
One act of senseless violence changes everything...for the two men involved and professional sports. Rarely does a single act have such wide repercussions.
Steven Kent
"Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and hoping the other guy gets sick."

That was basketball legend Rudy Tomjanovich learned on one of the darkest nights in NBA history.

The Houston Rockets were playing the L.A. Lakers. Kermit Washington, an L.A. Laker hired largely as an on-court enforcer/bodyguard for Kareem Abdul Jabar, gets in a fight with the Rocket's center. Tomjanovich, an upstanding though possibly naive superstar, runs to help the player Washington has floored. Washington, the forme
Apr 29, 2013 Megan rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I loved this book. I think the author did a fine job of presenting both perspectives while showing the requisite sympathy for Rudy T.
May 12, 2010 Ice rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, basketball
In 1977, Rudy Tomjanovich and Kermit Washington became entwined in a single punch that would change not only their lives, but how professional basketball is played today. Because the punch dislodged Tomjanovich's skull and nearly destroyed both men's careers, the scuffle never settled as a dusty bit of NBA trivia. Instead, it nearly superseded both men's notable achievements. The history of that punch (it could not, by any standards, be considered a fight) and the fate of the two men are the sub ...more
Oct 22, 2014 Marlo rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ceashia Miller
Oct 10, 2013 Ceashia Miller rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-punch
Book Review By : Ceashia Miller

Book Title: The Punch

Book Author : John Feinstein

Main Idea - The main idea of this book , is to explain what had actually taken place between Tom & Kermit during their NBA career.

Attention Grabber - Did you know that the force of the punch Kermit Washington Threw To Tomjanovich’s face , forced his skull to move out of place.

Body -
December 1977 when a fistfight broke out on the court between the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers , Kermit Washington
John Diaz
Dec 11, 2007 John Diaz rated it really liked it
Such a good book. I read this a while ago, but basically this book is about the worst fight ever in NBA history, in 1977, in a game between the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers. The NBA was rampant with fights and drugs at the time, and this was kind of the culmination of the escalation of this period.

Rudy Tomjanovich, a star forward for the Rockets was entangled with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the star for the Lakers. Kevin Kunnert, an enforcer/forward with the Rockets set out to break it up a
Gary Braham
Sep 26, 2011 Gary Braham rated it really liked it
I'm not a huge basketball fan. But this story sounded interesting enough, and I always like reading about how professional sports were played in earlier times. John Feinstein is such a good storyteller. This book could have been a newspaper or magazine article, but John does what he does best, and digs in to get the full story. In fact, we're told the story of the punch three times. The first time on fast speed, without a lot of background. Then he goes through the story a bit slower, with lots ...more
Rajaa Holly
Nov 16, 2015 Rajaa Holly rated it really liked it
What did I think of "THE PUNCH"? I think this is a okay book. This book taught me a lot of stuff about the NBA. This book was about the event that changed basketball. This book is a explanation for a lot of things. This book is something I could have read again based on the quality of it.Also I think that if the NBA was like this now it would not be as electrifying. This incident was between Kevin Kunnett, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,and Kermit Washington. It started off subtle but it got nasty. I will ...more
Keon Morrison
Nov 19, 2015 Keon Morrison rated it really liked it
The Punch by John Feinstein is about one fight changed basketball forever. One night in 1977 a fight broke out on the Court between the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers, Kermit Washington punched Rudy Tomjanovich and almost killed him. The punch is now known as soon as you bring up either one of the players names. This punch changed the way the NBA is now. The NBA takes fights very serious so if you do it you will be suspended or fined.

There is a lot of things I like about this book,
Aug 08, 2007 Steven rated it really liked it
Shelves: basketball
On 12/9/77 in a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets, an altercation began Kermit Washington and Kevin Kunnert, as was quite common during that era. While running in the direction of the altercation, Rudy Tomjanovich was struck with a punch by Kermit Washington. This punch was so forceful that Tomjanovich later said that it felt like the scoreboard had fallen on him. Indeed, Tomjanovich was nearly killed. This book is about those few seconds, but it is really about much mo ...more
Jerry Smith
Mar 23, 2011 Jerry Smith rated it really liked it
Shelves: sport, 2011-read
Although I love sports in general, basketball is one that really leaves me cold. Freakishly talented and physically imposing as these athletes are, I can't get motivated to follow the game, especially the NBA

However Feinstein is a very good writer and spins out the tale of the infamous punching of Rudy Tomjanovich by Kermit Washington into over 300 pages. He does this with a lightness of touch that keeps the ready engaged in the story, although it is a tad overlong for me.

Of particular interest
Apr 13, 2008 Chelsea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chelsea by: Book Lust
A well-written and engrossing look at one moment that changed the lives not only of the two men involved, but as the title suggests, the entire sport of basketball.

Feinstein did a great job of looking at the context of the punch, not just the one moment that gets shown every time there's a particularly violent act in professional sports. He told the life stories of both Rudy Tomjanovich and Kermit Washington, giving them both more depth than they get as a shorthand reference in today's sports cu
Keely Criswell
Aug 15, 2014 Keely Criswell rated it it was amazing
When I first glanced at this book I thought it would be more of a fiction story, but as I started reading the book, I realized its written more like a true story because it did not have much of a story line. The story was about a NBA basketball game on December 9th, 1977. The two teams that played were the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets. During around the third quarter, Kermit Washington from the Lakers punched Rudy Tomjanovich so hard during a fight that Tomjanovich was almost kille ...more
Garrett Burnett
Nov 17, 2008 Garrett Burnett rated it did not like it
Shelves: sports
I'm a sucker for good sports writing, so I feel like The Punch kind of sucker punched me. Obviously my expectations were too high. I guess you can't have The Perfect Mile every time.

During a game in 1977 between the Lakers and the Rockets, Kermit Washington punched Rudy Tomjanovich. The punch nearly killed Rudy T. Both men were affected by the event. That's it. That's the story. I thought Feinstein would build on it, writing about violence in basketball, or that he would expand the scope of the
Jason Ferry
Apr 30, 2013 Jason Ferry rated it really liked it
I read The Punch, by John Feinstein. This true story tells the story of a single play that changed the game of basketball forever. This moment also changed the lives of both participants during the play drastically. The book gives a detailed insight into the lives of these men before, during, and after the punch. It alternates between the 2 men frequently, allowing the reader to keep a timeline in their head of what happened when.
Personally, I enjoyed reading this novel, as I am a big sports fa
Dec 13, 2015 Jay rated it really liked it
As a power forward for the Los Angeles Lakers in the mid- to late '70s, Kermit Washington was the type of player whose value couldn't be measured in numbers. As a 6'8", 240-pound block of muscle, he dutifully cleaned up the boards and threw in the occasional short-range bucket, but he was better known as an "enforcer," someone whose job was to play tough defense, set hard picks, and, most of all, protect the team's key scorer. In Washington's case, the prized and vulnerable star was Kareem Abdul ...more
Courtney Skelton
Aug 10, 2014 Courtney Skelton rated it it was amazing
John Feinstein has written not only a great basketball book, but a great sports book. In great detail, he shows a how in a matter of a only a few seconds, changed the landscape of sports forever. He chronicles both the before and after with both of the two involved, Rudy Tomjanovich and Kermit Washington, and everyone around them. If you ever wondered why referees and umpires always make a point to stop even the slightest taunting, verbal bantering between players, you should read this book. Thi ...more
Jan 01, 2010 Temoca rated it really liked it
I cried in the first five pages. Then proceeded to cry throughout the next thirty...I am speechless about the severity, the life changing event for Washington and Tomjanovich and then other people in and around this one moment, the ultimate wrong place at the wrong time and bad, bad luck.

It's detailed and well researched. I don't know how many kids can handle this book. It's non-fiction and very detailed so I see many kids giving up because they'll get bored. I wouldn't say it's just for basket
Eddy Allen
Mar 29, 2014 Eddy Allen rated it really liked it

With unerring insight into the deeper truths of professional sports, John Feinstein explores in riveting detail what happened one night in December 1977 when, as a fistfight broke out on the court between the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers, Kermit Washington delivered a punch that nearly killed All-Star Rudy Tomjanovich. The punch-now legendary in the annals of American sports-radically changed the trajectory of both men's lives and reverberates throughout the National Basketball
May 22, 2014 Tylerburton97 rated it liked it
This book really does not have a story-line. It is more of a "documentary book" about one night (December 9, 1977)at an NBA Basketball game between the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers. Early in the third quarter of the game, an on-court fight broke out, at one point in the fight a man named Kermit Washington (who played for the Lakers) punched Rudy Tomjanovich (who played for the Rockets) The punch nearly killed Tomjanovich, and it resulted in severe medical problems that ultimately ...more
May 19, 2011 Jeremy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book needed a much stronger editor. Entire passages repeated throughout the book, it was oddly sequenced, and two of the most interesting aspects were ignored. He did not go into great detail about the actual injury to Tomjanovich, which was gory and different than one would have expected; nor did he provide needed details about the court case stemming from the fight. I understand that other authors have spent time on these subjects, but if this was to be the definitive book on this subject ...more
Bruce Thomas
Nov 12, 2016 Bruce Thomas rated it did not like it
Says the same thing over and over and over again
Dec 21, 2014 Ella13 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ryan Saulnier
Oct 25, 2016 Ryan Saulnier rated it it was amazing
A very interesting, eventful, detailed book based on a true story in December of 1977. This book takes place in Los Angeles, California in an NBA game between the LA Lakers and the Houston Rockets. About 1 minute into the third quarter, a fight broke out between the two teams. Rockets power forward Rudy Tomjanovich ran into the fight in an attempt to break it up. Lakers power forward Kermit Washington did not know Tomjanovich was trying to break up the fight and thought he was going to be attack ...more
Feb 19, 2016 Shamirbaynes rated it liked it
The Punch by John Feinstein is a sports book about the NBA. About It was a fist fight on the NBA court and how Kermit Washington delivered a punch that nearly killed All-Star Rudy Tomjanovich. Also the punch was so loud the whole crowd heard it and the punch was so critical that is look like he wa dead because it was so much blood coming out of him. Also his face was fractured. Kermit Washington did not start when he was in high school he say he wasn't even better than most of the players on his ...more
Mar 01, 2015 Tom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, sports
A fascinating and very in-depth look at a rather infamous night in the history of the NBA. In terms of the severity of the games lost to injuries and suspensions, this was probably the most severe fight prior to the 2004 Malice at the Palace incident. It was also a very fluke event, with a dust up between the Lakers and Rockets escalating into one punch knock-out of Rudy Tomjanovich at the hands of Kermit Washington. This incident seems to have very long-lingering emotional and psychological eff ...more
Feb 25, 2012 Lee rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, sports
Although "The Punch" is an entertaining and interesting read, it doesn't measure up against some of Feinstein's earlier works such as the outstanding "A Season on the Brink".

"Brink's" power was derived from the incredible, behind-the-scenes reporting of one man over the course of only six months. As a reader, you were given full access to Bob Knight's daily life, and lived the ups and downs of the 86 basketball season along with the players.

On the other hand, "The Punch" is essentially a biograp
Mar 12, 2007 Mikey rated it liked it
Recommends it for: sports fans
Shelves: nonfiction
Until the more recent Sprewell and Artest shenanigans, the Kermit Washington-Rudy Tomjanovich fight was the most infamous bout of violence in NBA history. It might seem strange to devote an entire book to a single twenty-second incident, but Feinstein does a pretty good job. Of particular interest are the first and third acts of the book, in which Feinstein painstakingly describes Tomjanovich's and Washington's lives leading up to the infamous punch, and in which he describes the aftermath of th ...more
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John Feinstein is one of the nation’s most successful and prolific sports authors who has written 24 books to date. His most recent work Are You Kidding Me? , written with Rocco Mediate, was released on May 18, 2009, and is presently on the shelf at bookstores everywhere. In addition, he is an award-winning columnist and regular contributor in both radio and television.

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“Sometimes in life, you make a mistake and there’s no buts and no explanations … There’s no peace in ‘I’m sorry, but.’ You can’t find peace until you truly understand that the only thing to say is, ‘I’m sorry,’ period. ~ John Lucas, as quoted in ‘The Punch’ by John Feinstein” 0 likes
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