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Can I Keep My Jersey?: Eleven Teams, Six Years, Five Countries, and My So-called Career as a Professional Basketball Player

3.8  ·  Rating details ·  3,041 Ratings  ·  147 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 15th 2007 by Villard (first published January 1st 2007)
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Oct 26, 2011 rated it did not like it
If I learned one thing from this book it's that Paul Shirley is a jerk. Despite his feeble and wholly unbelievable attempts at self-deprecation, he comes across as a pretentious douche. He is hateful without good reason in so many of the anecdotes he presents in this book. For example, at one point Shirley rants about those who make mention of his tall stature. He then writes the following:

"Were these people not taught how to use their inner monologues? Yes, I am quite tall, but I know that. An
Oct 16, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: sports
Here is the skinny - if you're into basketball, and you've read a number of other basketball books, read this one. Paul Shirley is a strange character, but you gain some insight into the world of "marginal" NBA players.

I can't quite figure what to make of Shirley, even after spending 300 plus pages with his thoughts. For one, he certainly tries too hard with his writing (constantly self-deprecating and pointing it out), something that could probably be fixed with more editing. Another is that he
Aug 25, 2014 rated it did not like it
God, Paul Shirley is an asshole. That’s literally what kept running through my mind throughout this awful, slog of a book. I’d purchased the book a while back for like a dollar on the Amazon marketplace, because I vaguely remembered Bill Simmons touting Shirley in his column back in the glory days of ESPN Page 2. I even more vaguely remembered a short-lived Shirley column on, and while I also remembered not particularly liking it (he came across as overly impressed with his own intellig ...more
Kseniya Melnik
Mar 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Chockablock with moments of journalistic brilliance and hilarity. I'm not a die-hard basketball fan, but would gladly read this author's descriptions of washing the dishes or folding laundry...
Antonio Gomez M
Aug 07, 2015 rated it liked it
Con bastante retraso me he leído el libro de Paul Shirley. Había leído comentarios decepcionantes sobre este libro, pero a mi me ha parecido interesante y muy divertido. Cuenta todas sus andanzas por múltiples equipos, con sus grandezas y miserias, con mucha ironía y riéndose de él mismo y de todos los demás. El tono es un poco adolescente o incluso infantil (lo que es parte de la gracia del libro). Se presenta como un inadaptado en todo momento a pesar de haber circulado por un montón de países ...more
May 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Good read. In this book Paul Shirley writes about the nomadic, insecure lifestyle of trying to secure a position on an NBA team. In pursuing that dream he plays overseas and throughout the USA in 'minor leagues'. Very interesting. And Shirley's writing is filled with humor so the book feels like a quick read.

My parents possibly had Suns tickets during a season Shirley played. I'll have to loan the book to them and see what they think.

I'm counting this as "a book about sports" for 2016 #vtReading
Todd Johnson
Sep 29, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Sports Fans
Quick solid read. Feels a little disjointed towards the end when he starts including the blog postings he wrote for Other than that it was an entertaining insight into the life of a struggling professional athlete.
Apr 24, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As advertised, this is definitely an unvarnished look at the contradictory experiences of a fringe NBA player. Seemingly transcribed from Shirley's blog/diary, the writing is always breezy and off-the-cuff, though that sometimes translates to dull or unconsidered.
Leon Fredericks
Jan 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
I enjoyed the subject matter a great deal, but I did not enjoy the book. Paul Shirley (at least, the version of Paul Shirley that wrote this book several years ago) is a totally unlikeable spoiled brat. While the stuff about being a journeyman athlete was enlightening, he treats every stop in his professional journey as the opportunity to complain about something new. Mandela didn't complain about his incarceration as much as Shirley complains about bad food, or subpar hotels, or rude teammates. ...more
Randy Brown
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A super 5-star book. But, I have to tell you I have an advantage.
I coached Paul at Iowa State and know him from top to bottom. Paul is the kind of person that doesn't care about hurting some feelings; he tells it like it is. Just like he does in person. So as I say, knowing him is a huge advantage when reading his books. He's a 5-star guy and a 5-star friend.
Feb 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Humorous. While you generally want to root for the underdog, I couldn’t quite get there.
Feb 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Really funny book with insight into the life of NBA players. The author has a strangely over opposition to Christianity that he drives into the ground for some reason.
Joe Bearden
Jan 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Basketball book about traveling the world and playing basketball. Book contains opinions you will disagree with, but also some you agree with.
Adam Zerner
Mar 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
- Really cool to get an inside look at professional basketball life. Lots and lots of crazy stories that are interesting to know about. Being a big basketball fan, I place a lot of value on learning what it's like "on the inside".
- Genuinely funny book.
- Towards the middle of the book, it starts to get pretty repetitive. The author even acknowledges this; it's because it's a journal, and the same events keep happening to him. It does pick back up at times and I don't regret continuing to read th
Reed Goodbred
Oct 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
When professional basketball comes to mind you think of players playing the game but do you always remember or think of all the teams they have played on? Would you think that most players would like to stay in one place for their career? Paul Shirley would be the first guy to tell you that is not easy to stay with a NBA team with his caliber of play and playing style. For people that don’t know much about basketball the NBA is the highest and most competitive leagues in the world. Many other co ...more
Mar 30, 2014 rated it liked it
I recently read through “Can I Keep My Jersey?”, the memoir of a professional basketball player named Paul Shirley, who played for several teams in the NBA, minor leagues, and Europe over the course of seven years after college. Shirley chronicles his journeys through several countries, including Siberia, as he tries to make it as a professional over the course of four years. He only played in 18 actual NBA games, but he was a member of the “Seven Seconds or Less” Suns in 2005 when they made a r ...more
Oct 20, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: hoop junkies, tall white guys
Shelves: ballin
Paul Shirley writes of his nomadic life as a pro basketball player in the NBA pre-season and in various European clubs. Engaging writing style and enjoyable anecdotes, but this book is really just a collection of blog posts. So you might as well print out his blog from 2002 to 2007 and read them. His writing is still very good. Shirley has the world-weary tone of a journeyman who realizes that he isn't quite good enough to hang in the NBA. But he is still one of the top 500 players in the world. ...more
Nov 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
I don't know why it took me so long to write a review for this, since I loved this book and I'm such a big fan of this dude's writing and all....and yet here we are.

We've all read or at least seen the usual athlete biography where the protagonist rises above every obstacle to become one of the greatest in the sport (or at least really, really good), laying waste to all competition for years and years before finally riding off into either rehab or the sunset, depending. However, I'm sure at leas
Oct 05, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: basketball
Definitely not your older brother’s book written by a current player describing life inside the NBA. Usually those books are pretty boring because the players are loathe to criticize other members of the fraternity. Paul Shirley is not afraid to rub some people the wrong way and that makes this book a much better read.

One of the things that makes the NBA difficult for the average fan to watch is that there does not seem to be a lot of intensity during the average regular season matchup. I read
Agatha Donkar
Feb 06, 2010 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: anybody who wants to judge Paul Shirley's racist ass
Shelves: basketball, 2010
In theory, this should have been a great book: journeyman pro basketball player details a four year period of his life, bouncing between the CBA, the European leagues, and the NBA.

In practice: flat-out, Paul Shirley is a spoiled, entitled, self-centered, racist, upper-middle class white asshole. I probably would have thought he was kind of a jerk even if he hadn't, in the middle of my reading this, come out saying horrifically racist things about the tragedy in Haiti (google "Paul Shirley Haiti"
Patrick McCoy
Can I Keep My Jersey? by Paul Shirely is an interesting look at the life of a professional basketball player and is notable in the fact that most players aren't very reflective or pay much attention to detail. I guess it is informative about how the teams operate when injuries hit and how they acquire low level players to fill out rosters. I was disappointed in the lack of inside dirt on specific players-there are a few tidbits here and there, but he says very little about Steve Nash and Amare S ...more
Jun 11, 2008 rated it liked it
I have read several books by ex or current players and they all pretty much follow the same formula of glossing over anything that might piss somebody off that might sign a check for them someday. I love the fact that these books are almost exclusively written by a ghost rider Come on, the guy can bearly form a coherent sentence when asked "What do you think of the teams chances this year" and we are expected to believe that when he starts writing he suddenly speaks and thinks in the exact manne ...more
Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports
This book is fantastic. I always love hearing about fish out of water experiences in sports. This book both gives you the experience of globe hopping around the basketball world and an inside look at what it means to be the 12th man in the NBA.

The book is written in a journal/travelogue style. While that usually annoys me, this one did not. I think it has to do with the fact that this doesn't read like a blog. Paul Shirley has an eloquent writing style, that is a rare treat in an athlete written
A tough call - much like three seconds in the key. He could have been on his way out or...

Overall, I enjoyed Shirley's insights into basketball - a welcome softer read than the usual heady stuff that I am lumped with. As a former hardcore ball player (who always had aspirations of playing in...Europe), it was great to get back into some of the bball talk and lingo, while learning about the backroom of the professional ranks, particularly the 'employment-and-playing' relationship; I always thoug
Apr 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: biographies
I was surprised to learn that Paul Shirley was a national merit scholarship finalist and got an academic scholarship to Iowa State.

The book was ok. I was intrigued with learning about the life of someone striving to play in the NBA. That dream once belonged to me when I was 14, before I shelved it after highschool to eventually pursue more practical career options in finance.

I think he made valiant attempts to make the book an enjoyable read, but I didn't find it too funny. I think if he focused
Jun 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
In't kort: Paul Shirley is een professioneel basketspeler, maar net niet goed genoeg om het te maken in de NBA. In dagboekstijl vertelt hij over zijn wedervaren in competities in Italië (uitstekend basketbal maar onregelmatige betaling), Rusland (uitstekend basketbal, vrij regelmatige betaling, belabberde omstandigheden) en een Amerikaanse minor league (minder goed basketbal, slecht betaald maar dicht bij huis), en daartussen enkele oefenkampen en heel korte contractjes in de NBA.

Mijn oordeel: S
Apr 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like to laugh
Recommended to Gwen by: the alluring book cover
Shelves: humor, memoir
I normally don't read these types of books. Alright, acutally I'll honestly read anything that is in front of me, I really am a bit of a book whore; but this one is waaaay out of my league. I usually don't go for the whole whiny, "I have a talent that most people in the world only dream about and yet I'm struggling to make it as my career" thing. So I'm not really sure why I picked up this book randomly off the shelf at the bookstore this weekend.
What I do know is that once I did, I could hardly
Jul 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who like sports books, and/or humorous takes on life
Paul Shirley has the dubious distinction of playing on the Iowa State team that lost to Hampton in the first round of the 2001 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. He was on the wrong side of the game that resulted in the diminutive Hampton coach being picked up by his (much larger) player and triumphantly kicking his legs in the air. Shirley gained his initial distinction by being semi-famously caught crying on the sidelines as the other side exploded in uncontrollable joy.

He became well known in
Dec 16, 2010 rated it did not like it
This account from a vagabond professional basketball player gives a behind-the-scenes look of what it means to be a vagabond basketball player. Reading that last sentence gives a sense of the entire substance of the story. Although this book received high reviews elsewhere for its wit and acerbic observations of locker-room life, I would add that these very qualities made me glad to finish the book. Ironically, the author rails against the intellectual depth of his fellow professional athletes a ...more
Jun 30, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: paul shirley's family
Shelves: sports
3 stars because i love basketball & this has some good "insider" info, plus the dude can be kind of funny at times...but i could never get behind the guy. the book, i would imagine, works best if you have a certain degree of empathy with the author, when you are invested in his ups & downs, when you give a rat's ass about his hopes or dreams or whether he becomes an NBA superstar or gets gutshot over a handful of change & dies in a back alley in some squalid Russian wasteland. i, how ...more
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A former college and professional basketball player, Paul turned the stories of his travels and travails into a humor memoir called CAN I KEEP MY JERSEY? He has also written for Slate, Esquire, and the Wall Street Journal.

Paul lives in Los Angeles, where he is an adjunct professor at West LA College. He runs a writers' workshop called Writers Blok.
More about Paul Shirley...