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The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and the Golden Age of Basketball

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  334 ratings  ·  33 reviews

In the mid-1950s, the NBA was a mere barnstorming circuit, with outposts in such cities as Rochester, New York, and Fort Wayne, Indiana. Most of the best players were white; the set shot and layup were the sport’s chief offensive weapons. But by the 1970s, the league ruled America’
Paperback, 432 pages
Published September 26th 2006 by Ballantine Books (first published 2005)
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Average rating 4.17  · 
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 ·  334 ratings  ·  33 reviews

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Start your review of The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and the Golden Age of Basketball
Rev Gary
Oct 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: basketball
The book was a great view of two of the all time great players.
Kale Gardner
Sep 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
In the the story "The Rivalry" written by John Taylor the main person is Wilt Chamberlain who had a very prideful and cocky attitude towards others and basketball. For example, Wilt thinks that he is the best player ever in the history of basketball and said things like, "I'm the only important one on the team, the others don't matter at all (Taylor 107)." Wilt Chamberlain was the top pick in the 1959 draft from Kansas. He stood 7 feet tall and he was so athletic that every single team so ...more
Feb 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
Chamberlain was deceased when this was written, and Russell refused to be interviewed. He's therefore limited to third parties, which doesn't help much with issues such as why Russell and Chamberlain didn't speak to each other for a couple of decades after their careers ended. Stronger on topics such as Russell's resentment of racism in Boston, on which there's an extensive paper trail (Sports Illustrated articles he wrote, etc.).

The author had not been a basketball writer or expert, so his game
Jul 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like a game where your team is down by 20 points after the 1st quarter and they claw their way back for a win, this book did the same.
It started out slow and tedious. Reading like a school textbook, taking way too much time introducing Russell & Chamberlain, and going off on too many unnecessary tangents.
But after the initial growing pains, it rebounded nicely and flowed very smoothly, describing not just the action on the court, but also detailing a very interesting and entertaining
Connor Winn
Jan 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
A great biography and early history of the league.
Jun 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Great sports book! Definitely glad I didn't add Chamberlain to my All-NBA team.
Kupono Fey
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book! John Taylor really did his research about not just the rivalry between Bill and Wilt but also what it was like playing basketball in those times when the NBA just started and especially during the civil rights movement. This story has so many fascinating characters, including Bill, Wilt, Red Auerbach, the city of Boston and so many more, that make it an incredible story.

I started reading this book because I love basketball and love talking about the endless and almost
Steve Trent
Okay, but not great

This was a decent read about my favorite era of basketball, but I felt that the author was a little slanted against Wilt.
The narrative offered was the same tired account that was prevalent back in the 60's, that Wilt was a stat chasing loser and Russell was the heroic less talented winner.
Nobody loves Goliath.
The author seemed to emphasize Wilt's flaws, while downplaying Russell's flaws.
But still an okay read if you love this era of basketball.
Brad Hayes
Nov 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-written dual biography of two complex individuals, but also a fascinating history of the early NBA.
Mindaugas Mozūras
Oct 26, 2017 rated it liked it
I liked the book, it was an easy read. I also found it a bit simplistic. "The Rivalry" touches a lot of things but doesn't go in-depth on any of them.
Adonis Berrios
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book mainly because it increased my knowledge on basketball and the golden rivalry of the Celtics and The LA Lakers.
Luke Mercer
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
I actually learned so much. Fantastic history
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, sport
one of my favorite reads - meshing interesting and true characters or events with all the other forces and issues at play during the time

unedited notes from an email to a friend about this book:

the author covers all the major players and important milestones that took pro basketball from a second-rate sport to its world-wide success today.

Over the years I've read biographies on Auerbach, Cousy, Chamberlain, Russell, West, and had a good background on all the stuff that went on behind the scenes.
Fausto Betances
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports
Miscellaneous comments and takeaways:

Walter A. Brown, founder of the Celtics gave Red Auerbach a chance mainly because his partner made it a condition for doing business together.
He allowed Red to be the first coach to select a black college player for a NBA team. Act quickly followed by others during the same draft (1957?).

Syracuse team owner (Bleasone)??? came up with the idea of the shot clock in part to avoid the tactic of freezing the ball by teams that were winning the game. That practice
Jan 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: sports, history
A must read for anyone interested in the history of the NBA. This book is more than an account of the epic on-court battles between Russell and Chamberlain, although those battles do get plenty of ink. The best chapters and passages are devoted to conversations, developments, and events that took place off the court. Taylor adeptly places the growth of the NBA in 1950s and 1960s in the greater historical context of the time, describing Russell's role in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and ...more
Ian Hietala
Sep 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Now I still don't know how to put it as great, fantastic, or amazing, maybe all. John Taylor, back in 2005, has made the most, uplifting and most interesting book, about the two great NBA players to ever live. Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, had great careers, including Wilt's 100 point game, and Russell's greatest defensive performance in NBA history. Its's the kind of novel, or biography that can just blow your mind, but it also can be a page flipper at every corner. John taylor can be very ...more
Aug 24, 2008 rated it liked it
I really wish I could give this book a 3.5 or a 3.75 under GoodReads' system - It's better than a 3, but not in the league of books I've read that have an average rating of 4 or higher like Moneyball or Breaks of the Game. Overall the books is a well-written, very readable narrative of the rivalry between the game's two icons of the 1960's, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell and its impact in the culture at large, but Taylor provides far less narrative on their impact on the culture and the civil ...more
Mar 27, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: basketball fans
Shelves: nonfiction
The Rivalry is a good, all-encompassing account of the NBA's growth from the barnstorming league of the late 50s to the emerging major league of the late 60s, focusing in particular on the individual rivalry between Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, and on the contrast between the two men. The book is a bit simplistic, and is a bit too hard on Chamberlain sometimes for my tastes - he was, without question, the better player - but this is a really good starting point for people who are looking ...more
Mar 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
A very detailed history of the first successful peak in NBA history, Taylor provides a warts and all view of some early NBA legends and the circumstances behind their successes and failures. He has a careful eye for the early coaches and the sweeping social change that impacted the game positively and there are a dozen or more crystal clear vignettes that will help any fan of the game appreciate the unique circumstances of the 50's and 60's NBA.
Dick Hamilton
Nov 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Growing up, Wilt was my favorite basketball player and beyond that just an incredible athlete. This is a good book really focusing in on Russell and Chamberlain and the real golden age of basketball (sorry Michael, Larry, Magic, etc. but you are not it). Most interesting, there are no pictures in the book and I think this adds to the story. Two thumbs up.
Aug 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book was an honest, well written account of the birth of basketsball as a major league sport. It chronicled the development of the league itself through the rivalry between 2 of its best players. It also addressed the hypocrisy these players faced playing to white crowds, in white cities during the 50s and 60s. I truly enjoyed it.
Zapp Brettigan
Jan 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Heavily biased towards Russell. Yes he achieved team success, but... I guess it's easier to go easier on the living than it is on the dead - only one person from this rivalry is around to defend themselves.
Oct 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Really well-written history of the era. I didn't think a basketball book could be so readable...set against the backdrop of Boston and Philadelphia in the early 1960s. Fascinating, page-turning stuff.
May 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2010-books
Apr 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Excellent!!! Loved it
David Barney
Dec 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
A good read. Once again, Wilt Chamberlain is portrayed as a loser. The book does good job of explaining the rivalry.
May 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
One of the best basketball books I have ever read. Having been a fan during this era, enjoyed this volume immensely.
Paul Weaver
Dec 13, 2015 rated it liked it
A great story. Author was not a sportswriter, so some of the terminology was a bit off.
Robert Morrow
Dec 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Best book on basketball I've ever read.
Jan 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book - makes you realize how overrated Wilt is and how dedicated Bill Russell was to winning and be educated within the game!

Gotta read it if you are a fan of basketball.
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John Taylor is the author of Girl is Not a Number. Though he has a number of other books in process, this is the only book published at this time.