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The Soul of Basketball: The Epic Showdown Between LeBron, Kobe, Doc, and Dirk That Saved the NBA

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  288 ratings  ·  39 reviews
The Soul of Basketball tells the story of an NBA prodigy, his league and their sport in the throes of crisis during the pivotal 2010-11 season. It began with The Decision, that infamous televised moment when uber-star LeBron James revealed that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers – thereby distancing himself from his role model Michael Jordan – to pursue his first champ ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 17th 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2018)
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3.95  · 
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 ·  288 ratings  ·  39 reviews

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Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The 2010-11 basketball season turned out to be one that was very pivotal for the sport and the league. Why this season was such an important one is explained by author Ian Thomson in this excellent book about not just LeBron James and the Heat, but also about other key player and teams.

It started during the summer when the game’s biggest star, LeBron James, announced “The Decision” to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat and in doing so, became a villain in the eyes of many fans, no
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, sports
More of a 3.5-star experience, on the strength of the insider information and behind-the-scenes quotes and anecdotes, contrasted with the frustratingly confusing structure and inexplicable digressions. The multiple-page transcriptions of interviews with Joey Crawford and Isiah Thomas added some meat to the bone but left me scratching my head and wondering about their reason for inclusion other than the author's good fortune in securing the sit-downs.

Thomsen deserves credit for being willing to t
Dec 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: basketball
Didn't quite live up to it's promise as a successor to David Halberstam, but still thought provoking and occasionally insightful, amidst some entertaining basketball writing. I think the story Thomsen is trying to tell - the maturing of basketball into "the sport of the American dream", with LeBron playing the central gravitational role - will be best told in a thoughtful biography of LeBron once he retires.
Luke Koskinen
Sep 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Decent book that highlights the turning point of the big 3 in Miami. A little overcrowded with the Doc Rivers and even Kobe Bryant narrative. Everything about Dirk and Miami was interesting but there were a few times the other stuff felt more like a sidetrack or side note than contributing to the narrative of the whole book.
Aug 16, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This is a terribly written book. It is full of inanity--I highlighted numerous passages which were either inexplicable or laughable. I find it hard to believe that I actually finished this book. Here are the main problems:

1) the author is so old school he thinks he can get the story by interviewing the coaches, general managers, and players. But if you really want to read a book primarily of Pat Riley, Doc Rivers, Danny Ainge, Mark Cuban (!) etc., then you are in for a treat. Especially is you m
Sep 22, 2018 rated it liked it
A nice book on the 2010s in basketball (and particularly the 2011-12 season) which, I think, will be eventually defined as the LeBron decade. The oral history/bits and pieces of an interview mishmash tired me a little after the first half of the book, but there is still a lot of enjoyable material to read (and who guessed a book can be written about what happened in sports 6 years ago?)
Jamie Garwood
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Immensely well researched book looking at all facets of the growing emergence of NBA from the third best team sport to over-taking MLB and going toe to toe with the NFL for superiority.
One for fans of NBA and not looking mostly at the career of LeBron James but giving kudos to luminaries such as Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki.
Apr 30, 2018 rated it did not like it
First and foremost, I will admit I have been a LeBron fan for more than 15 years now.
Thomsen clearly did not like LeBron at all, along with sources and people he fluffs up in the book. I readily admit that LeBron did shrink under the pressure in the finals against Dallas, but I fail to see what Doc or Kobe had to do with it. All credit to the Mavericks and Dirk for seizing the moment, but this book basically slanders LeBron up until the epilogue.
Thomsen glazes over things, claiming everyone who
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
There are clearly seasons in the life of a sports fan.  You have football season, college basketball, March Madness...and then baseball kicks in along with the NBA and NHL playoffs.  (Yes, I am a book nerd and I love sports.)

So, I requested to do a review of this book, The Soul of Basketball, which I thought would be a good way to get myself in the mood for the NBA playoffs, which also open next week.

I enjoy basketball a lot and have followed the NBA for my entire life.  When I was 10 to 12 year
Brendan Crowley
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sport
The Soul of Basketball tells the story of the 2010-2011 NBA season – the season after LeBron James ‘Decision’ to move to Miami. It paints that year as a pivotal season – the changing of the guard as LeBron’s generation seized control of the NBA.

It isn’t simply a book about the season, but rather about the changing role of the NBA in American life as a new generation of players build on Jordan’s legacy and capture the public’s imagination. The NBA was trying to find its way in the post-Jordan era
Joe K
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review.

"The Soul of Basketball" is an extremely entertaining look at the 2010-2011 NBA season, especially from the lens of 2018. Over the last few years, the NBA has undergone a radical change in style of play and in terms of player activism, and we can start to see the seeds of it here in this book. Thomsen goes in depth into a large number of players, coaches, and executives throughout the book, and his in depth reporting on
Austin Chandler
Jul 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Before you read this book, know that Ian Thomsen is from Boston, loves the Celtics, and lives there currently. I'm not sure if he tried to hide it, but he did a poor job.

This book is well-written with tons of quotes and analysis through the eyes of meaningful players and characters surrounding the game. Thomsen is obviously a sports reporter more than a literary writer, which is not bad at all, but when you start this book, understand it's more like an extremely long-form article and think-piec
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very insightful

Lot of information dating from the start of the league and all the changes that had happened along the way.
I lived the miami heat situation very close, was living in west palm beach, this nba lost against dallas was and still very painful but at least now, i discovered more reasons why they won.
The Miami heat situation was very complex, because the big 3 almost took all the salary, so Miami had to look for old, almost washed players for 2 or 3 millions/year, these players could no
Dominik Geßner
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So I have to admit that this was the first book I read since college time 7-8 years ago. I heard about it on an podcast (the Lowe post) and really liked the whole backstory an bigger meaning of it!

The book didn’t disappoint, it really sucked me in and had so much great anecdotes of this era of basketball, which I followed very closely at the time. It brought back great memories and also new stories and nuggets i didn’t know. Huge plus to me was the view from different angles!

Really recommend i
Tina Casteris
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
If football is war and aggression, and baseball is peace and apple pie, what is basketball? Ian Thomsen argues convincingly that it is the American Dream - equality, justice, and opportunity for all who are willing to work hard and love to win. One of the great ironies of the book is that it took a foreigner, Dirk Nowitzki, to get the NBA to find and embrace its identity. From this macro perspective down to the micro level (there's an entire chapter devoted to the officiating of one key play in ...more
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: basketball, netgalley
I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Are you a casual basketball fan? Read this book. Are you a hardcore basketball fan? Read this book.

Thomsen does an excellent job of capturing the vibe and essence of the NBA and its culture by showcasing four superstars (three players, one coach), are various levels of their careers. By weaving together the impacts of each man on the NBA, and culture overall, Thomsen is able to highlight the key factors that have led
Garrett Aleckson
May 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great look at the pivotal 2010-2011 season that changed the landscape of the NBA.

Thomsen did a great job of weaving the different impacts of Kobe, Doc, and Dirk on the NBA.

The reporting that went with making this book is great. The attention to detail on each section is equally great. Seeing the detail that went with the access to the important NBA figures and being told in a great story was great.
Jun 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Ian Thomsen painted Dirk Nowitzki in a heroic light, the man who finally stands atop everyone else in the basketball landscape during the 2010-2011 season. The booked covered several story arcs throughout this fateful season, giving it a rich and insightful look into the names and faces that defined the evolution of the league. I would have rated this book higher had it not been for his constant criticism of LeBron James.
Katherine Lavelle
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am very biased because this was the last season that I followed basketball so closely (also, I was so happy for Dirk and Dallas and still frustrated about the Decision). Even if you aren't as closely connected on these storylines, this book is an engaging and enjoyable read. Thomsen does a great job connecting a number of storylines, teams, and NBA personalities in ways that really emphasize the significance of this time period in the NBA.
David W. Amend
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Awesome book for today’s NBA fan

Great insight into the psychology and thinking of the top players and coaches in the NBA over the past 10 years. As an original Maverick season ticket holder, I especially liked the insightful contrast between Dirk and LeBron, and some of the behind the scenes stories during the 2011 playoffs between the Mavericks and the Heat.
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
As an avid basketball fan, I was excited to read this book. I had much anticipation. I was not let down. What a read!!!! Great look at the 2010-2011 NBA season. Highly recommended.Thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for the ARC of this book. Although I received the book in this manner, it did not affect my opinion of this book nor my review.
Leandro Cordobez
Un libro sencillamente espectacular. Desmenuza un momento fundacional para la NBA q conocemos hoy en día. Revela distintos puntos de vista y lo entremezcla con un entramado histórico social. En el medio, historias mínimas y no tanto q embellecen el relato. Perfiles de personajes q quedarán en la historia grande. Sumamente disfrutarle.
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
The book's all right, the anecdotes are mostly interesting and there's some decent insider info. But as the title indicates, it's all based on the predication that the "soul" of the NBA was somehow up for grabs in the 2010-2011 season, which is highly questionable. It's not compelling either as a detailed look at that season or as an examination of the supposed salvation of the NBA. It's just OK.
Tom Gase
Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
A good book on the NBA from the time of LeBron James “The Decision” in 2010 throughout the 2010-2011 season. Along the way there are stories on Kobe, Dirk, Doc Rivers and the Boston Celtics, Carmelo Anthony, the Miami Heat, the San Antonio Spurs, the Lakers, Mark Cuban and officials in the league. An easy to read book and very well researched. Good stuff.
Adam Kanter
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting read about this specific period in the NBA, with a lot of behind the scenes details. Can’t say it delivered on the promise of painting why this timeframe “saved the NBA” or made broad sweeping conclusions of interest.
Cullen Dowling
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So well-written. Captivating and brimming with inside-access that every basketball fan craves. I absolutely loved this book, especially when it discusses the tail of “The Immigrant” Dirk Nowitzki and his path to an NBA title. Must read for NBA fans.
Roy Saikali
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting topic! Loved the book, but I felt like the author has a definite bias against Lebron. While it didn't deter me from finishing the book, it was a very clear bias around the author's distaste for how LBJ went about his business in the NBA.
Jul 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sports, netgalley
There is a lot of in depth reporting in this book, but "the soul of basketball" seems to have been birthed in Boston and died in AAU basketball where entitled players are spoiled. There was really no need to re-litigate The Decision.
Chris Orrin
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
When the book ended I was left wanting more. The book starts slow and meanders a bit, but stick with it. I’m not sure if this reaches the level of “must read” for an NBA fan, but it’s close.
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