There is only one writer on the planet who possesses enough basketball knowledge and passion to write the definitive book on the NBA.* Bill Simmons, the from-the-womb hoops addict known to millions as ESPN.com’s Sports Guy, is that writer. And The Book of Basketball is that book.
Nowhere in the roundball universe will you find another single volume that covers as much in such depth as this wildly opinionated and thoroughly entertaining look at the past, present, and future of pro basketball.
From the age-old question of who actually won the rivalry between Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain to the one about which team was truly the best of all time, Simmons opens–and then closes, once and for all–every major pro basketball debate. Then he takes it further by completely reevaluating not only how NBA Hall of Fame inductees should be chosen but how the institution must be reshaped from the ground up, the result being the Pyramid: Simmons’s one-of-a-kind, five-level shrine to the ninety-six greatest players in the history of pro basketball. And ultimately he takes fans to the heart of it all, as he uses a conversation with one NBA great to uncover that coveted thing: The Secret of Basketball.
Comprehensive, authoritative, controversial, hilarious, and impossible to put down (even for Celtic-haters), The Book of Basketball offers every hardwood fan a courtside seat beside the game’s finest, funniest, and fiercest chronicler.
* More to the point, he’s the only one crazy enough to try to pull it off.
Bill Simmons is a sports columnist, author, and TV personality. He rose to prominence as a columnist for ESPN's online 'Page 3' forum, before becoming editor in chief for Grantland, a sports and pop culture website and ESPN affiliate.
After a dispute with ESPN in 2015, Simmons began working with HBO; both developing a television show and continuing his podcast.
Ultimately, a pretty disappointing book. As a big fan of the Sports Guy's columns about the NBA, I thought I would be laughing from beginning to end and learning a lot. Neither turned out to be true. By expanding upon the worst parts of his columns - his obsessive biases towards certain types of players and teams - and mostly ignoring the profound insight he usually incites with his biting humor, Simmons comes off as someone who spent too much time watching pro basketball and now can do nothing but rant about it. I wanted to learn about all the great players of history in this book, but instead I mostly learned what Simmons thinks is wrong with them.
It's clear that Simmons has thrived online due to the work of his editors in corralling his babbling and refining his humor. The supposedly hilarious footnotes in this book consist of nothing but bad porn star humor, bad 80's movie humor, and Simmmons making jokes about how he can't stop making porn star and drug jokes. It is to our great benefit that ESPN keeps this boorish immaturity out of his columns. I began glazing over them about halfway through the book. I thought, perhaps, that I was just on Sports Guy overload, but I kept reading his columns online while I read this book, and they continued to make me chortle. By the last section, "the best teams ever," I was skipping pages entirely, as it was obvious that Simmons was just blasting out whatever it took to prove his favorite team of all time, the '86 Celtics, were also the best team of all time.
You could pick apart this book's rhetoric from many different angles, but I think it can be nicely summarized by saying that Bill Simmons is a second rate writer who, because of the popularity of his humor and his honest insights, has been tricked into thinking he is in the upper echelon. The best parts of this book are when Bill quotes other writers. But just because you hang out with Malcolm Gladwell and Chuck Klosterman (and get them to contribute amazing passages to your tome of rants) doesn't mean you can keep up with them on the page.
When Chuck Klosterman and, of all intellectual giants, Bill Walton can destroy the theoretical foundation of your 700-page book's analysis in ten pages worth of cameos...well, it's probably asking too much for you to admit that you wasted the last two years of your life and start over from scratch, but that's probably what you should do. The Book of Basketball works alright as entertainment, though the expanded license for dick jokes fails to enhance Simmons' humor much, but as a work of analysis, it's a complete waste. In what field besides sports could someone claim to be an expert on a widely discussed subject without even attempting to engage the latest rigorous research devoted to it? Wait, Sarah Palin, don't answer that.
Most every potentially interesting position Simmons takes depends on just-so stories or special pleading or just plain circular logic. The Bill Russell vs Wilt Chamberlain chapter has been widely deplored, and rightfully so. I became viscerally angry as I read it. Most of the player-ranking section is less maddening, but the bit at the end in which Simmons ranks the top teams in NBA history sets our teeth to gritting once more. A more accurate and less risible version would've been called "Top NBA teams that Bill Simmons enjoyed watching or, having not been alive to see them, enjoys the idea of watching." Not a very interesting list, sure, but at least it would have been honestly labelled.
Nothing is as dumb as the Isiah Thomas / "The Secret" story, though (no, not that Secret. It's a different Secret that applies only to the NBA). He'd teased the story in his column for years, and I was fully prepared to have my mind blown. And then it turns out to be a fairly uneventful conversation between three minor celebrities about the fake almost-fight that two of them had, which culminates in the earth-rending revelation that BASKETBALL IS A TEAM SPORT. I could see how, if you were Bill Simmons, this whole episode might have seemed a bit surreal, but to a third party it's not that astonishing at all.
Or at least Simmons lacks the ability, even though he strains, to convey the surreality and astonishment to we the reading third parties. And that's the main problem: Bill Simmons is at best a competent writer. He's agreeably conversational for the most part, and he has excellent comic timing (although if you've read many of his columns you can anticipate his rhythms as they unfold by now), but eliciting emotional responses is beyond him and has always been. So is producing prose that is a pleasure to read just for its construction (a rare gift, sure, but one that Klosterman possesses so obviously that his one-page passage makes the text around it seem little but a vast ashen wasteland). Simmons knows this, and apologizes for it frequently, but the best apology would have been to abstain from mediocrity in the first place.
It's incredibly entertaining at best, infuriating and a drunken digression at others. Simmons views himself as an expert, and that comes through on every page - whether in his decision that John Stockton played in era of "inflated assists" or his condemnation of the last twenty minutes of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. He's just not that smart, frankly. In both cases, he makes specious claims and then moves on to more specious claims or backs them up with statistics that are supposed to be taken at face value.
The most embarrassing section is early, when he reveals "The Secret." Spoiler alert: the secret is that championship teams rely on teamwork, not individual superstars. Wooah!!! I've never heard that before! Oh, except I have - my T-Ball coach told me that when we just assumed that we would win every game with the help of this skinny, white-headed kid named Kevin Geshke who hit solo home runs every time he walked to the tee (we did, thus disproving Simmons thesis). But Simmons dedicates pages and pages to a point that my Grandmother understood, without attempting to figure out the groups who disproved that (the '06 Heat for instance, or the early 00's Lakers).
Simmons ranking of players is arbitrary and ultimate critic-proof, but he finds a way to take pot-shots at the players he doesn't like (like Stockton and Clyde Drexler) and elevates those he does on revisionist history (like Allen Iverson).
The best part, and what it makes it ultimately worth reading for the ardent NBA fan, is his "What if" section: when he takes episodes from NBA History and wonders what would have happened if the ball had swung a different way: what if Len Bias hadn't died and the Celtics had an extra big man in the late 80s? what if Jordan got drafted by Portland?
If you're a huge NBA fan, a guy, are between the ages 40 and 48 (as of 2012) and have watched an insane amount of TV and movies this is a no-brainier 5 star book(1). Otherwise I don't think you'll like it.
I haven't enjoyed a book this much in a very long time. Malcom Gladwell nails it in the forward here he says Bill Simmons is what you would be if you had endless hours to devote to being a fan. Bill Simmons is hilarious + his love of the NBA and his ability to create analogies from random stuff (mostly movies and TV shows) that I love gave me great joy. I've seen other people criticize B.S. for his lack of objectivity in compiling his rankings. It didn't bother me. B.S.'s excruciatingly detailed arguments and justifications for each ranking were mostly ingenious, interesting and often hilarious. The book opens with a love letter to the Celtics and then he proceeds to claim he's objective for the ensuing 750 pages(2). But he is a homer and that's part of what makes the book such a joy to read. Seeing the game through his eyes makes it difficult not to love the NBA more(3).
I'll spoil it for you cause there's no suspense: Russel was better than Chamberlain and the 85 Celtics were better than the 96 Bulls (4).
(1) I'm considering it for my sports book pantheon. Definitely better than Halbertsam's breaks of the game, which, ironically, would be sacrilege for B.S. (2) citing his ranking Magic Johnson 1 spot above Larry Bird as definitive proof that he's not a homer. (3) I almost had to go double negative I was so excited about this observation. (4) Claiming anyone other than the 96 Bulls was the best team in the history of the NBA is definitive proof that B.S. is a total homer.
Here's the problem with being a huge fan of a prolific columnist: When you've read every single word a guy has squeaked out for 7-plus years, you start to know all his (or her, I suppose) jokes, all their beats and all their tendencies. You lose the element of surprise.
So when it was announced that The Sports Guys new basketball book was more than 700 pages, I cringed. Not sure if I could take that many pages of Karate Kid jokes and Celtics handjobs. My infatuation with the guy has died wuite a bit over the last year and a half, and I absolutley planned to avoid this monstrosity. But goddamn Amazon roped me in for like $12, and I couldn't pass it up. I put it next to the shitter and away we went.
For the most part, I was very pleasantly surprised. Yeah, a lot of the jokes and riffs are familiar, and huge chunks are just over-expanded versions of ideas he shat out in columns ad nauseum over the years, but for the most part, I was entertained. There isn't a single person who knows the NBA better than this guy. As one of the last true basketball fans alive, that means something to me. And except for an entire chapter devoted to tongue-bathing Bill Russell's taint, Simmons manages to keep his Boston-centric blatherings to a minimum. Even the Russell chapter is digestable because it destroys Wilt Chamberlain at the same time, and that is always a good thing.
Anyway. If you haven't been exposed to Simmons nonstop for the last decade, and you give a shit about the NBA at all, give her a read. It's beter than you think.
Bill Simmons - A terrific story himself, does a phenomenally good job here. Not only does Simmons’ trademark cheek & humour fall off the page in bunches, but the statistical analyses alone is staggeringly good & highly engaging, however the fact that he is able to infuse it consistently with posing & thought evoking narrative is just a treat to enjoy & escape into, even if his New England bias does become somewhat tiresome.. but yet it isn’t because he’s so aware of it, he throws it in there often without trying to be clever about it.
Excellence in how to write a sports book, that’s fun, entertaining, argument sparking & that is able to be returned to again and again without ever getting old!!!
Simmons must have hired John Iriving's editor to edit this book... and that's not a complement. What was the point of the Grumpy Old Editor? To not edit?
I think this is the world longest coffee table book.
The Most Valuable Chapter? Why was this in the book? This was excruciating to read...
Over all, it's hard to disagree with where Simmons ranked everyone. The only WTF ranking I saw was Garnett over Isiah and Pippen. But everything else is nitpicking.
I'm not sure I needed a few thousand words about how Simmons once sat next to Jordan at a resturant. Actually, I'm positive.
Again, the editing of this book killed my rating of it. Stories are told twice, footnotes are repeated, guys are mislabeled or represented... crappy editing that absolutely killed this book. When talking about the '83 Philadelphia 76ers, when mentioning who they lose to in the playoffs next year, it says Philly in five. Apperently Vancouver and Minnesota entered the league at the same time (they didn't, Toronto and Vancouver did). These mistakes happen all the time. I know mistakes are made in a 700 page book, I expect three or five things to get past people... but twenty-five or more?
Most annoying aspect of the Book of Basketball? When Simmons starts out with quote from a former player (say Bill Bradley) discussing another player (random 70s player). Simmons tells us that this PERFECTLY describes random 70s player... and then Bill spends a few thousand words discussing random 70s player. 'hey look, I know that Bill Bradley just totally nailed Jerry West, but I'm going to lob on an extra 2,900 words to hammer home my own views on a guy I never saw play and as I said, is perfectly described by what Bill Bradley said already!'
Finally, I should say, Simmons' passion and love of basketball comes though and his endearing style makes the book hard to hate. But the flaws are too great to over come what should have been a fantastic book. The book wasn't a history of basketball as much as a review of the games great players and a few teams. I can't help but think that a "Fever Pitch" type book where Bill discusses his love for the Celtics would have been a trillion times better. I know Bill has said that this is the best book he'll ever write... but he's setting the bar far too low.
This highly entertaining book is many things: a fan's love letter to his favorite sport (and the players and teams who made it so), an attempt to place professional basketball in the cultural (and racial) landscape of twentieth century America, and an attempt to settle arguments about what matters on the basketball court.
Bill Simmons is successful on the first two counts, but is tenuous on the third. The first is the emotion of the fan's experience; there are passages that sent shivers down my spine, particularly about the nearly indescribable feeling of watching someone like Michael Jordan or Larry Bird walk into a packed basketball stadium with very little doubt as to who would win the game in the end. The second refers to both the author's facility with pop culture references and analogies, which provoke genuine laughter page after page, but also the league's impact on the American consciousness as it has evolved since the 1950's.
Simmons provides insights into players' psychology and experience, mainly to try to explain the Secret of basketball, which is that team play and unselfishness trump ball-hogging and stats in a sport which often seems to revolve around individual excellence. Can we really say that a player like Wilt Chamberlain was great when he often obsessed over reaching various statistical milestones rather than willing his team to win at all costs? What if his teammates considered him a pain to play with, and being around him often made the game more difficult?
On an emotional level, all of these arguments make great sense, which to me invalidates the central structure of the book, which is a comprehensive ranking of the greatest NBA players from 1-96 (in addition to the best teams). As Simmons says himself, there have been maybe fifteen players who have understood the Secret. That's it. An ordered ranking of these players seems like splitting hairs, and it distracts from the central pleasure of the Book of Basketball: a steady stream of great anecdotes about inhuman talents, flashy dunkers, the kinds of men who couldn't bear anything but winning, and those who could never quite push themselves to lift the veil.
The Sports Guy is known for his willingness to authoritatively state his opinions in an entertaining manner featuring his parenthetical prowess, command of pop cultural metaphor, crazed zeal for his subject matter, seemingly endless encyclopedic dissertation of facts, and personal connection to the material and the reader. His 700-page tome features all of these Simmons standby techniques, as well as his signature voice, punctuated by his overactive love of footnotes and casually vulgar interjections. You have to like Simmons to like the book, especially since it contains many ideas, considerations, or even direct excerpts from his past decade of work. It's not hard to like Simmons; the challenge is the subject matter, as he delves as deeply as almost anyone has into the history of the NBA statistically, anecdotally, and argumentatively. The result is a highly informative and entertaining read that sustains its momentum throughout its length, though it occasionally succumbs to fatigue (a point not unnoticed by Simmons in his myriad footnotes). It allowed a casual fan like me to appreciate the game more intimately, and I now have an authoritative source to whom I can appeal if ever I feel the need to reiterate some of the assertive assumptions provided in the book. I am not sure if I would sit down and re-read the entire book, but it will certainly stick around as a resource and a source of entertainment. It was a great summer holiday read (I've read the book in the context of being away from home over the past ten days), and a great reminder of some of the things I love about sports and writing. Now if only someone would write a book like this about the NHL...
This book was very fun to read. It was full of everything from basketball to movies, and it wasn't just another boring informational. It reads very well, and even if you don't read all of it order, each section could be a miniature book. Along with entertaining you throughout, Bill Simmons puts a lot of thought into his writing. He takes everything from the Hall of Fame to An All time All-NBA team. Even if you are an NBA fan yourself, and don't agree with his choices at first, he explains them in such a way that you have to at least consider what he's saying. He truly fits the definition of a sports guy, and he is, even at place as full of analysts like ESPN. I have come to agree with almost everything he says, mainly because of the facts that he has backing up his arguments. Even if you just want to read a book about the NBA, without all of the extra facts, you can (most of the details are in the footnotes, and there are a lot of footnotes), but if you begin to read this book, you'll get pulled in and won't let go.
So I read this book during the basketball lockout to keep me company. And I finished just as the strike ended. I didn't buy this book as a hardcover even though I know a lot of people who raved about it. But when I flipped through it in the store, I just couldn't get myself to pay for it because the writer is such a die hard Celtics fan.
When it came out in paperback, and was updated to incorporate the Lakers winning the championship (yeah, you guessed it, I'm a Lakers fan) I saw that the writer took that into account and it was what got me to buy it.
I'm glad I waited to read this version because obviously his opinions are updated with the recent success of the Lakers, but also there's a lot of info that's been updated (with footnotes that are clearly marked as "updated" footnotes - I would have hated to have been this guy's editor!) which adds to his opinions, even changes some (in the case of Kobe).
Look Simmons has a ton of insight that not just a long love of the game has given him. Like any expert who has insight one of the requirements has to be an obsessive attraction to the subject matter and there is no question Simmons has that. And he is an entertaining writer. Yes, many of his pop culture references will probably be dated in less than a decade, but as he points out in the book, so will the appreciation we have for the athletes we so admire... then forget after they retire.
And Celtic and Laker rivalry aside, Simmons tried to be fair when he needed to be. He rags on Kareem throughout the book... except when he breaks down his standing in the player greats section. He sets aside the jabs and writes a very clear headed, balanced assessment of his game, ranking him number 3 of alltime. No Laker/Kareem fan can really ask for better treatment than that. On other Lakers he is also insightful. His chapter on Magic is very smart as Simmons is able to put Johnson in the proper perspective not only as a great player, but someone that changed the sport... and even transcended it with his personal life. His writing throughout the book on Wilt Chamberlain seems accurate enough, but will come off as harsh to his supporters. Too bad the big guy is not alive to have his say (wonder if Simmons planned it that way!). His chapter on Jerry West was really interesting, something I wasn't sure I felt captured the vibe of the player and the franchise he played for (and where I thought one of the places Simmon's bias for the Celtics showed through). But now that I've read West's book, I had to reassess Simmon's take -- it is very consistent with the way West himself saw his own playing days!
The problem I had with the book is obvious. As a fan of the Celtics I believe the writer gives too much credit to players like Russell and Bird and even Hondo. Look all three were great players, and two of the three changed the sport, but I have a problem with Bird being ranked 5th (again to his credit, Simmons ranks Magic 4th) when arguably one of the things that Bird lacked was defense. Obviously a fantastic shooter and passer and a great teammate... but not a great defender. He was obviously... a winner and that's why I concede Bird certainly belongs in the top ten with his offensive prowess. Again, I believe that if Simmons is going to rank Bird 4th he got it right with putting magic ahead of him. Magic was a better all around player and he could change his game to fit whatever personnel and style his teammates were capable of playing. Russell is another matter entirely. He is ranked 2nd. Should he be that high? Perhaps, but still Russell dominated as a player playing on a string of great teams in a very talent light league. I don't put Chamberlain as high for exactly the same reason (and more, which Simmons goes into relentlessly).
The other place the bias shows is the ranking of the greatest teams of all time. He has the 72 lakers at 9th. I watched every game that year and I can tell you, that team was amazing. Way better than they come off on paper. I tell people, this team was so good... Elgin Baylor started on the team at the beginning of the year... and retired. But the real egregious mistake is ranking the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers as 5th all time. As Simmons points out, this team had injuries throughout the season, but come March, and then throughout the playoffs, they were unbeatable... and I mean that almost literally. They came within one game of sweeping the entire playoffs. I got to believe that may never happen again. And you want to know something, I still don't think the above covers how awesome this team was. Again, saw every game and there was no question the Lakers were going to win it all... no one was even close.
So who does Simmons rank higher: the 89 Pistons (please!!!); 87 Lakers (I agree that team is in the running) the 96 Bulls (despite their W-L record, I believe they are a bit overrated, but yes I will acknowledge they are certainly in the top 5; and... wait for it... the 1986 Celtics. C'mon... really... seriously??? Simmons actually says that the 86 celtics would have "swollowed up" the 2001 lakers. Only in Simmon's dreams. First off, I think the 87 Lakers were better, and so were the 96 bulls.
So, as you can see, I had some problems. And I focused on these problems in this review... but it takes nothing away from what Bill Simmons achieved with this book (which I certainly hope he continues to update like Bill James once did with the Baseball Abstract). In fact this book is hands down the best book ever written on capturing the sport's greatness, and all over newcomers will probably be compared to this as the first and final test. This book was so insightful... that the last year Phil Jackson coached the Lakers he handed out a few copies to chosen players he knew were hoping to be students of the game.
Really interesting book. I give it 5 stars for basketball stuff and 1 for the author's attempts at sophomoric humor. I didn't think sophomoric humor was particularly funny when I was, you know - a sophomore!! It was great fun to read about the exploits of some of the guys on my favorite basketball cards. Anxiously waiting for the one NBA game on TV that week whomever was playing - great memories of watching Bob Lanier and Wes Unseld even though I was a Celtics fan. This book takes me back to those days as well as new info to me on LeBron and Kobe since I no longer follow the NBA like I did as a kid. Over 800 pages chock full of basketball tidbits and insights. Overall it is definitely a book for basketball junkies but not for a casual reader.
Each summer we in the United States go from having 3 great sports to watch and talk about, to having one okay sport. But sports television keeps going for 24 hours a day. I watch sports TV with lunch, but in summer, it's so boring that I often end up doing the dishes instead.
For the last three years, I've spent my summer lunches going through this book. Simmons is better than most sports journalists inasmuch as he can write more than one sentence without making me cringe, and he has a sense of humor. Is that worth 700 pages? It if you're reading it over three years. It is not if you think these sorts of things should be 'objective,' which is ridiculous.
Well, this is not objective, and who cares, it's *freaking sports people, one small step up from daytime soap operas in terms of importance*. One fairly embarassing problem with this book, though. Allow me a digression.
I had a friend in high school who, for some reason, had an extremely upper class English accent. Was he English? No. He wasn't faking it either. But it made him stand out among the rest of us, all proud strines ('Australian'). To fit in, he tried to swear a lot. It was even worse than the original accent. Imagine if someone in the middle of a BBC mini series suddenly started calling the women bitches.
I bring this up because Simmons, too, tries to fit in, only in his case he's trying to fit in with a very blokey sports culture. So every second page has a story about a strip club, or how women should stay in the kitchen, or how WNBA isn't basketball. Bill Simmons: any WNBA player could beat you at basketball, and any WNBA player could beat you in a fight. So could any stripper. Please stop with the "I'm just one of the guys" shtick. It's embarrassing for you, and more than a little demeaning to, well, all women.
But as I mentioned, this is a book about basketball. It is entertainment, and that is all. No need to get too upset.
7,5 μήνες, 750 σελίδες και πάλι καλά τα πήγα. Το ατελείωτο βιβλίο του Simmons για το ΝΒΑ είχε αναγνωστικά την ίδια λειτουργία που είχε κι η συλλογή με τα κείμενα του Lester Bangs. Ένα τακτικό διάλειμμα για τις ώρες που η λογοτεχνία δεν μου έκανε ή για τα συχνά διαστήματα που ο χρόνος μου δεν επιτρέπει μυθιστορηματικά ταξιδάκια αλλά 20λεπτες τζούρες ανάγνωσης μέσα στην ημέρα.
Τη δουλειά του λοιπόν την έκ��νε και με το παραπάνω, αφού ο Simmons όταν δεν τον παίζει φοβερός μπασκετικός αναλυτής είναι απολαυστικός κ όταν τυγχάνει να γνωρίζεις τις ατελείωτες αναλογίες ποπ κουλτούρας με το ΝΒΑ που παραθέτει καλύτερα από κάθε άλλο,γελάς μόνος σου. Το μεγάλο του πλεονέκτημα είναι ότι έχει έναν οπαδικό τρόπο να προσεγγίζει το άθλημα (άσχετα αν προσπαθεί να επιχειρηματολογήσει για το αντίθετο) κι αυτό τον έκανε άλλωστε τον πιο επιτυχημένο δημοσιογράφο του χώρου του. Ως παλιός κ φανατικός οπαδός των Celtics, έχει γράψει ατελείωτες σελίδες για τον Larry Bird και τον Bill Russell (όπου το παρακάνει με την αποθέωση αλλά οκ, είπαμε είναι οπαδός κ ο Russell πηρε κ 11 πρωταθλήματα, δεν μπορεί να κρατηθεί ο άνθρωπος), διάφορες κακεντρέχειες για τον Kareem κι ένα εξαιρετικό κομμάτι για τον καλύτερο παίχτη όλων των εποχών, όπου δικαιωματικά ο Simmons γράφει τις καλύτερες του αράδες.
Είναι προφανές ότι το βιβλίο δεν ενδεικνύεται για κανέναν που δεν είναι κολλημένος με το ΝΒΑ (προσωπικά είμαι τέτοιος, ειναι το μοναδικο πρωταθλημα κ το μοναδικό άθλημα γενικότερα που παρακολουθώ) αφού το μέγεθος του είναι απαγορευτικό για τυχόν περιέργειες. Νομίζω πως θα πιάσω κ αλλο τέτοιο βιβλίο οπότε μέχρι του χρόνου τέτοια εποχή δεν θα σας χαλάσω το timeline με αθλητισμό.
I'm so grateful a book like this exists about basketball. It's the basketball bible. Any hardcore basketball fan should read this ASAP. It's an in depth view of the history of the league and contains fun lists and comparisons to different eras and teams and players. It's just a lot of fun to read. I'll admit, for being five stars, the book isn't incredibly written, but Simmons makes up for it with humor and pop culture references. He throws in about 1000 Boogie Nights references, which is one of my favorite movies of all time, and that was fun.
My one big complaint is the "what if" section of the book. Could not care less about that stuff. I admit I skipped that stuff. I tried reading it, and just couldn't get into it. The biggest chunk of the book is counting down greatest players of all time, and that was a very entertaining read. I really enjoy how in depth Simmons goes with comparisons. He sometimes argues too well for certain things, like about Kareem or Wilt perhaps being overrated and bad teammates, and it leaves you confused when he ranks them so high. And then in other sections, he argues so well for things, like the '01 lakers, and I wonder how they aren't higher on the GOAT team list.
Anywho, lots of fun. Very enjoyable. And although I don't agree with everything, I still think it's worth reading and thinking about.
And usually, I reserve my 5-star ratings for life altering books, or books that I'd be able to recommend to anyone--but this book is only for the most hardcore of hardcore basketball fans.
Disclosure: I regularly listen to Bill Simmons B.S. Report podcasts and I usually read his columns on espn.com thus I'm a fan of his work.
That being said, I was somewhat disappointed with TBOB. Overall it was very insightful, but parts of it were a little tiresome. I found myself skimming certain portions - especially if they dealt with players that played in the NBA during the 50s and 60s. Other than a few interesting tidbits about the history of the NBA (evolution of the shot clock, 3-point shooters, etc.), I found these parts of the book somewhat boring.
I did, however, enjoy reading about the players and teams that I remember watching as a child and up until now, i.e. from the early 80s through present day. Mr. Simmons does an excellent job of discussing some of the inner details of many of the NBA players and teams from the past and present.
Another detail of the book that bothered me was Mr. Simmons frequent use of curse words throughout the book. I understand using a few intermittent curse words to get a point across, but to continuously use them throughout the book was a bit of a turn off. Simmons does not "swear" during his podcasts or in his columns on espn.com so I know it's possible for him to do so in a 700 page book.
At 700 pages this book is definitely a sizable read. Only recommended for those that are fans of the NBA and all the drama that it regularly brings each season.
I am a fan of Bill Simmons' columns and podcasts. I also read his earlier book on the Boston Redsox.
Compared to his other work, this book was just a grind. I didn't read it so much as cross it off my todo list. At 700 pages, it is long, but I actually didn't notice myself watching the page number too much. It was more that the different rankings and lists just seem to go on forever. I also don't think the book turned out this way due to a lack of effort on Simmons' part. It just seems to not be very fun for some reason.
I think the high-level structure of the book is good, but it was simultaneously way to detailed and omitted crucial facts. For instance, in his basketball pyramid, where he discusses the top basketball players ever, he includes some minute details but doesn't include a picture of each player or the years in which they played. I would have settled for fewer details on the player with a picture of him.
The descriptions of the players also seemed to focus on their negative qualities. I suppose that may have been a necessity. After all, each of these players was very, very good. It is probably easier and more to the point to tell us what each lacked. This does give the book the feel of someone just bitching about basketball players page after page though.
I'm still a fan of Simmons, but this isn't his best product.
Don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of Simmons. Sure he's not the "best" sportswriter (my personal favorite is ESPN's Phil Ball, who covers the Spanish soccer league, La Liga) but it is easy to chuckle while reading his columns and appreciate how he weaves pop culture into his columns. His new fabulous Grantland website is also something that should be applauded.
While I enjoyed parts of this book, the problems I see with it are as follows: 1) length (750 pages) 2) parts of it merely rehash many of his older ESPN columns 3) not suited to a casual fan who is not familiar with 60s/70s HOFers 4) Boston-centric (no surprise there)
As a young person, though, point #3 above must not be ignored -- Simmons' dedication to those retired players allow us younger people to understand why certain names were overrated or underrated, and how these guys played the game.
The other difficult thing when one takes on a task like this is that modern players rankings will swing wildly due to recent performance (notably Dirk and LeBron in the 2011 finals) -- one would have to update the rankings every few years.
I don't recommend, unless you are a really dedicated basketball fan. Casual fans can stick with the free columns on ESPN and Grantland.
I enjoyed this book, but man a livin' - there aren't many books where you can say the author probably should have cut out 500 pages... Bill Simmons has an incredible knowledge of the NBA (current and historical), much of which is first hand knowledge (having grown up with Celtics season tickets), but even with his internet articles I've always thought he talks too long. I really enjoyed the anecdotes (which he draws from his own life, but also from all of the NBA books and interview he has read), and the ranking of the best players ever was good, but some of his sports arguments are a little far to me (he wants to have a top 10 or top 100 list for absolutely everything).
A few minor complaints: one, reading the book (which has an average of about 100 footnotes per chapter) is a bit difficult with the Kindle; two, he's definitely a homer for the Celtics (no surprise to anyone who has read his online articles, but it still bothers at times); and three, it is definitely crude at times. Not constantly, but over the course of seven hundred and some pages it adds up. It's more than a little disturbing, in fact, that he can quote (and make top ten lists) just as quickly with pornography as with sports.
Still, if you like the NBA you'll definitely find things to like in this book.
In the interest of complete disclosure, I have to say that I am one of the biggest fans of the NBA that you will find. I have been since about 1980 and I have a lot of useless basketball trivia floating around in my head. That said, I have nothing on Bill Simmons (though I would love to chat with him about it some day).
If you are a casual fan of the sport, this book is probably not for you except maybe for use as a sports reference book or some great bathroom fodder. It reads sort of like an Encyclopedia Naismithica of the game, a veritable Gray's Anatomy of information if George Carlin had been allowed to footnote all the body parts we're secretly ashamed of with his insightful, urbane banter.
In all seriousness, I love this book. I would recommend it to anyone who wanted to step up from being a casual fan to a serious fan as the How To guide to getting there. Mostly, it is a fun and quirkly look at the sport that while mostly playing second fiddle to the NFL probably doesn't deserve to and maybe won't in the future.
This Book was actually pretty good, I thought this book would have mostly statistics on the latest player and the famous players. This book teaches you how to play basketball and how it works. Bill Simmons shared some "basketball secrets" that most people or players don't even know. Most people think you just have the skills to play basketball since you were a kid or you just can't play at all. But one of Bill Simmons favorite quote is, "But that's the thing of Basketball: You don't play games on paper". Bill Simmons loved basketball since he was a kid, he'd watched every single michael Jordan game that would come on and study his every move on how to be a succesful basketball player. He also did the same thing to LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, and a few more players. He'll notice if that person has talents or not. But some people don't like how people review players like Bill Simmons, so this is what he said. He said, "If you don't agree with me, I have two words for you: Shut up!
I think this book was pretty good. I like basketball and sports, and Bill Simmons is a good sports writer, having his own sports website. The book starts off about him as a young Celtics fan. Each section is kind of like a book. It includes a debate about who's better: Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain, and a chapter about what ifs. A big part of the book was the top basketball players of all time. It just has tons of Basketball. I liked this book, and the only downside to me is that the top players is as of 2010. I would have liked it more if it had some parts about the Bucks, my favorite team, and I am a big basketball fan in general. This book is really long and it took me almost all summer to read
a lot of great basketball history almost ruined by two things: 1) a sometimes sickening love for the boston celtics and 2) finding david fosters wallace's style in a book about basketball (replete, with made-up proper noun titles, exuberant friendly narrative voice and a scholarly knowledge mixed with bawdy asides and metaphors, oh - and the dead giveaway - footnotes (not that dfw has a total claim to footnotes, but simmons uses them in almost the exact same way)... but other than these two things, the book was great.
Entertaining, but it's 700 pages of opinion masquerading as fact. The fact that he bails out on the history of the league when he reaches the mid-80s is a big problem. So is daring to compare his book to Bill James'. This was fun, but it won't age well.
Bill Simmons knows a lot about the game of basketball. He is a very well renown sports columnist from Boston in the United States, and he has spent around 35 years of his life meticulously following the NBA, the American professional basketball league. The Book of Basketball is essentially a thought dump from Simmons: his personal opinions drive the narrative of this book, and his notable bias for Boston athletes shows in spurts. His anecdotes of popular culture television and movies, in addition to his own personal events, are thrown out haphazardly and with nonchalance. But what lies with all of this is one of the most beautifully crafted combination of in-depth analysis and anecdotal evidence ever created.
Simmons has a very unique style of writing for sports journalism which utilises footnotes and a focus on popular culture references and anecdotes. The footnotes technique, in general, is mostly done in writing to cross-reference or list sources for a point or phrase that requires evidence to be given. With Simmons, it is merely used as a way to expand upon a point or phrase that would ruin the flow of the sentence if kept in the body of text. Most times, it is used humorously to introduce or extend a joke. This book is very easy to read as a consequence, and it is up to the reader's discretion as to how and when they read the footnotes. The real skill that Simmons has, which is shown tenfold in this book, is immersing the reader in his words so that it is almost as if he is conversing with you about the context, in a similar fashion to how J.R.R Tolkien's 'The Hobbit' gave off bedtime story vibes. It's easy to follow because of Simmons' expert writing talent and diction.
The pinnacle of the book, and the fruit of his labour, is the Hall of Fame Pyramid, a carefully constructed alternative to replace the existing NBA Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame is a concept in most sports that is designed to enshrine all-time great players of that sport. To be in a sporting 'Hall of Fame', players have to be both extremely talented and successful, and have a noticeable or lasting impact on the sport (at least in theory). Simmons list his reasons for why the current model does not work for the NBA, and suggests his replacement Hall of Fame, a Pyramid style tiering system of five levels that applies strict criteria for each level. To appear in the Pyramid, you need to have met the criteria for that level. Only the best of the best appear at the top, the 'Pantheon', while other extremely skilled, 'great' and even 'all-time great' players occupy the lower levels.
Simmons really has a way to combine objective statistical analysis with subjective biased opinions that can convince the user of the legitimacy of the claims he makes. For knowledgeable fans, there is of course a disagreement in rankings of players, and in analysis of teams or events covered in the book. But to the reader, what is undeniable is the impressiveness of the body of work that is 'The Book of Basketball'. It is, simply put, the greatest sports text of all time.
Malcolm Gladwell damns this book with faint praise in his foreword. He basically says two things: (1) this book is really long; (2) read the footnotes (implying that they're better than the text).
Yes, the book is long, but it has to be -- it is a comprehensive take on a league that has existed since 1954. And it flies by -- it's easy to pick up this book for a few minutes and find you've read 20 pages.
The allocation of space isn't what I'd like. Simmons spends 400 pages individual players in his Hall of Fame Pyramid. An interesting concept, but when you're reading about the statistical achievements of Bobby Dandridge and George Mikan, that section can seem interminable. Less space is allocated to team-based and chronologically organized histories of the NBA -- but those were the sections I found most interesting.
Many footnotes were great. Basketball went from a time of chain-smoking stumpy white dudes (1950s) to a time where it was on the forefront of evolving attitudes about race in America (1960s) to a time of competing leagues and lots of cocaine (1970s) to Magic and Bird and Jordan and the present. Many pro basketball players had outsized egos or huge character flaws -- and others became philosophers by studying the flow and team dynamics of basketball. Reading about these guys in the footnotes made me want to read more stories, not more statistics.
Many footnotes were not so great. Bill Simmons is almost exactly the same age that I am, but he has watched a lot more bad t.v. A lot of footnotes about 90210, Friends, pro wrestling, and stupid shit like that.
Like Simmons, I spent a lot of time in the 1980s watching and loving NBA basketball. My team was the Lakers, so basketball was always relevant and interesting, and watching those Lakers teams was something I remember fondly. This book is written for people like me. And because it is written by someone the same age as I am, I am willing to forgive a lot of the tangents -- and the fact that this book is about who the author is more than most books. In the end, Bill Simmons is likeable and fun and passionate about basketball.
Oh, and one more thing. The book does not ignore what it means to be black in America.
For a book as long and as detailed as this, it's really a shame that Simmons couldn't find a better editor, because there are some really wonderful passages to parse through buried in this 700+ page leviathan of a book, but they are too spaced-out between meandering paragraphs about movies, TV series, and celebrity culture, and extremely dated and unfunny references to a myriad of problematic and irrelevant topics, including but not limited to fantasizing about celebrity women competing in wet t-shirt contests and describing Wilt Chamberlain's penis size and sexual prowess. I guess maybe Simmons' audience from his popular blog before he was fired from ESPN found this stuff funny or something, but to this reader in 2023, a lot of this stuff is just flat out offensive and stupid, lacking in any wit or subtlety. It's a shame, too, because some of the chapters in here--like the ones about Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor, and Dave Debusschere, 3 NBA legends who retired before the sport was widely televised--are truly well-researched and well-written, showcasing the talents that made Simmons such a popular voice both during and after his career as a journalist. But these moments, enjoyable and informative as they are, are way too few and far between.
If Simmons found a way to humble himself and cut this thing down to a lean 300-400 pages, it'd be worth a read. But in this format, it's a doorstop. You're better off reading the choice excerpts plucked out by those miserable few reviewers who've weathered the full length of this thing, and saving all the unsavory, sexist, and inappropriate "jokes" in the dustbin of the past, precisely where they belong.
Simmons has a deep understanding of basketball, and I learned a great deal about the NBA and its players from reading this book. It covers past and present, players and coaches, good teams and bad, and a lot of the social context around the game. He focuses on team-oriented players and some of the fundamentals of the game that a casual fan would miss, and he walks through just enough "what ifs" and alternate player/team timelines without devolving some lazy NBA butterfly theory. The best parts of his "Boston Sports Guy" persona track: a written style that is conversational--you can imagine the guy that hosts the Bill Simmons Podcast talking you through the highs and lows of professional basketball.
Unfortunately, the worst parts of a "Boston Sports Guy" persona also stand out: dipping into frat-boy speak and using sex-based punchlines for (cheap? tasteless? misogynist?) laughs that were never good and are extremely dated by now (the book came out ~2010). Listening to his podcast, I never really associated this humour with Simmons, and maybe he's changed since this was published. I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt, but every single one of these type of "jokes" made me cringe a bit. The basketball knowledge still shines through, but it's a shame it has to shine through anything at all.
Recommended for: someone that wants to learn about how NBA basketball became what it is today and the teams/players that shaped it. Not recommended for: anyone that can't stand basic frat-boy-ish humor (think "Old School", in a bad way).
So, I love basketball, history of the game, anecdotes and stats. Bill Simmons does as well. This should be a marriage made in basketball heaven. And for a good portion of this book it is close to being so. When Bill focuses on basketball only he is engaging and interesting, hence me finishing this monster book. However, and this is a big however….Bill manages to totally mess the overall delivery here …so much that I am docking 2 whole stars here. Sure I can forgive someone for being old-school in his ways but the blatant and constant sexism, lousy fratboy humour and chauvinism is just hard to digest and take seriously. Sure these jokes may work down at the bar with the guys, but in a book? No they are unfunny and just simply hateful. I lost the count of how often he compared players to loose high school sluts or dangling stripper breasts. Bill, this delivery is just bad form and it sucks, plus it just punches the wind out of an otherwise interesting book and subject matter. I would not have liked this in 2010 and in 2021 the world has moved on lightyears away from this frankly putrid writing style. It tries oh so hard to be smart but just ends up dumb.