Values of the Game
By Bill Bradley, Artisan, $30
This is an article from the Dec. 14, 1998 issue
Confronted with the deplorable (I suppose) absence of an NBA
season, basketball fans of a literary bent may take heart in the
appearance this holiday season of a plethora of books on their
stalled sport. Some are even worth reading.
Consider, for example, Values of the Game, in which the former
senator from New Jersey takes a loving look back on the game
that brought him to national prominence. Bradley reflects on his
career as a Princeton All-America and a key member of the
two-time NBA champion New York Knicks of the early 1970s.
Bradley doesn't simply recall his playing days. Instead, he
defines the truths he learned on the court. The result is a book
heavy on homilies but leavened with insights, at least one of
which seems foreign to the modern game: "The society we live in
glorifies individualism. Basketball teaches a different lesson:
that untrammeled individualism destroys the chances for
achieving victory." Victory, in fact, is "the bond that
Another howler goes like this: "To take money for hawking
basketball shoes or shaving lotion would have demeaned my
experience of the game." Oh my, oh my.
For the Love of the Game
By Michael Jordan, Crown Publishers, $50
One player with no such lofty scruples is that demon hawker of
shoes, and much else: Jordan. His Airness stoutly defends his
salesmanship, even though when he signed on with Nike as a
rookie in 1984, the league fined him again and again for
displaying footwear on court that was deemed out of sync with
the rest of his Chicago Bulls apparel. "Nike didn't blink,"
writes Jordan. "Nike said they were willing to pay every penny,
and I agreed. It would have cost millions of dollars to come up
with a promotion that produced as much publicity as the league's
Jordan's book is about much more than shoes. He not only reviews
his entire NBA career--including his ill-considered baseball
sabbatical--but he also comments candidly on some of the more
notable participants who have been a part of it, neatly carving
up front office turkeys Jerry Reinsdorf and Jerry Krause, among
While you're out there shopping, here are some volumes on other
sports for your perusal.
Women Who Win
By Christina Lessa, Universe, $45
The author portrays in words and pictures 21 women athletes.
Some, like Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Tara Lipinski, are famous;
others, like sprinter Aimee Mullins, are lesser-known but
certainly worthy. Mullins, a double amputee, is a world-record
holder in the Paralympic 100 meters and the long jump.
The Sporting News Selects Baseball's 100 Greatest Players
By Ron Smith, Sporting News Publishing Co., $29.95
One hundred-best lists are apparently a fin de siecle
affliction, yet they are not without charm. Selecting the best
ballplayers of the century is not, as Sporting News editorial
director John D. Rawlings acknowledges, "a pure science."
Koppett's Concise History of Major League Baseball
By Leonard Koppett, Temple University Press, $34.95
This is as useful and, yes, concise a history of the game as you
will find, and it is written in the meticulous and polished
prose we've come to expect from this preeminent baseball scholar.
Reflections of the Game: The Photographs of Ronald C. Modra
Essay by Pat Jordan, Willow Creek Press, $29.50
Modra has been photographing baseball players, mostly for this
magazine, for more than 25 years, and here he gives us more than
200 pictures, along with observations on his subjects. There are
brief contributions by present and past stars. A delightful
look, a delightful read.
A Steeler Odyssey
By Andy Russell, Sports Publishing, Inc., $22.95
Russell, an outstanding linebacker on the great Pittsburgh
Steelers teams of the 1970s, portrays his teammates on the field
as well as far off it, in such unlikely places as a war zone in
Vietnam and on hair-raising wilderness adventures. Russell, now
a Pittsburgh businessman, writes well, and his friends come
solidly to life. Or to death, as in his extraordinary
description of the fatal heart attack suffered by his closest
Steelers pal, Ray Mansfield, on a 1996 backpacking trip in the