Friday, May 8, 2009

The Jump

Here's one Will has probably read: The Jump, by Ian O'Connor. Easily the best of the three books I read on vacation, The Jump chronicles the rise of New York City point guard phenom Sebastian Telfair from highly-touted high schooler to NBA lottery pick in incredible behind-the-scenes detail.

This book is the antithesis of Saturday Rules: deeply reported, exploring multiple issues beyond the primary prep-goes-pro theme, truly unique access. Instead of trying to cover shallow research with cutesy writing, as Murphy does in his book, O'Connor writes it straight and lets the story tell itself. In that sense it's Halberstam-esque.

If you're a hoops junkie, this book is for you. It covers the politics of youth and high school basketball, with all its recruiting seediness; sneaker wars, centered around Sonny Vacaro; NYC playground hoops; the absurdity of high school teams that play games around the country; the precarious nature of college basketball recruiting; agents; NBA team workouts for prospective draftees; draft night maneuvering; family matters for athletes from the 'hood; and, most interestingly, the tensions between Telfair's family and that of Stephon Marbury, Bassie's cousin.

What's interesting is that Telfair, for all the hype, has turned out to be an average-at-best pro (backing up dudes like Kevin Ollie), while guys like Dwight Howard, who Telfair's crew ridicule in the book, is the best young big guy in the NBA. There are plenty of other examples of guys who Telfair is supposedly far better than who have turned into far better professional players than the subject of the book. All of the misgivings various people had about Telfair's NBA potential have turned out to be valid.

But that isn't to hate on Bassie, who seems like a nice guy in a difficult situation trying to do the right thing. It's hard to imagine being in the position he was in at age 18. Given the circumstances, he handled it pretty well.

Badgercentric highly recommends The Jump by Ian O'Connor, pick it up and make it a summer read.


Will said...

Have not read that one, but will put it on my list after your positive review. I have seen the Telfair documentary, and read the book about Marbury when he was a high school student, called The Last Shot.

Craig said...

I thought the Jump provided great insight into Telfair's world and is a great read, but not as good as The Last Shot. The best book I've read in the last couple years on college athletics was Meat Market.