Book Review: "The Art of a Beautiful Game" by Chris Ballard


Okay, so it's not exactly Pistons-related, but I figured since it was the off-season it wouldn't hurt to diversify a bit.  And I'll skip to the good stuff right away:  this book is really, really good.  Just based off what I know of the posters here, I can almost guarantee that all of you would enjoy this book in some way -- it's informative, entertaining, insightful, filled with cool anecdotes, and even backs up some info with *gasp* stats.  The book's subtitle is "The Thinking Fan's Tour of the NBA" and it delivers.  

The whole idea behind the book is that if you speak to an NBA player in a language they understand (actual basketball, not just reporter-ese), they'll open up and reveal their true passion about some of the game's most under-rated nuances.  You can tell just from Ballard's writing that he truly loves the game, and reading through each miniature chapter actually made me fall in love with the game all over again.  Cheesy, I know, but what can I say?  I really enjoyed this book.  

The book is broken down into these topics:

Killer Instinct: Why Kobe Bryant Wants to Beat You at Everything

Pure Shooter: A Double-Barrel Duel with Steve Kerr

The Rebound: Dwight Howard and the Science of Extra Possessions

The Dunk: Why We All Wish We Could Fly

Free Throws: Standing in the Loneliest Place in the World

Point Guard: Steve Nash Can See the Future

The Defensive Specialist: Stranded on Kobe Island with Shane Battier

Training: Preparing Like the Pros (and Feeling Their Pain)

Fine Tuning: Secrets of the Hoops Whisperer

The Superbigs: Shaq, Yao, and the Rise of Size

Shot Blockers: A Rare Affection for Rejection

Prototype: The Anatomy of LeBron James

The book came out last year so an entire season as gone by, but it's still totally relevant (and it's a nice, quick read, too).  Although the anecdotes are fantastic, I really enjoyed the random little details.  Stuff like Dwight Howard's grip strength is +90 pounds per square inch (while most NBA players measure in the 50s and 60s), or that LeBron didn't start lifting weights for reals until 2008, or that Steve Nash has a really hard time making a simple right-handed layup.  I don't want to spoil too many chapters by giving away all of the info, but the chapter on Shane Battier (which references the NY Times "No-Stats All-Star" article) would probably be particularly interesting to a lot of you.  He's surprisingly candid in describing his methods, preparation, and tricks of the trade.  Plus, he's a total stat nerd.

To bring this back to being a bit more Pistons-related, here's just a small excerpt describing Ben Wallace's rebounding style:

" his prime, Wallace played a lateral game, jumping to the rebound.  His M.O. was to create contact -- to 'hit first' in hoops vernacular -- and carve out what he calls 'a hole'; only then did he look for the flight of the ball.  When he did jump, he had a tendency to do so with arms and legs at 45-degree angles, like an Afro-bedecked version of Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, allowing him to simultaneously fend off would-be boarders as he snatched the ball or tipped it in from either side of the basket.  Most important, though, Wallace tried for every rebound -- what Pryzbilla calls 'almost a suicide mentality'. "

If you're looking for some light reading about a topic we all love, I would definitely recommend this book.  The author seems like a cool guy you'd like to hang out with, and he's able to get players to open up about the game and how/why they do what they can do.  And even though we all hate LeBron, the final chapter about him being the NBA prototype is really fascinating, and downright scary when you hear what other people say about him.  This is probably one of my new favourite basketball-related books, but I've got a few more on my reading list for this summer, still.

FanPosts are user-created posts from the Detroit Bad Boys community and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of all fans or the staff at DBB. The DBB staff reserves the right at any time to edit the contents of FanPosts as they reasonably see fit.

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