Kennedy ably lays out the issues and raises the questions but offers no answers.

LASTING IMPACT

ONE TEAM, ONE SEASON: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN OUR SONS PLAY FOOTBALL

An award-winning sports biographer returns with an assessment of the medical risks to high school football players.

Near the end of the book, former Sports Illustrated assistant managing editor and senior writer Kennedy (Pete Rose: An American Dilemma, 2014, etc.), a clinical professor at NYU’s Tisch Institute of Sports Management, Media, and Business, declares what will be clear to readers throughout his text: “I came to writing this book without an agenda, but with high curiosity.” Indeed, he does attempt to present evidence from both sides. There are sections about the research on concussions and the enduring physical effects of football on players, about the numbers of deaths occurring during practices and in games, about hazing, and about the sometimes-dark behavior of some celebrated athletes, including NFL star Ray Rice, caught on video punching his future wife (Rice had once played for the New Rochelle high school team that Kennedy shadowed during the 2014 season). The author also attended the funeral service of a former player in a nearby community. Kennedy balances this grimness with the human stories of the New Rochelle players and, especially, legendary head coach Lou DiRienzo, whose voice we hear throughout the text. The author follows the team from summer practices through the New York state playoffs, and we also hear from parents, players, and numerous others. Although Kennedy is careful to explore the immediate world of the players, he says virtually nothing about the effects of football on the rest of the student body. What happens to an educational institution when you celebrate one student activity—a nonacademic one—so enthusiastically? Nor does he wonder how and why we tolerate such dire physical risks in football but really in no other high school activity.

Kennedy ably lays out the issues and raises the questions but offers no answers.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61893-157-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Sports Illustrated Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

WHEN THE GAME WAS OURS

NBA legends Bird and Johnson, fierce rivals during their playing days, team up on a mutual career retrospective.

With megastars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and international superstars like China’s Yao Ming pushing it to ever-greater heights of popularity today, it’s difficult to imagine the NBA in 1979, when financial problems, drug scandals and racial issues threatened to destroy the fledgling league. Fortunately, that year marked the coming of two young saviors—one a flashy, charismatic African-American and the other a cocky, blond, self-described “hick.” Arriving fresh off a showdown in the NCAA championship game in which Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans defeated Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores—still the highest-rated college basketball game ever—the duo changed the course of history not just for the league, but the sport itself. While the pair’s on-court accomplishments have been exhaustively chronicled, the narrative hook here is unprecedented insight and commentary from the stars themselves on their unique relationship, a compelling mixture of bitter rivalry and mutual admiration. This snapshot of their respective careers delves with varying degrees of depth into the lives of each man and their on- and off-court achievements, including the historic championship games between Johnson’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics, their trailblazing endorsement deals and Johnson’s stunning announcement in 1991 that he had tested positive for HIV. Ironically, this nostalgic chronicle about the two men who, along with Michael Jordan, turned more fans onto NBA basketball than any other players, will likely appeal primarily to a narrow cross-section of readers: Bird/Magic fans and hardcore hoop-heads.

Doesn’t dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-547-22547-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

BACK FROM THE DEAD

A basketball legend reflects on his life in the game and a life lived in the “nightmare of endlessly repetitive and constant pain, agony, and guilt.”

Walton (Nothing but Net, 1994, etc.) begins this memoir on the floor—literally: “I have been living on the floor for most of the last two and a half years, unable to move.” In 2008, he suffered a catastrophic spinal collapse. “My spine will no longer hold me,” he writes. Thirty-seven orthopedic injuries, stemming from the fact that he had malformed feet, led to an endless string of stress fractures. As he notes, Walton is “the most injured athlete in the history of sports.” Over the years, he had ground his lower extremities “down to dust.” Walton’s memoir is two interwoven stories. The first is about his lifelong love of basketball, the second, his lifelong battle with injuries and pain. He had his first operation when he was 14, for a knee hurt in a basketball game. As he chronicles his distinguished career in the game, from high school to college to the NBA, he punctuates that story with a parallel one that chronicles at each juncture the injuries he suffered and overcame until he could no longer play, eventually turning to a successful broadcasting career (which helped his stuttering problem). Thanks to successful experimental spinal fusion surgery, he’s now pain-free. And then there’s the music he loves, especially the Grateful Dead’s; it accompanies both stories like a soundtrack playing off in the distance. Walton tends to get long-winded at times, but that won’t be news to anyone who watches his broadcasts, and those who have been afflicted with lifelong injuries will find the book uplifting and inspirational. Basketball fans will relish Walton’s acumen and insights into the game as well as his stories about players, coaches (especially John Wooden), and games, all told in Walton’s fervent, witty style.

One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1686-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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