NOTHING BUT NET

JUST GIVE ME THE BALL AND GET OUT OF THE WAY

Hall-of-Fame cager Walton looks back at his injury-ridden college and NBA career. With the help of Los Angeles Times sportswriter Wojciechowski (Pond Scum and Vultures, 1990), Walton sticks pretty much to the game: there's only passing mention of his many battles and controversies with owners, refs, and the media; of his involvement in the Patty Hearst case; his celebrated Vietnam War protests; and his ongoing relationship with the Grateful Dead. He waxes nostalgic, though, for the good old days at UCLA (1970-74) and his two NCAA championships there, and he's unabashed in praising former coach John Wooden. He also lauds Larry Bird (the ``best player I ever played with''), Bill Russell (``the best player in the history of basketball''), Jack Ramsay, Lenny Wilkins, Jammal Wilkes, Red Auerbach and Michael Jordan, but deals glancing blows at Clyde ``The Glide'' Drexler, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, and NBA rookie Chris Webber. During his 13 years in the NBA, Walton underwent an incredible 30 operations, many of them on his feet, and calculates that he sat out nine seasons—762 games—because of injuries. Even so, he was a force in two NBA titles—with Portland in 1977, and the Boston Celtics in 1986. It wasn't all glory, however: He ``despised the level of selfishness'' on the Portland team, a criticism he aims at many of today's players. He often failed to get along with teammates, threatened to quit, and even filed a malpractice suit against the team doctor. He laments his years with the San Diego Clippers, blaming himself for the franchise's failure and eventual move to L.A. Having overcome a stutter, Walton is now an NBC analyst and broadcaster. Walton is all over the court and regrettably side-steps some issues. But it hardly matters: he's still one of the game's most interesting personalities. (Eight pages of b&w photos—not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 1994

ISBN: 1-56282-793-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1994

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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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Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading...

CONCUSSION

A maddening, well-constructed tale of medical discovery and corporate coverup, set in morgues, laboratories, courtrooms, and football fields.

Nigeria-born Bennet Omalu is perhaps an unlikely hero, a medical doctor board-certified in four areas of pathology, “anatomic, clinical, forensic, and neuropathology,” and a well-rounded specialist in death. When his boss, celebrity examiner Cyril Wecht (“in the autopsy business, Wecht was a rock star”), got into trouble for various specimens of publicity-hound overreach, Omalu was there to offer patient, stoical support. The student did not surpass the teacher in flashiness, but Omalu was a rock star all his own in studying the brain to determine a cause of death. Laskas’ (Creative Writing/Univ. of Pittsburgh; Hidden America, 2012, etc.) main topic is the horrific injuries wrought to the brains and bodies of football players on the field. Omalu’s study of the unfortunate brain of Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster, who died in 2002 at 50 of a supposed heart attack, brought new attention to the trauma of concussion. Laskas trades in sportwriter-ese, all staccato delivery full of tough guyisms and sports clichés: “He had played for fifteen seasons, a warrior’s warrior; he played in more games—two hundred twenty—than any other player in Steelers history. Undersized, tough, a big, burly white guy—a Pittsburgh kind of guy—the heart of the best team in history.” A little of that goes a long way, but Laskas, a Pittsburgher who first wrote of Omalu and his studies in a story in GQ, does sturdy work in keeping up with a grim story that the NFL most definitely did not want to see aired—not in Omalu’s professional publications in medical journals, nor, reportedly, on the big screen in the Will Smith vehicle based on this book.

Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading it.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8757-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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