For the 1983 all-star game of the National Basketball Association, Marvin Gaye sang the US national anthem, the “Star Spangled Banner.” At that time, the anthem had rarely been sung in any way but quite straightly, one exception being the rendition by Jose Feliciano. Mr. Gaye, an artist with a repretoire that included songs about peace, brotherhood, ecology, as well as love and loss, put his spin on the performance. I suspect many readers will agree with me about that it’s an inspirational performance.
Category Archives: Hoops
Over at the Los Angeles Times, Bill Dwyre covered the ceremony about installation of a plaque honoring Elgin Baylor and Jerry West of the Los Angeles Lakers. In an interesting twist, the plaque is at at the Los Angeles Coliseum, a location that was chosen because it was at the neighboring Sports Arena that Mr. Baylor and Mr. West played. That’s one of the places I went to watch them play basketball when I was just discovering the game. Read Mr. Dwyre’s column under the headline “Jerry West and Elgin Baylor are together again: The two players who put the Los Angeles Lakers on the map are honored at the Coliseum.” It’s laced with good stories.
Although the title of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s book, On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance, allows one to think of the very high shoulders of the author, the focus of the book is on how contemporary people benefit from the extraordinary accomplishments in the arts—literature, social criticism, and, especially, music—and sports of people associated with the Harlem neighborhood of New York City during earlier times. In this semi-autobiographical book, Mr. Abdul-Jabbar and his co-author Raymond Obstfeld take readers through the slice of history that centered around Harlem in the first half of the 20th century, examining roots that go back into the 19th century and consequences that will echo long into the 21st century.
As he develops it, much of the book is predicated on Mr. Abdul-Jabbar’s passions. He writes that the book draws on his personals passions: his concern about improving the prospects of others in the black community, the camaraderie and purpose he found in basketball, his love for jazz, and his urge to communicate with others.
Over on Pacifist Posse I just dropped an entry about Jordan Farmar, a professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers, planning to conduct basketball clinics for children from Israel and Palestine. Mr. Farmar is collaborating with the Peres Peace Center, founded by Israeli President Shimon Peres, which promotes social programs, cooperation, and interaction among Israelis and Palestinians.
Link to the post on PP. File this under Shameless Self-Promotion of my other blog, if you wish.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, one of the all-time greats in basketball (many would say the all-time greatest and I’d have a hard time disagreeing with them) as well as a remarkably accomplished writer, has been named honorary chair of the American Library Association’s (ALA) “Library Card Sign-up Month” for September 2008. The ALA conducts this campaign to promote local library membership among children and youth. See the press announcement on the ALA site.
As noted elsewhere in this mini-mass of entries, I had great admiration for Elgin Baylor during my 1960s adolescence. As consequence, it’s with a certain self-serving pleasure that I point to an article called “Baylor, Seattle U scoring machine, was toast of town in 1950s” by Dan Raley in the Seattle (WA, US) Post-Intelligencer.
Mr. Raley had the apparently rare chance to interview Mr. Baylor, and the result is a glimpse at some history of basketball with which I was unfamiliar. I’m glad to have had the chance to read it. In addition to some new info, it’s full of memories for me.
I may have written this before. I came to be a Lakers fan by a set of serendipitous events (my family’s move to LA in 1959; my father’s interest in just about anything having to do with sports; my burgeoning interest in basketball; the Lakers arrival about the same time; the press coverage of Jerry West’s Olympic accomplishments, etc.).
As a guy without the physical size of NBA players and no outside shot, I really admired Jerry West’s play for the Lakers. I was ~6-2 and he was only a bit taller, but he could play. Still, as a 13-14 year-old, guard-sized, white kid in the 1960s…I wanted to be Elgin Baylor.
Thanks for the story, Mr. Raley. And, thanks, Mr. Baylor.
Bill Russell has a blog on the National Basketball Association’s Web site. He’s making weekly entries during the playoffs. Interesting reading. The master of post-season play deserves review.
The buzz in my corner of the bastketball world is (a) the GS Warriors (!) and (b) NBA refs. Writing in the Wednesday New York Times, Alan Schwarz reported on a study by Justin Wolfers and Joseph Price about fouls called by referees in the National Basketball Association games. In their paper, “Racial Discrimination Among NBA Referees,” Mr. Wolfers and Price analyzed a large data set (600K foul calls) covering many years (1991-92 through 2003-4 seasons) and found a slight but clear bias. Mr. David Stern disagrees with these findings.
John Amaechi, a former player in the National Basketball Association, has admitted to being gay in his new book Man in the Middle. The story broke a few days ago and is now widely discussed (see Google news listing of coverage). Michael Wilbon, a columnist for the Washington Post, has some excellent observations under the title “Sexuality Disclosed, Ignorance Exposed.”
As a preadolescent, I developed a strong interest in basketball. It was nutured by the fact that my family moved to Los Angeles in the late ’50s. The Minneapolis Lakers moved there about the same time and a few years later UCLA began it’s unequaled dominance of college basketball. Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Walt Hazzard, Gail Goodrich, Keith Erikson, and their teammates on the Lakes and Bruins carried me away to adolescent fantasies of basketball excellence. I never was a good enough player to realize my fantasies, but I was savvy enough to admire their play.
As I noted in an earlier post, I found a book that captured the NBA side of those years in John Taylor’s marvelous The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and the Golden Age of Basketball. I was so impressed with Mr. Taylor’s analysis and writing that I bought a second book of his. It’s called The Count and the Confession and it, too, is splendid.
Mr. Taylor’s The Count and the Confession did not disappointment me. Perhaps because I have another personal connection to it, I found it compelling. In the book, Mr. Taylor recounts the apparently wrongful conviction of Beverly Monroe for murder. Because Ms. Monroe lived in Richmond, not far from me, and the events related to the death of her paramour and news about the trial had a vague familiarity for me, I found myself thinking about the road names, neighborhoods, and country clubs mentioned in it.
Beyond the local connection, there is another issue that made this book resonate with me. One of the central issues is that a police investigator essentially convinced Ms. Monroe that she had committed murder. The interrogations sound so much like “recovered memory” events that I cursed after reading the chapter in which the investigator solicited a confession from an apparently innocent person. But the most compelling aspect of the book is the portrait of a person done wrong that Mr. Taylor paints of Ms. Monroe, and the devotion that daughter Katie Monroe shows in seeking justice for her mother.
Mr. Taylor’s reporting is extraordinarily detailed. He tells a true story in a way that I imagine fiction writers would like to recount one. I am about to place an order for a third title by Mr. Taylor. What will it be?