Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Review of "Tall Tales and Short Shorts"

Happy Independence Day aka July 4th to all of my fellow American readers.  On this all-American holiday, what game is more appropriate to read about than the sport that was invented in the United States?  Of course, I am talking about basketball and I first followed the game in the 1970's.  This book is a very good account of the sport during that decade.  Here is my review of "Tall Tales and Short Shorts."

Tall Tales and Short Shorts: Dr. J, Pistol Pete & the Birth of the Modern NBA” by Adam J. Criblez
Basketball, Professional, History
Publish date:
June 9, 2017
311 pages

4 of 5 stars (very good)
The state of professional basketball was shaky in the 1970’s. Former NBA Commissioner David Stern called the decade the “darkest times” for the league.  The number of African-American players was increasing, there was increased drug use among the players, the game was felt to be too violent and the television ratings were so bad, there were playoff games that were not shown live, but on delay during late night hours 

However, there are some who credit this decade as the stepping stone to the global success the NBA is currently enjoying through the merger of the two professional leagues, the birth of free agency and the exciting play of many talented players.  This is the approach taken by author Adam J. Criblez in this very interesting book on the NBA of the 1970’s.

The format of the book is straightforward – each chapter is an account of each season through the decade, starting with the legendary 1970 championship season for the New York Knicks to the unlikely championship claimed by the Seattle SuperSonics in 1979. The material is not extremely detailed or in depth, but each season is covered well, as well as many of the great players from that time such as George Gervin, Bill Walton, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and John Havlicek. 

One facet of the book that I like is that each team, whether the champion, a playoff team or an also-ran is mentioned each year. Unlike many books that cover certain seasons, the star players from losing teams are credited with their fine play and there are even paragraphs about these losing teams that explains why they were in the poor shape they were in.

The season-by-season recap is interrupted three times for chapters on other topics.  Two of these chapters are about two of the biggest names in the sport during that decade – Julius “Dr. J” Erving and “Pistol” Pete Maravich.  Being a fan of both of these players during that time brought back some great memories and also a little bit of trivia that I had never heard before.  When Dr. J was trying to play in the NBA before the ABA and NBA merged in 1976, he signed a contract with the Atlanta Hawks, who already had Maravich on the roster.  While the matter was in the court system, the Hawks played three exhibition game with both players.  The contact was voided in court and Dr. J had to return to the New York Nets of the ABA.  It would have been very interesting to see those two legends play on the same team. 

Speaking of the merger, the third chapter that was not a recap of a season was about that topic when the two professional leagues stopped fighting each other on and off the court and became a stronger league.  One of my favorite passages from that chapter is about the final all-star game in the ABA when Dr. J performed his legendary foul-line dunk.

While the book does not shed a lot of new light nor goes into great details into any particular topic, it is a very entertaining and fun read for any basketball fan who watched the game in that decade. These fantastic teams and players may not get the same love as Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan did for “saving” the game in the 1980’s – but this book gives that decade some much-deserved recognition for providing the first step to that revival.

I wish to thank Rowman & LIttlefield for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

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