Billy "the Hill" and the Jump Hook: The Autobiography of a Forgotten Basketball Legend

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Growing up on the hardscrabble streets of LA in the late 1950s, Billy McGill stood out. At eleven he was dunking. At fifteen he was playing in pickup games against Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain—and holding his own, in part because he invented the jump hook shot, which no one could defend. How he went from college phenom, well on his way to becoming the greatest player Los Angeles ever produced, to sleeping in abandoned houses and washing up in a Laundromat sink is the story Billy “the Hill” McGill recounts here. 

The first African American to play basketball for the University of Utah and the highest scoring big man in NCAA history, McGill was the first pick of the 1962 NBA draft. But the injury that would undo him—a knee injury in his junior year of high school—had already occurred, and it would worsen year after year until his career faded away. From college star (whose scoring record is still unbroken) to troubled player, bouncing around the NBA and the ABA, McGill takes us from the heights to his precipitous fall—and the slow recovery of a life he had never prepared for. A cautionary tale, written with a candor and authenticity rarely seen in pro athletes, his book is also the incredible story of one of the greatest unknown basketball players of all time.

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About the Author:

A member of both the Utah and the Los Angeles Sports Halls of Fame, BILLY MCGILL (1939–2014) was a three-time All-American basketball player, one of only seven players in NCAA history to tally over 2,300 points and 1,100 rebounds in just three years of play. He retired from Hughes Aircraft, where he worked for many years and lived in Los Angeles. ERIC BRACH is a lecturer in English at California Lutheran University.

From Booklist:

McGill is unknown to most current basketball fans, but in the late fifties and early sixties he was a three-time All-American as the first African American player at the University of Utah. He was the first overall pick in the 1962 NBA draft. So far, so good. His professional career, though, was that of a journeyman. He played for nine NBA and ABA teams in a nine-year span. Now in his seventies, McGill looks back on a career that fizzled due to circumstance, injury, and inability to adjust to the more physical pro game. McGill takes responsibility when it’s appropriate but also, through the prism of time, points to the situations that were beyond his control. After basketball, McGill worked for many years at Hughes Aircraft in Los Angeles, where he lives today. McGill’s is a cautionary tale but told mostly without bitterness or regret. A solid choice for collections where interest in NBA history is high. --Wes Lukowsky

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