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The history of blacktop basketball in fast-paced words and pictures. A New York street hustler. A lonely man in a Maryland prison. A confused Native American on a reservation in Idaho. What do they all have in common? They are among the best pickup basketball players in the country. In Pickup Artists, Lars Anderson and Chad Millman tell the complete story of the street game from its mythical past to its glorious present. Using original reporting to examine the evolution of playground basketball, Anderson and Millman are the first journalists to unravel the thickly woven tapestry of the sport’s subculture. Today’s super-hyped, corporate-sponsored tournaments weren’t always the norm. The foundation of the game was laid with sweat in the 1920s and it has grown from a rudimentary sport to a sophisticated exhibition. Basketball is more than macho melodramas acted out in America’s inner cities. It’s a town meeting in the heart of Indiana and symbol of freedom for prisoners in jail. Anderson and Millman tap into the essence of pickup basketball, examining its importance everywhere the game is played. They profile not just legends like Earl Marigault and Joe Hammond, but players like Fred “Spook” Stegman, the man who carries the legacy of being the first to connect the playgrounds with colleges, and Gregory Vaughn, whose tragic death in the 1980s exposed the underground world of drugs in basketball. Forget about the NBA and showtime. Pickup basketball is about basketball on the blacktops, at its most basic level. It’s about the unusual lives of some of the nation’s best players you’ve never heard of. Until now.
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Lars Anderson received a master's degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University and currently works for Sports Illustrated. Chad Millman is a former Sports Illustrated reporter and CNN/SI as a correspondent who is now an associate editor at ESPN Magazine.From Kirkus Reviews:
This first book by a pair of veterans of Sports Illustrated is a highly intelligent look at the colorful world of playground hoops and, with it, the ghettos that support the game. Basketball has changed more radically in the past half-century than any of our other major sports, and the influence of playground ball has been one of the major reasons. From its opening portrait of street legend James ``Speedy'' Williams, a 29-year-old black man from Brooklyn who supports himself by playing in games organized by drug dealers and hustling one-on-one contests with unsuspecting marks, Pickup Artists is an unusually well-written and astute picture of the ways that basketball has evolved in this country. The soil from which the game sprung to its current tremendous size can be found in the cracked blacktop of dozens of inner-city playgrounds where creative athletes challenge one another with reputation and sometimes money on the line, a way for disadvantaged youth to climb out of the economic trough. As Anderson and Millman amply show, that reality has begun to change subtly. Big corporate money has found the playground--big college money, tooand the playground has succumbed in ways that are leading to its demise as an arena for self-expression, turning instead into a showcase for talent that resembles a meat market. Along the way, the authors give telling glimpses of an array of near-mythical figures, from Nat Holman to Earl ``The Goat'' Manigault (who died shortly after the books completion). They mince no words in reporting on the ugly deaths and drug problems that have clung to the playground game. Indeed, after reading this volume, one realizes that playground ball has often been a fabulous jewel with a lethal curse; one wonders how something so beautiful can destroy so many. An exemplary piece of reporting and writing, transcending sports to give us a somber view of America's crumbling cities. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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