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Black Planet: Facing Race During an NBA Season (Signed First Edition)

David Shields

184 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 060960452X / ISBN 13: 9780609604526
Published by Crown, 1999
New Condition: New Hardcover
From Dan Pope Books (West Hartford, CT, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

New York: Crown [1999]. First Edition. First Printing. Hardcover. SIGNED by author on title page. New/new. A pristine, unread copy, without flaws of any kind. Comes with mylar dust jacket protector. Shipped in well padded box, smoke-free shop. Author has signed his name only; no other writing. [C-NF-LWB]. Bookseller Inventory # jean0206-29

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Black Planet: Facing Race During an NBA ...

Publisher: Crown

Publication Date: 1999

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:New

Dust Jacket Condition: New

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: 1st Edition...

About this title


The National Basketball Association is a place where, without ever acknowledging it, white fans and black players enact and quietly explode virtually every racial issue and tension in the culture at large. In Black Planet, David Shields explores how, in a predominantly black sport, white fans--including especially himself--think about and talk about black heroes, black scapegoats, black bodies.

During the 1994-95 NBA season, Shields went to the Seattle SuperSonics' home games; watched their away games on TV; listened to interviews and call-in shows; talked, or tried to talk, to players, coaches, and agents; attended charity events; corresponded with members of the Sonics newsgroup on the Web. He kept a journal and over the next few years transformed that journal into this book, which is focused sharply on white spectators' relationship to black athletes, in particular Shields' own identification with Gary Payton, the team's language-besotted point-guard.

Through the apparently simple vehicle of a daily diary running from November 5, 1994 to May 5, 1995, and ranging from a dispute between two fans over the sale of a ticket to the national media frenzy surrounding Charles Barkley's jest "That's why I hate white people," David Shields confronts the nature of racism (including his own)--the otherness in ourselves that we project onto strangers. He takes us via sports passion deep into the American racial divide.


In his earlier work, David Shields came across as a fairly traditional storyteller. Even Dead Languages, his fictional rumination on a stutterer's tongue-tied existence, was essentially a coming-of-age story. But he began to show his true colors with Remote, a fractured, full-body immersion in media culture. This deeply amusing work of nonfiction revealed the author to be a neurotic, navel-gazing cousin of Nicholson Baker. Now comes Black Planet: Facing Race During an NBA Season, whose putative topic--professional basketball--would seem to return Shields to his extroverted roots. (His first novel, in fact, revolved around a college basketball player.) Yet this is ultimately as postmodernist a work as its predecessor, and it takes us not only into the author's heart but his boudoir. Black Planet's fusion of public spectacle with private mortification makes it his funniest book to date.

A word of explanation: technically speaking, Black Planet is a chronicle of the Seattle SuperSonics during the 1994-1995 season. Since the team blew its shot at the playoffs, there's no chance for an uplifting grand finale. Yet Shields had a different sort of hoop dream in mind from the very beginning. "The NBA," he writes, "is a place where, without ever acknowledging it--and because it's never acknowledged, it's that much more potent and telling--white fans and black players enact and quietly explode virtually every racial issue and tension in the culture at large. Race, the league's taboo topic, is the league's true subject." It's the author's true subject, too, and he goes at it from every angle--attending games, recording call-in radio shows, and making some abortive attempts to cozy up to the players. Point guard Gary Payton is his true Penelope. Why? Well, his motormouth style does suggest an "indivisibility... of playing and talking, of life and language." But more to the point, he offers a handy tabula rasa for Shields's fantasy life, a trash-talking personification of bad behavior: "Which is why, in Seattle the Good, I so love Gary Payton. He's not really bad, he's only pretend-bad--I know that--but he allows me to fantasize about being bad."

If Shields were simply slapping society on the wrist for its half-submerged racism, Black Planet would wear out its welcome in the first quarter. But he's consistently hardest on himself, so the book becomes not only a social critique but a critique of social critiques, cutting the ground from under itself in an infinite and entertaining loop-the-loop. Shields may not be the first writer to transform a fan's notes into literary gold--Frederick Exley beat him to the punch--but he's the most rigorously intelligent one in a long, long time. Swish! --James Marcus

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