2019, Basketball, Sports

The Soul of Basketball (2018, Ian Thomsen)

This book is basically meant for me as the Mavericks’ championship was the greatest thing to happen in my adult sports fan life prior to the Raptors winning recently. So I should love this. But I don’t quite. I’m going to try to articulate why.

Let’s get the bad out of the way: I’m not sure exactly why, but Thomsen comes off as too much of an ‘Old Man’ to me at times. Rather than a neutral observer, it’s pretty clear how he feels about the way the game appeared to be going at the time of The Decision. Given how he seems to feel about the game now, it may have been a rhetorical choice to try to represent how people felt at large, but he often comes across as having a moralizing tone. I was no fan of The Decision – and I have still not really forgiven LeBron for the stupid party in Miami when they claimed they were going to win more championships than could be fit in the lives of their contracts with the Heat – but the tenor of the book, especially early going, often feels as if it was written by a man who wants the good old days where athletes knew their places, which is something I can’t agree with. I also don’t have much time for people – whether it be Thomsen or anyone else – who think we can take moral lessons from sports. We can’t. And we need to stop trying to do so.

The book is very well researched. Thomsen got interviews with a lot of people that were likely hard gets. It’s also a pretty entertaining read. Though the presentation is a little choppy at times, he does a good job of building up to the climax and creating tension even though we all know what it going to happen. The book has an epic scope – sometimes that’s a bit of a detriment – and so it was likely harder to write than a book just focused on the Heat or the Mavs but is’a arguably also a greater accomplishment, and a more insightful examination of the sport as a whole. The other thing I really enjoyed is how unimportant Dirk and the Mavericks are in the early going of the book, as that is how it felt at the time.

The book is probably a tad too ambitious for its own good – he wants you to believe that this season was a pivotal point in the history of the sport and I’m not 100% sure how I feel about that – but it’s mostly an enjoyable read and the access he got gave me some insights into particular players and coaches I’d never had before.

Worth your time if you’re a fan of the sport but I wanted to like it more than I did.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.