To the Hoop!
Celebrate the ACC tourneys with a full court literary press
Compiled by Brian Lampkin
March is always an exciting time in North Carolina, and while this year will probably find an absence of madness in Chapel Hill, there’s plenty here in Greensboro as the men’s and women’s ACC tournaments return. While you’re here, I highly recommend To the Hoop: Basketball and Contemporary Art at the Weatherspoon Art Museum, an exhibit which runs through June 7. There are even a few literary intersections during the exhibit’s run, as you’ll see below.
February 20: GEEZERBALL: North Carolina Basketball at its Eldest (Sort of a Memoir), by Richie Zweigenhaft (Half Court Press, $10). Guilford College psychology professor Zweigenhaft has been the “commissioner” for perhaps the longest continually operating pickup game in North Carolina: 45 years. The book examines why basketball has become so central to the lives of this aging group of men and the social dynamics at play that create an environment that allows for longevity while maintaining a vigorous competitive spirit. And don’t leave Richie alone behind the 3-point line! (Zweigenhaft will be a featured event as a part of To The Hoop on Thursday, March 12 at 6:30 p.m.).
March 3: The Back Roads to March: The Unsung, Unheralded, and Unknown Heroes of a College Basketball Season, by John Feinstein (Doubleday, $27.95). Feinstein pulls back the curtain on college basketball’s lesser-known Cinderella stories — the smaller programs who no one expects to win, who have no chance of attracting the most coveted high school recruits, who rarely send their players on to the NBA. Feinstein follows a handful of players, coaches, and schools who dream, not of winning the NCAA tournament, but of making it past their first or second round games.
March 17: Dragon Hoops, by Gene Luen Yang (First Second, $24.99) Gene Luen Yang writes, and sometimes draws, comic books and graphic novels. American Born Chinese, his first graphic novel from First Second Books, was a National Book Award finalist, as well as the winner of the Printz Award and an Eisner Award. His two-volume graphic novel Boxers & Saints won the L.A. Times Book Prize and was a National Book Award Finalist. In 2016, he was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. Dragon Hoops chronicles the postseason hopes of the basketball team at the Oakland high school where Yang taught for 17 years.
March 17: Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Most Audacious Process in the History of Professional Sports, by Yaron Weitzman (Grand Central, $28). When a group of private equity bigwigs purchased the Philadelphia 76ers in 2011, the team was both bad and boring. Attendance was down. So were ratings. The Sixers had an aging coach, an antiquated front office and a group of players that could best be described as mediocre. Enter Sam Hinkie — a man with a plan. The plan, dubbed “The Process,” seems to have worked. More than six years after handing Hinkie the keys, the Sixers have transformed into one of the most exciting teams in the NBA. They’ve emerged as a championship contender with a roster full of stars, none bigger than Cameroonian Joel Embiid, a captivating 7-footer known for both brutalizing opponents on the court and taunting them off of it.
March 31: Russell Westbrook: Style Drivers, by Russell Westbrook (Rizzoli, $55). For NBA-superstar-turned-style-icon Russell Westbrook, fashion is not just a spectator sport — it pushes boundaries, blurs lines and drives culture. This book is a celebration of Westbrook’s style on and off the court, and the creative people he admires and works with.
Other recent basketball books of interest: The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism, by Howard Bryant (Beacon Press, $17); The Last Pass: Cousy, Russell, the Celtics, and What Matters in the End, by Gary M. Pomerantz (Penguin, $18); All the Dreams We’ve Dreamed: A Story of Hoops and Handguns on Chicago’s West Side, by Rus Bradburd (Lawrence Hill Books, $17.99).
And don’t miss The Falconer, by Dana Czapnik (Washington Square Press, $16). Street-smart 17-year-old Lucy Adler is often the only girl on the public basketball courts. As Lucy begins to question accepted notions of success, bristling against her own hunger for male approval, she is drawn into the world of a pair of provocative feminist artists living in what remains of New York’s Bohemia. Told with wit and pathos, The Falconer is at once a novel of ideas, a portrait of a time and place, and an ode to the obsessions of youth. In her critically acclaimed debut, Dana Czapnik captures the voice of an unforgettable modern literary heroine, a young woman in the first flush of freedom. Czapnik will appear at the Weatherspoon Art Museum on Thursday, April 2 at 6:30 p.m. OH
Brian Lampkin is one of the proprietors of Scuppernong Books.