Ever since A Sense Of Where You Are by John McPhee (1965) showed up on Esquire Magazine's list of The 80 Best Books Every Man Should Read I've had it on my "to be read" list. Several reasons for this:
First, I love basketball. A fast moving combination of strategy, athleticism, and teamwork. It fascinated me starting around age five and continues to do so. Unlike any other sport.
Second, I've heard McPhee described many times as one of the greatest non-fiction writers of his generation. I wanted to read something by the master.
Third, the book's subject, Bill Bradley, went on to win NBA championships with the New York Knicks before embarking on a career in the U.S. Senate and later as a Presidential hopeful. Having just completed Robert Caro's four books on Lyndon B. Johnson, I guess I'm a sucker for books about politicians.
In short, this book more than met my expectations. Unquestionably, one of the best sports titles I've read. Also, one of the few books I've been able to read in a single setting.
The book is in narrow in scope, dealing solely with Bradley's mid 1960's playing career while at Princeton University. Bradley was a phenom. As a collegiate, he excelled as a once in a generation player on par with the likes of a "Pistol" Pete Maravich or Lew Alcindor. And there is simplistic delight in observing Bradley as a young man before the political complexities of his later years.
But what makes this book a classic is McPhee's breathless devotion to and description of the game, more an art form than sport. "Bradley can scrap the reverse pivot before he begins it, merely suggesting it with his shoulders and then continuing his original dribble to the basket, making his man look like a pedestrian who has leaped to get out of the way of a speeding car." He is unswerving in his admiration of Bradley.
There is really nothing I did not enjoy about the book. If anything, it's publishing date of 1965 is the only downside. Bradley is described as such a triumph that I wanted to know more about his continuing later years. I had to turn to Wikipedia for this, wishing McPhee would have written a sequel.
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