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In The Art of a Beautiful Game, Chris Ballard, the award-winning Sports Illustrated writer who has covered the NBA for the past decade, goes behind the scenes to examine basketball in ways that will surprise even die-hard fans. An inveterate hoops junkie who played some college ball, Ballard sits down with the NBA's most passionate, cerebral players to find out their trick In The Art of a Beautiful Game, Chris Ballard, the award-winning Sports Illustrated writer who has covered the NBA for the past decade, goes behind the scenes to examine basketball in ways that will surprise even die-hard fans. An inveterate hoops junkie who played some college ball, Ballard sits down with the NBA's most passionate, cerebral players to find out their tricks of the trade and to learn what drives them, taking readers away from the usual sports talk radio fodder and deep into the heart of the game. Ballard talks to Dwight Howard, a prolific shot-blocker, about the enervating feeling of meeting another man at the height of his leap; challenges Steve Kerr to a game of H-O-R-S-E to understand the mentality of a pure shooter; reveals the roots of Kobe Bryant's unmatched killer instinct; and spends time with LeBron James to better understand both his mental game and his seemingly unlimited physical skills. He tracks down renowned dunkers from Dominique to Shaq to explore the impact of the dunk on the modern game, shadows Shane Battier during his preparations to defend LeBron, takes lessons from a freethrow shooting guru who once hit 2,750 in a row, and attends an elite NBA training camp to feel the pain that turns a prospect into a pro. Packed with lively characters and basketball history, and grounded in superb writing and the reportage that is the hallmark of Sports Illustrated, The Art of a Beautiful Game is an often witty, always insightful look at the men like Steve Nash, Yao Ming, and Alonzo Mourning who devote themselves to this elegant and complicated sport. It ultimately provides basketball fans what they all want: an inside read on the game they love.


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In The Art of a Beautiful Game, Chris Ballard, the award-winning Sports Illustrated writer who has covered the NBA for the past decade, goes behind the scenes to examine basketball in ways that will surprise even die-hard fans. An inveterate hoops junkie who played some college ball, Ballard sits down with the NBA's most passionate, cerebral players to find out their trick In The Art of a Beautiful Game, Chris Ballard, the award-winning Sports Illustrated writer who has covered the NBA for the past decade, goes behind the scenes to examine basketball in ways that will surprise even die-hard fans. An inveterate hoops junkie who played some college ball, Ballard sits down with the NBA's most passionate, cerebral players to find out their tricks of the trade and to learn what drives them, taking readers away from the usual sports talk radio fodder and deep into the heart of the game. Ballard talks to Dwight Howard, a prolific shot-blocker, about the enervating feeling of meeting another man at the height of his leap; challenges Steve Kerr to a game of H-O-R-S-E to understand the mentality of a pure shooter; reveals the roots of Kobe Bryant's unmatched killer instinct; and spends time with LeBron James to better understand both his mental game and his seemingly unlimited physical skills. He tracks down renowned dunkers from Dominique to Shaq to explore the impact of the dunk on the modern game, shadows Shane Battier during his preparations to defend LeBron, takes lessons from a freethrow shooting guru who once hit 2,750 in a row, and attends an elite NBA training camp to feel the pain that turns a prospect into a pro. Packed with lively characters and basketball history, and grounded in superb writing and the reportage that is the hallmark of Sports Illustrated, The Art of a Beautiful Game is an often witty, always insightful look at the men like Steve Nash, Yao Ming, and Alonzo Mourning who devote themselves to this elegant and complicated sport. It ultimately provides basketball fans what they all want: an inside read on the game they love.

30 review for The Art of a Beautiful Game: The Thinking Fan's Tour of the NBA

  1. 5 out of 5

    A.J. Howard

    There is a curious attitude among a certain sect of basketball fans that frequently is voiced around this time of year. Many passionate basketball fans actively disdain the college variety. Since I am guilty of this prejudice, I feel like I can lay out the thoughts behind it. I don't think it's a reaction to the product of college hoop itself, but a reaction to others' reaction. Call it The King's Speech effect. College basketball represents a perfectly entertaining display of hoops, but when ot There is a curious attitude among a certain sect of basketball fans that frequently is voiced around this time of year. Many passionate basketball fans actively disdain the college variety. Since I am guilty of this prejudice, I feel like I can lay out the thoughts behind it. I don't think it's a reaction to the product of college hoop itself, but a reaction to others' reaction. Call it The King's Speech effect. College basketball represents a perfectly entertaining display of hoops, but when others over value the merely good at the expense of the great, somehow, in the eyes of the connoisseur, the once good becomes mediocre or less. The following sentence, for me, is not opinion but incontrovertible fact. In terms of basketball viewing experience, the NBA is a far superior product to college hoops. Expressing a dissenting opinion to a NBA fanatic produces a reaction that isn't like anything else in sports. For a similar paralel I have to go back to my jam-band phase. NBA fans feel about college fans the same way Phish fans feel about Widespread Panic fans. There's a feeling that they are so close to understanding something, but they settle for this shit. Since these are pretty strong opinions, let me try to anticipate any dissenting points: NBA players don't try hard until the playoffs: This argument drives NBA fans, including myself, bonkers, but there is a small degree of in it. The NBA season is an 82 game season followed by up to 28 postseason games. If every guy went 100% throughout the regular season they would be exhausted by the time the playoffs started. The NBA is much more of a marathon than the NCAA. But here's the thing, even if they're not going 100%, they're going 80-95%. People who make this argument are basically penalizing NBA players for making the remarkable look effortless. I contend that what makes college players look like they're trying harder is that they are nowhere near as good. So what's actually looks like hard work is actually sloppy work. They don't play defense in the NBA:This makes sense because once a player leaves college he forgets how to play defense. I would argue the opposite of the above statement. It looks like there's less defense, but maybe it has something to do with NBA players being able to hit jump shots. People are misled because good defense gets beat by great offense. The college game is more exiting and has a better atmosphere: There's not a lot to be said to the latter claim. However, I think the atmosphere at college games is marred by a lot of tacky party enthusiasm, or TPE. TPE is a term that my 12th grade Government teacher came up with to describe a situation where the anticipation of the subsidiary aspects of an event overwhelm and eventually detract from the actual event. For example, the girls who went to Beatles concerts in the '60s solely to scream so loud that you couldn't here the band were displaying tacky party enthusiasm. Their sense of obligation to engage in supplemental activity detracted from the actual experience of going to a rock concert. The degree may not as bad in college hoops, but tacky party enthusiasm is still prevalent. Jumping around, being loud, yelling at the refs, and other activities detracts from the actual experience of watching a basketball game. The bands, dance teams, and student spirit make for an entertaining event, but are aspects that is supplementary to the supposed purpose of the actual event, a basketball game. Of course the NBA does not offer a pristine, virginal, viewing experience. In fact, the subsidiary aspects of NBA games such as obnoxious announcers, t-shirt cannons, jumbotrons telling the crowd to cheer, blaring in-game music, are much worse than what is offered at the average college game. But for the purpose of this argument, that doesn't matter. I'll grant that college hoops may offer the better spectacle, but the NBA offers by far a more entertaining basketball-watching experience, whether in person or on television. There is another argument used by those who don't habitually watch basketball on tv that can be applied to both varieties: Why watch the whole game when you can watch the last five minutes? While I don't see why this is usually applied to basketball it can be answered easily. Because I get an aesthetic pleasure from watching the game. Basketball is much more than 10 tall men trying to put a ball into a hoop. Instead, it's a combination of thousands of other hidden aspects. While this is true of all sports, in basketball it's easier to not appreciate the small things. The Art of a Beautiful Game is the best exploration of such small things I've ever read. From the strange psychology of free throws to lost art of shot blocking, Chris Ballard gives a tour of the professional basketball game. The book is structured as a series of articles focused on different aspects of the game, that often focus on a specific player. Ballard isn't content with simply saying that Kobe Bryant is dominant because he is relentlessly dedicated. Instead he tries to figure out why and how he is so relentlessly dedicated. Reading the book gives the reader a greater appreciation of the easy to miss aspects of the game. You notice the particular movements a player makes when they are attempting to contest a jump shot, the approach a big man selects when attempting to snare a rebound, the exact form a shooter follows when taking a three. Basketball is arguably the sport that provides the best exhibition for athleticism. The NBA features the world's best athletes at the peak of their skills. Ballard's book can give either the casual or die hard fan a better understanding and appreciation of the sport most able to provide moments of visual transcendence.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Ron

    As a fella with the AIM screenname NBA ALLSTA from 6th grade to now 30 years of age, I appreciated and loved soaking up every word of this book. If you love basketball and appreciate the game for all of it's wonderful components then this is the book you need to read! Thank you Chris Ballard for this fascinating nugget of basketball gold.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    I spend a lot of time defending my love of basketball in general and the NBA in particular to people who regurgitate the same tired arguments ("They only try hard in the playoffs," "You only have to watch the last two minutes," "The college kids play with so much more PASSION," etc.) without having given the matter any critical thought. Instead of engaging with these people in the future, I should probably just loan them my copy of this book. Within about 300 pages, they'll have the opportunity I spend a lot of time defending my love of basketball in general and the NBA in particular to people who regurgitate the same tired arguments ("They only try hard in the playoffs," "You only have to watch the last two minutes," "The college kids play with so much more PASSION," etc.) without having given the matter any critical thought. Instead of engaging with these people in the future, I should probably just loan them my copy of this book. Within about 300 pages, they'll have the opportunity to understand everything that makes basketball players the world's best athletes and often truly admirable, dedicated craftsmen even in a world where those who call themselves fans don't want to put in the time to figure out what sets this sport and its masters apart.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    It was probably much more interesting and relevant 9 years ago when it was published. Reading about impressive work ethic was enjoyable. The stories about Steve Nash were great. There was a whole chapter on Lebron, and that seems to have been prophetic given his consecutive Finals run since then.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tie Kim

    As a basketball junkie and YMCA weekend warrior, I had to read Chris Ballard’s book on the aesthetic beauty of the game invented by Dr. James Naismith over 122 years ago. Ballard, who writes for Sports Illustrated, shares the conversations he’s had with LeBron, Kobe, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, and countless others. This book will not improve your game (i.e., it’s not an instructional manual), but it does offer revelations on why Kobe is so hyper-competitive, how Shane Battier prepares for his de As a basketball junkie and YMCA weekend warrior, I had to read Chris Ballard’s book on the aesthetic beauty of the game invented by Dr. James Naismith over 122 years ago. Ballard, who writes for Sports Illustrated, shares the conversations he’s had with LeBron, Kobe, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, and countless others. This book will not improve your game (i.e., it’s not an instructional manual), but it does offer revelations on why Kobe is so hyper-competitive, how Shane Battier prepares for his defensive match-ups, who the pros go-to during the offseason to improve/evolve their skills, why the game and its players have had to adapt generation-to-generation. Some interesting ‘Did You Knows’: * The free throw shot is actually 13 feet, 9 inches from the center of the basket to the shooting line. The distance from the line to the backboard is 15 feet. * The NCAA banned dunking from 1967 to 1976. * Only 4% of American males are taller than 6’2”. * In 2008, LeBron cited Ron Artest and Matt Harpring as the 2 opponents who deliver the toughest beating while he’s guarding them.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mark Geise

    As a big basketball fan, I liked it a lot. Ballard looks at a different special skill in each chapter and discusses an interview with a player that displays that skill. For example, he discusses pure shooters and goes into a shooting game that he played against Steve Kerr for this book. He writes about defensive specialists with an interview and analysis of Shane Battier's game. Though it's nothing groundbreaking, I think it's interesting to hear basketball players speak outside the cliches of m As a big basketball fan, I liked it a lot. Ballard looks at a different special skill in each chapter and discusses an interview with a player that displays that skill. For example, he discusses pure shooters and goes into a shooting game that he played against Steve Kerr for this book. He writes about defensive specialists with an interview and analysis of Shane Battier's game. Though it's nothing groundbreaking, I think it's interesting to hear basketball players speak outside the cliches of media interviews and appearances. Ballard actually asks them specific questions about their craft, and they give insightful answers. I'd recommend this book for any basketball fan and any for anyone that wants to gain a larger appreciation for basketball. I think both sets of readers would be able to take something away from this book. The only reason why I didn't give it five stars was because I wish it could have been longer. (Also, as a huge fan of the post game, I wish he had had a chapter dedicated just to post moves!)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay Gillingham

    I really enjoyed reading this book because not only does it discuss the physical challenges that elite athletes face but the mental challenges too. The author, Chris Ballard, analyzes the important aspects of the game of basketball through different players. Many chapters include the stories about what drives each player and how they are able to become ready to play. I would recommend this book to those that would like to learn more about the sport that they love.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bryson

    Every basketball nerd needs to read this book it covers pretty much every aspect of basketball from the intense offseason workouts all the way to the mamba mentality of Kobe Brayant. This is probably my favorite book ive ever read

  9. 5 out of 5

    William Johnson

    This review was reprinted from my website Secure Immaturity. Please check out the site and comment on this review and others. With the exception of the ending, The Art of a Beautiful Game, a book written by Sports Illustrated contributor Chris Ballard, is perhaps the most efficient look at, well, efficiency. . .in the sport of basketball. My friend Adam will be the first to tell you that basketball sucks because the stars are overpaid babies (he argues the same with NFL). While I’ve met my share This review was reprinted from my website Secure Immaturity. Please check out the site and comment on this review and others. With the exception of the ending, The Art of a Beautiful Game, a book written by Sports Illustrated contributor Chris Ballard, is perhaps the most efficient look at, well, efficiency. . .in the sport of basketball. My friend Adam will be the first to tell you that basketball sucks because the stars are overpaid babies (he argues the same with NFL). While I’ve met my share of overpaid babies that play hoops (I’m looking at you Cuttino Mobley!) and witnessed millions of dollars of laziness manifest itself on the court (I’m zeroing in on you T-Mac), I have also seen intense work ethic and a strive to win that goes beyond dollar signs and arrogance. When you see it, you appreciate it. . .and Ballard’s book exists to make you realize that not all NBA players are selfish little rich children coasting off natural born skills alone. In many cases, work is put in and dues are paid to mainatin a high level of competition. . .and for some, that work is just to get in the door, a guaranteed pass of longevity not given. Now I mention the last chapter as being a failure to the overall thesis because, well. . .let’s just wait and get into that later. I want to start with the positives since positives make up 95% of the book. After reading The Book of Basketball and The Jordan Rules, I felt basketball was a sport too difficult to write about. So much is interpretation since, really, when you break it down, to possess the skills needed to excel on a daily basis, you have to be special in both mind and body and, no offense to anyone, but most of us are just not that special. But biases and opinions will always rule the media world and those two books in particular, and most basketball books in general, never seem to really grasp the sport beyond the generalities of winning, losing and scoring. In other words, what’s flashy and re-playable on Sportcenter’s Top 10 is what makes news (and writes books). . .not the work and, most importantly, not the work ethic. Almost all of Ballard’s text examines the stuff between the highlights and on the other side of the games/season: the practices, the philosophy and the blood, sweat and tears of the players. Sure, many of the all-stars are interviewed (Dwight Howard of the Magic, Steve Nash of the Suns, Kobe Bryant of the Lakers and so on) but only because they’ve earned their stripes as purveyors of basketball workmanship: blue collar sweat with white collar benefits. But Ballard also manages to, effortlessly, incorporate current role players, current and past failures, journeymen, retired hall of famers and retired mercs/speciality artists (not to mention coaches, scouts, GMs, and, most importantly, independent contractors of fitness). The NBA isn’t given a rudimentary examination here but a full-on strip search. . .a complete run-down of the goings on in the weight rooms, conditioning offices/gyms and, most importantly, the minds of the players. It was just coincidence I read the books closed to each other but The Art of a Beautiful Game compliments FreeDarko.com presents. . .The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac. Whereas FreeDarko examined the players and their cultural impact and examined their style, The Art of the Beautiful Game compliments by examining the player’s psyche’s and their substance. What I like the most though is Ballard’s attempt to bring back appreciation for elements of the game long lost: blocking, rebounding and. . .the will to win. Ballard basically takes one for the team to prove his thesis correct by attending conditioning camps, challenging great shooters to shooting contests (crazy bastard) and, and this is the kicker, watching lots and lots of games! Sounds like a dream job but it also sounds like a lot of work. And if his brief forays into these activities seems like a lot of work to the fat-ass (that’s me) sitting on said fat ass reading the book, then imagine how it feels for the players who play four games a week and work out full-time. I think Courtney Lee (formerly of my Magic. . .I miss you) makes that exact point in one chapter and Ballard also makes that point throughout the whole book. I, myself, was a blue collar player back in my pre-injury basketball days (I no longer have the ability to jump. . .thanks knees, ankle and quad!). I admired the rebounding prowess of Dennis Rodman and modeled my game after him (just his game, not his lifestyle. . .I swear. . .that New Years Eve party was a one time deal. . .leave me alone). I watched games endlessly and copied his moves, all the way down to the mid-air splits. It got laughs from some guys but, in the end, I was highly sough after on intramural teams due to the fact I could haul 10 rebounds in a quarter and box out guys who were sometimes a half foot or so taller then me with ease. I had a horrible shot (my goal was just to make at least one bucket a game) and my passing was, in my mind, all Stockton, but in reality all Yinka Dare. I had heart, most importantly, and whether it was a big game or a pick-up game with scrubs like me, I’d dive for balls, throw some bows, and yuck it up to throw off a better player’s game. In the end, I was always picked despite the fact I provided no offense and a loud mouth. . .because I tried and died for the game. Ballard’s book reminds me of those days: he examines the less sexy aspects of the sport. The chapter on rebounding is fantastic as it explores why, society wise, rebounds are ‘boring’ and misleading: in the end they are essential. But no one will really see that unless they look. Using myself as an example again, only players saw my 4 point performances as essential to a win (though I usually was on losing teams) because I provided solid D and great board skills. This book points out that, well, only players are recognizing players for skills like rebounding and the common fan needs to pay attention. Same goes for blocks (another stat I am in love with but could never, myself, perform correctly). Other areas of study are, as Ballard points out, given to people by nature and can’t really be taught to aspiring ballers but needs to be appreciated nonetheless. Example: pure shooters. And obviously, I, or many other readers, will not be growing to 7 feet tall, so blocking dunks will not be something to add to my repertoire anytime soon. Ballard does go into free-throw shooting and, though this isn’t his fault, I wanted to find the dude and slam his face into a wall. His examples: The 1995 Magic’s collapse in the NBA Finals due mainly in part to Nick Anderson’s four missed free-throws in Game 1 (*slaps head* As a Magic fan, that still hurts. . .still) and, just to rub it in, the 2009 Magic’s collapse in the NBA Finals due mainly in part to Dwight Howard’s two missed free-throws in Game 4. Ugh. Chris Ballard doesn’t like me. . .though he did have an in-depth interview with Nick Anderson, my all-time favorite Magic player (despite the. . .ugh. . .misses *breaks nearby glass*). Now we’ll come to the complaint. Notice I said complaint and not complaints. The book is near perfect but loses an entire star on a five-star rating system due to the final analysis on LeBron James. Before I go off, the book starts off by profiling Kobe Bryant and his desire to win. What I like about the opening chapter is that Ballard doesn’t take a point of view on Kobe personally. He mentions positives and negatives, sure, but Ballard’s point is to show a top athlete (the best active player in his chosen sport) wanting and willing to win at any physical/mental cost. The point is made effortlessly by Ballard’s objective and thorough ‘reporting’, as it were. But in the end, Ballard becomes ‘LeBron Back Patter #9000′ by examining James and how great he is. I don’t want to rip on Ballard here because, well, he did a great job with the book, but he just ends so poorly I feel like calling him Rocco. He loses all perspective and goes into fan mode (he put LeBron’s fucking picture on the cover for god’s sake). Here is where I tangent: I dislike LeBron James immensely. One thing my dad always taught me, especially in the sports world, was respect, loyalty, and heart. I have seen LeBron display none of these qualities. Raw talent and skills can say a lot and even place someone in the Hall of Fame, but I need all these qualities to apply as well as this little thing called a championship ring. In the football world, my all-time favorite QB was Trent Dilfer. Many of you may laugh but the guy was respectful and kind, played with the most heart I’ve ever seen in an athlete, not to mention loyalty (look at the teams he played for in Tampa and look at any video of his blood-bumping effort) and won a ring with the Ravens (fully deserved). The fact that so many, Ballard included at the end of his book, give LeBron so much respect and worship, despite the fact that he shows no respect to the game or the players he plays against (or with for that matter), and displays his ‘heart’ like a well written script and doesn’t have an NBA Finals win, let alone a ring, is mind boggling. Now, as you may have ascertained, I am an Orlando Magic fan. When LeBron didn’t shake any one’s hands when he was soundly defeated by Howard and my Magic in the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals and then continued to pout by not addressing the media and supporting his teammates, I realized how arrogant and selfish the kid is. . .not to mention his lack of respect for the victors and even his own teammates. To him, a ring is destined to him but, to us and the world, it is not yet earned by any stretch of the imagination. And his loyalty is a joke. . .he’s leaving his fans in the air by playing media games with all his Yankee caps and such. I dislike him immensely. . .’nuff said*. . .so reading even 10 pages of his exploits and how perfect and legendary he is just put me off to the extreme. If Ballard ever reads this. . .I ain’t hating on you brother. I’m just sick of the love when it hasn’t been earned yet and, since your book was about the love of the game and the will to win (it was your lead-off story), how could you put LeBron on the cover and glorify his clear failures? Oh well. . .I’ll never know. (More after the picture) My rant is over and so is, finally, this review. I loved (most of) the book and highly recommend it. Those who suffered through broken fingers, bows to the face and getting laughed at for your workhorse effort, this book is your saving grace. Ballard delivers on his promise to show the thinking man’s game and doesn’t disappoint. His research is impeccable and his writing is marvelous. . .Bill Simmons needs to check himself before he wrecks himself. *–LeBron isn’t as bad as Robert Horry who failed my father’s sports test and, to this day, is looked at with immense disdain by my father and myself. My dad doesn’t hate ANYONE but Robert Horry. He can’t even look at him. LeBron has never sank so low to throw a towel in the coaches face (see Horry, towel and Danny Ainge) which was an immediate ejection from sports respect in our household. To this day, if you asked me to put a starting five in a championship game and needed a last second shot, I’d keep that bastard on the pine for eternity. . .despite the seven rings and big shots. The hip check of Nash a few years back didn’t help much either. The guy is a disgrace. I dislike LeBron. . .but I HATE Robert Horry.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    On Wednesday (11 May 2018), I finished reading “The Art of a Beautiful Game: The Thinking Fan’s Tour of the NBA” (2009©) – written by: Chris Ballard. The game in question is basketball and not soccer – which is what I assumed the book would be about until I opened it. My copy did not come with the dust cover and the sub-title is not on the binding. Oh, well… This book is a blend of various types of sports authorship: part biography, part techniques and skills, part biology, part X’s and O’s and p On Wednesday (11 May 2018), I finished reading “The Art of a Beautiful Game: The Thinking Fan’s Tour of the NBA” (2009©) – written by: Chris Ballard. The game in question is basketball and not soccer – which is what I assumed the book would be about until I opened it. My copy did not come with the dust cover and the sub-title is not on the binding. Oh, well… This book is a blend of various types of sports authorship: part biography, part techniques and skills, part biology, part X’s and O’s and part psycho-babble. Interestingly, the blend worked and the book ends up an entertaining and interesting (if not particularly useful) read. Sometimes a hard childhood makes a superstar, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes “just” being superb at individual skills and techniques will elevate you to superstar status, most times it doesn’t. Most times being a biological freak will get you into the league – even if it is not enough to make you a superstar. And, it appears, sometimes superstars are cerebral. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t confirm (or prove) ALL superstars are cerebral or that average and not-quite-superstar players are not equally cerebral (thoughtful about their game / skills). And, because correlation does not prove causation, we can’t know if being cerebral makes a player a superstar. Causation appears unlikely, though. The book breaks down the “art” of the game into twelve particular skill sets / attributes the author wants to describe, including: “killer instinct”, pure shooting, free throws, defense, rebounding, blocking shots and being big. There are five other specifics, but these (listed) are representative of the book. Each chapter uses interviews with one or two active players – active as of the time of writing or the decade immediately prior – (2009 or the 1990’s) to relate the star to the author’s proposed “art“. Through first person interviews and interviews with teammates and coaches, we get a feel for what makes the “superstars” truly super. It turns out: great genes, desire, practice, coaching and attention to detail, and luck are all it takes to be great. (Sarcasm: “WHO would have guessed?”) So, is the book any good and was it worth my time reading it? Yes, and yes. The author played basketball at a much lower level and what clearly comes across is his love for the game and his feelings (not so subtle) that, “If only…” This is a feeling which almost everyone who has seriously participated in any sport can relate to – particularly if you too “loved” your sport. Final recommendation: strong recommendation. I tend to read books (history, sports, biographies and science books) to scratch a particular itch. While I can’t say I learned anything generally about sport or basketball, or anything specifically about skills and techniques in this book, I did thoroughly enjoy reading about the players and their views on their skills and sport. Sometimes, just reading about passion for a subject is enough to make a subject more interesting than the book about the subject itself really ought to be. It’s the difference between “love for the game” and diagrams of X’s and O’s. This book scratches the first itch, even if it pretty much ignores the second. I got the book at Half-Priced Books for $2. Well, worth the cost and the time – particularly if you like hoops. (Unashamedly, I do!)

  11. 5 out of 5

    George Travers

    George Travers Ms.Zucker American Literature 15 January, 2016 NBA Fans Fiction Becomes a Reality “Splash! Steve Kerr drains another three pointer! The fifth of the game for him!” yelled the announcer. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to meet Steve Kerr and have a shooting contest with him? The Art of a Beautiful Game by Chris Ballard is the perfect book for NBA lovers and any hoop junkie. This nonfiction book looks at every aspect of the game of basketball and the players who were the be George Travers Ms.Zucker American Literature 15 January, 2016 NBA Fans Fiction Becomes a Reality “Splash! Steve Kerr drains another three pointer! The fifth of the game for him!” yelled the announcer. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to meet Steve Kerr and have a shooting contest with him? The Art of a Beautiful Game by Chris Ballard is the perfect book for NBA lovers and any hoop junkie. This nonfiction book looks at every aspect of the game of basketball and the players who were the best at playing it. Throughout the book Ballard meets numerous NBA players and conducts experiments with them. For example, at the ripe old age of 44, will Steve Kerr still be able to make 18 of 25 three pointers? With insightful interviews and quotes from famous NBA players such as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, Ballard is on a mission find out what really drives an NBA superstar. The Art of a Beautiful Game is an informative, inspiring, behind the scenes view of one of the most popular worldwide sports, basketball. Chris Ballard digs down deep into the game of basketball. Much deeper than how to make a jump shot, or how to block shots. He finds out what makes players tick, what drives them to step on a court day after day: “With Bryant, his competitive fire manifests itself during practice, during games, during summer workouts, during conversation” (Ballard 7). This quote is small but has significant meaning. It speaks to Bryant’s character and his relentless pursuit to win everything in life. This quote shows that if you really want to achieve something you must always work at it every time you get the chance. You are able to get a true sense of Bryant’s dedication to the game and his true desire to win and be the best. To be one of the top competitors in the world like Kobe Bryant you must treat a summer workout with zero fans the same as the NBA championship with 20,000 fans. To have this mentality in everything you do is a true challenge. Ballard illustrates Bryant’s sheer determination to win: “How many of us can imagine thinking that way? How do you maintain focus when you’re beating someone 79-0? How do you say, O.K., this point matters every bit as much as the previous 79 even when it clearly doesn’t?” (Ballard 17) The preceding quote is from Bryant’s high school days, when he used to play one on one with his teammates. Kobe would be winning 79-0 in a game to 80, but he still treated every point like it mattered. His mental toughness and resilience is mind-boggling. This inside glimpse into the mindset of NBA players is a truly inspiring read for any basketball fan. Chris Ballard intimately delved into the lives of many current and former NBA players to get all this amazing information and see if his theories were really correct: “I wondered, could someone like Steve Kerr, five years removed from his NBA playing days, still stroll out on the court and drain threes? Or, like most mortals, would he succumb to the time away, lack of practice and aging?” (Ballard 29) Instead of just wondering, Ballard set up a date and time to meet with Steve Kerr. During this time, Ballard and Kerr had a three point contest to see if Kerr could still sink three pointers. Ballard predicted Kerr would make about 14 of 25 three pointers. Kerr made 18 of 25, which is good enough to win the three point shooting contest in the present NBA! Ballard also met up with a former all star defender in the NBA, Shane Battier: “He usually doesn't drive, he only has 31 times all season, 31!” (Ballard 135). Shane Battier, one of the league's premier defenders at the time, had the assignment to lockdown the new star of the NBA, LeBron James. Battier did just that and his team had a blowout victory. Later Chris Ballard interviewed him about the win. Battier shared his thoughts- to him, it's all a numbers game. Ballard described Battier as google, he knew every stat of every player he went up against. Battier said this is where his success lied. This book finds the secrets of how NBA stars perform at such a high level directly from the players themselves. It is a gift to the reader to get this unfiltered perspective from true lovers of basketball. Not only does Ballard meet former NBA stars and talk about how they are so competitive, he gained tons of great information from them to share in this book. He broke down tiny parts of the game of basketball into more information than anyone could have imagined: “The free throw is one of the easiest shots in basketball: an unguarded 15-footer. Technically, in fact, the shot is only 13’9”, the distance from the line to the center of the hoop” (Ballard 77). This insightful information can be found all throughout the book. Ballard found out what motivated the players and he assessed many parts of the game and shared them with the reader. This information can’t be found anywhere else and can even help out your game! Ballard met with one of the all time best free throw shooters, Ray Allen to learn how he became so successful. Allen was a great shooter but was not known much for his dunking. Dunking is one of the many things that defines basketball and why people love it: ”Most of us never will, though, so we live vicariously through those who can, reveling in their ability to make the impossible look easy” (Ballard 72). Ballard talked about all the aspects of dunking, the positive and the negative. He gave endless tidbits of information about former NBA dunkers and how players hate only being known for dunking. The Art of a Beautiful Game captures you from the start, it is filled with lots of great and unknown information and puts it into a seamless story any basketball fan cannot miss out on. The Art of a Beautiful Game is inspirational, as well as informational. It provides us with many secrets of famous players of the NBA. This book has many interviews, Ballard spoke with many different NBA stars and they shared their personal stories and perspectives that can't be found anywhere else. Reading this book makes you feel like you are talking to Dwight Howard about how he grabs so many rebounds. Or Steve Nash about his incredible passes and how he has eyes in the back of his head. Not only does this book just share many amazing facts, it also has many notable quotes from athletes about how to succeed at anything in life, not just basketball. This book is an absolute must read for all fans of basketball and any basketball players! Work Cited Ballard, Chris. The Art of a Beautiful Game: The Thinking Fan's Tour of the NBA. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2009. Print.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Paulo Glez Ogando

    The author, Chris Ballard, claims there is an art in basketball, that only certain players can master it, for it requires a combination of dedication, talent and intuition. This book is not about how the pick-and-roll could be played ot about the most compelling moments in the game. It's not about one season or the inner workings of a team or the genius of a coach. Ballard says that the book is rather about the beauty of basketball, it pretends to be a celebration of the game and those who play i The author, Chris Ballard, claims there is an art in basketball, that only certain players can master it, for it requires a combination of dedication, talent and intuition. This book is not about how the pick-and-roll could be played ot about the most compelling moments in the game. It's not about one season or the inner workings of a team or the genius of a coach. Ballard says that the book is rather about the beauty of basketball, it pretends to be a celebration of the game and those who play it at the highest level. Ballard is a writer at Sports Illustrated, and he spent many time talking to NBA players in researching this book. Both their passion and their prodigius skills are evident. He interviewed more than 150 players, current (in 2009 when he wrote the book) and retired. Each chapter is devoted to a specific skill, and most of them are expemplifed by a well-known player. The list is composed of: pure shooters (Steve Kerr), rebounding (Dwight Howard), defense (Shane Battier), point guards (Steve Nash), anatomy of a prototype (LeBron James), free throws (Nick Anderson) and killer instinct ()Kobe Bryant, dunks, blocks, training, superbigs (Shaq, Yao) and blocks. The book has an interesting and different approach to NBA, but it's a little outdated one decade later because of the evolution of the game, and it is also too positive and flattering with the players. However, you can see how Ballard has access to many players, most of the relevant ones in that era.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Stephens

    Being a basketball fan and player, this book expressed the beauty of the game and opened my eyes to how impactful the game of basketball is. I chose to read this book because I simply love anything related to the game of basketball so how could reading this book hurt? Ballard goes the extra mile to provide knowledge about the game and basically explains all facets of the game through player analysis and more. Basketball may seem like just a simple game to put a rubber ball in a basket, but Balla Being a basketball fan and player, this book expressed the beauty of the game and opened my eyes to how impactful the game of basketball is. I chose to read this book because I simply love anything related to the game of basketball so how could reading this book hurt? Ballard goes the extra mile to provide knowledge about the game and basically explains all facets of the game through player analysis and more. Basketball may seem like just a simple game to put a rubber ball in a basket, but Ballard showcases the true art of the game and how much more to the game there is than just an orange ball and a hoop. Ballard showcases some of the NBAs best like Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant as examples of true professionals, on and off the court. I throughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone, regardless if you are sports fan or not you will find this book interesting and intriguing. Bravo Chris Ballard!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    I gave this a 3 although thought about giving it a 4. It is good, but I didn't give it a 4 because it isn't as cohesive as I'd like, just more fun bits and pieces. I skipped around a bit but the author had fun stories (I highly recommend the Steve Kerr section for Warriors fans) that focused around different skills and parts of basketball (e.g. free throw shooting, blocking). I definitely didn't realize how good of a shooter Kerr is, the author does 3 point shooting with Kerr years after he retir I gave this a 3 although thought about giving it a 4. It is good, but I didn't give it a 4 because it isn't as cohesive as I'd like, just more fun bits and pieces. I skipped around a bit but the author had fun stories (I highly recommend the Steve Kerr section for Warriors fans) that focused around different skills and parts of basketball (e.g. free throw shooting, blocking). I definitely didn't realize how good of a shooter Kerr is, the author does 3 point shooting with Kerr years after he retires and he still hits 20/25 or some crazy number. The section on Kobe's mindset was pretty good too, to see how consumed people can become in one activity. I also enjoyed the parts about other training camps/consultants people go to, the main one in Florida and the guy who never played or coached in the NBA who is now sought after by elite athletes like Lebron.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    The idea behind the book is good, and Ballard definitely had access all the biggest names in the NBA in his role as a Sports Illustrated writer. But the unnecessary profanity was a bit disappointing. (I don't remember SI having that much cussing, though it's been a while since I read it.) Also there was something about addressing each basketball topic with a current (in 2009) player, that made it seem very dated. You get the feeling that the players being hyped as especially gifted in an area -- The idea behind the book is good, and Ballard definitely had access all the biggest names in the NBA in his role as a Sports Illustrated writer. But the unnecessary profanity was a bit disappointing. (I don't remember SI having that much cussing, though it's been a while since I read it.) Also there was something about addressing each basketball topic with a current (in 2009) player, that made it seem very dated. You get the feeling that the players being hyped as especially gifted in an area -- for instance Shane Battier in defense -- are not really anything special, they're just a player. So nearly a decade later, it can feel very dated. Just as Father Time passes by Kobe, so it does this book...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Timeo Williams

    The book was decent, but lacked the technicalities of the game necessary to be deemed a thinking fan's tour of the NBA. Yes, you will learn about what separates the best passers, rebounders, dunkers, shot-blockers, and scorers from the rest, but that is too one-dimensional. There is no information of the game as a whole, scoring tactics(i.e pick and roll). offensive and defensive strategies and a philosophy of the game.

  17. 5 out of 5

    John Hsieh

    Enjoyable read, some chapters are more interesting than others

  18. 5 out of 5

    Stevie

    Basketball is way funner to read about than politics!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dao Hung

    This book is very benefit with me because it supports lots of good informations about art of playing basketball, they teach me how to play basketball, rules and how to make a good freethrow.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Cory

    i think about this book is cool

  21. 4 out of 5

    TheBookWarren

    2.5 Stars

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey.parks

    This book gave me an entirely new appreciation for the game.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jalen Townsend

    The Art of a beautiful Game: The Thinking Fan’s Tour of the NBA by Chris Ballard was a good informational book. I knew choosing this book that it would talk about specific professional basketball players and coaches, but I wasn't ready for what information the players in this book were going to give out. The book was only slow in the beginning for each chapter then toward the end of every chapter it would pull me deep into the book because of the surprising information the players were giving. M The Art of a beautiful Game: The Thinking Fan’s Tour of the NBA by Chris Ballard was a good informational book. I knew choosing this book that it would talk about specific professional basketball players and coaches, but I wasn't ready for what information the players in this book were going to give out. The book was only slow in the beginning for each chapter then toward the end of every chapter it would pull me deep into the book because of the surprising information the players were giving. Me being an athlete and sports lover this book told me information that I can use in a positive way in my sport and to my fellow teammates. It taught me the best way to handle certain sport situations I might have in the future. Even though I don't play basketball I still can use this information in my other sports I play. After reading a certain chapter from this book I had one question about Kobe Bryant he said, “After every game in the 2008 Finals against the Orlando Magic I stayed in the gym til everyone left and I took 100 free throws”. The question I had was what was his motivation to stay after and perfect his free throws even when he was the best free throw shooter in the NBA? This book is about a Sports illustrated writer who goes behind the scenes and interviews the NBA basketballs’ top players. He finds out the players tricks of the trade and learns what and how they got to become the most dominantly players in the league.The Art of a Beautiful Game is an original insightful look at the men like Steve Nash, Yao Ming, and Alonzo Mourning who attach themselves to this select and complicated sport. In the book every chapter is talking about a top basketball player they talking about how they got to where they are now and what motivated them. It provides information about players that you would've never thought could be true in any way. The Author Chris Ballard ultimately provides basketball fans what they all want: an inside read on the game they love. I would recommend this book to basketball lovers or possibly just sport lovers who like to read. I give The Art of a Beautiful Game a 3 out 5.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jayden

    “The Art of a Beautiful Game” by Chris Ballard is a amazing book, if you are a basketball fan you have to read this book. It talks about all the different aspects of basketball, also it talks about some NBA stars that made a legacy in the NBA for example in the beginning they talk about Kobe Bryant and how good of a shot he was and still is. I thought in the beginning that this book would be terrible because it was just talking about Kobe Bryant but then I read ahead some and I found out that ea “The Art of a Beautiful Game” by Chris Ballard is a amazing book, if you are a basketball fan you have to read this book. It talks about all the different aspects of basketball, also it talks about some NBA stars that made a legacy in the NBA for example in the beginning they talk about Kobe Bryant and how good of a shot he was and still is. I thought in the beginning that this book would be terrible because it was just talking about Kobe Bryant but then I read ahead some and I found out that each chapter talks about something different in the game of basketball. I recommend this book because it is full of facts and talks a lot about the sport we all love. People who don't like basketball can still read this book because it ain't just about Basketball, it is also about the players and their life. If I were to rate this book I would rate it a 3.5 out of 5 because in the beginning it was pretty boring but as I went on with it I started to like it more. What happened in this book is they would take a certain part of basketball like shooting for example and they would talk about it for a whole chapter then they would go onto the next part which can be confusing but also really cool. If you are a person who likes basketball then you best better go out and give this book a shot because it will just talk about the game you love. I loved this book and I really hope you do too when you read it. A lot of people gave this book a 4.2 out of 5 stars and I totally agree with them because It's a great book but there are parts that they could make way better. I hope you like this book because I sure did.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Curtis Seven

    While I think the title is a bit of a misnomer this book is all the same pretty masterfully done and we'd expect no less from a Sports Illustrated writer. I think I'd characterized it with more emphasis on the behind the scenes aspect than the "thinking fan's" claim. Here is no great treatise on various strategies employed and how they vary from player to coach and so on but then to be fair that would be a tough thing to accomplish. This is more insightful in terms of giving a person a look into While I think the title is a bit of a misnomer this book is all the same pretty masterfully done and we'd expect no less from a Sports Illustrated writer. I think I'd characterized it with more emphasis on the behind the scenes aspect than the "thinking fan's" claim. Here is no great treatise on various strategies employed and how they vary from player to coach and so on but then to be fair that would be a tough thing to accomplish. This is more insightful in terms of giving a person a look into what makes some of the most successful players like Kobe Bryant succeed and it is not by being a nice guy. Frankly I'd suspect he pulled his punches a bit with people like Bryant because he does after all have to deal with him in the future I'd presume so I'd recommend you take it under consideration. If this is true then Bryant is more than just a hard driving over achiever he is by most standards a jack ass to be around. Not just him mind you but he is a prominent example one could also look at Kevin Garnet. Not done with it but it is a pleasant read from an author who knows how to spin a yarn. It is not overly scholarly but then it shouldn't be as he is not writing for an academic community. I think the book succeeds brilliantly. Before buying it I would recommend checking if they have it at the library though as it likely will not be found on most peoples shelves alongside Dickens, Homer, or anything like that.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mayur Patel

    In the book" The Art of a Beautiful Game" By: Chris Ballard, Ballard who is a award winning Sports Illustrated writer who has covered the NBA for a decade goes behind the scenes and examines the way certain players and coaches do their job and what is so beautiful about the way each one of them does their job. I personally believe that the way Ballard wrote this book some of the information he has May not be trustworthy but, I still for some reason provide some trust since it's a published book. In the book" The Art of a Beautiful Game" By: Chris Ballard, Ballard who is a award winning Sports Illustrated writer who has covered the NBA for a decade goes behind the scenes and examines the way certain players and coaches do their job and what is so beautiful about the way each one of them does their job. I personally believe that the way Ballard wrote this book some of the information he has May not be trustworthy but, I still for some reason provide some trust since it's a published book. However, the writing in this book in general is very powerful because because he is able to go in depth to where a person who knows the sport is able to understand it and he backs his points up with the interviews and experiences he has.The strengths of this book is being able to entertain its audience because Ballard is able to relate to the readers and make it feel like you are in the moment. If this book was part of a series I would definitely read the next book because I am a huge sports fan and it would be interesting to me to read about something I can relate too.I think that the people who read this book beside me will enjoy it because of the way Ballard expresses the topic openly. Also it wouldn't matter if people didn't know the sport because the book is so easy to pick up what he is talking about so most people would enjoy it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ice

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The conventional wisdom among casual NBA fans holds that the game is an improvisational, formless shoot-a-thon played by undisciplined athletes whose abilities are the product of genetics rather than practice. To which Sports Illustrated reporter Ballard replies, “Ha!” He explores such topics as killer instinct in a chapter on Los Angeles Lakers’ star Kobe Bryant in which it’s revealed that his legendary competitiveness can be traced back to a summer league where, as a 12 year-old matched agains The conventional wisdom among casual NBA fans holds that the game is an improvisational, formless shoot-a-thon played by undisciplined athletes whose abilities are the product of genetics rather than practice. To which Sports Illustrated reporter Ballard replies, “Ha!” He explores such topics as killer instinct in a chapter on Los Angeles Lakers’ star Kobe Bryant in which it’s revealed that his legendary competitiveness can be traced back to a summer league where, as a 12 year-old matched against NBAers and collegiates, he didn’t score a single point. Never again. He also explores the big man’s world by examining the games of Shaquille O’Neal, Yao Ming, and Hall-of-Famer David Robinson. There are chapters revolving around pure shooters ( Ray Allen), point guards (Steve Nash), and rebounders (Ben Wallace). In his examination of the free throw, he profiles Tom Amberry, a retired podiatrist who, in 1993 at 71, made 2,750 consecutive free throws over 10 hours in front of 10 paid witnesses. Amberry’s feat and the Steve Nash profile are worth the price of the book. The thinking fans will find their admiration confirmed; casual fans will see the light and find themselves converted.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Eric Stockenauer

    The title of the book I read is The Art of A Beautiful Game. The author is Chris Ballard. It’s about how basketball is a great game and it is also about how great moments happened in the game of basketball. It’s all about winning and basketball is a really competitive sport and people get hurt bad in it. Some characters they talk about are Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Russell Westbrook ect.. I recommend this book because if you don’t know a lot about basketball, this book will help you learn so The title of the book I read is The Art of A Beautiful Game. The author is Chris Ballard. It’s about how basketball is a great game and it is also about how great moments happened in the game of basketball. It’s all about winning and basketball is a really competitive sport and people get hurt bad in it. Some characters they talk about are Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Russell Westbrook ect.. I recommend this book because if you don’t know a lot about basketball, this book will help you learn so much more about it and it will make you want to play basketball every day. My personal opinion of this book is a good because the book is great!!! This book is related to the value of work because you have to put the time and work in to be able to do great at what you are trying to do. Some basketball players that are great put the time and work in such as Michael Jordan. Everyday since he was 10, he always played basketball for an hour or two. His dad told him that if you keep working for what you want, you can be anything you want to be. Lebron James did the same thing (played basketball every day to get better). Lebron got drafted at the age of 18 because he was so good. That’s someone you could try to be like.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kenny Li

    The Art of a Beautiful Game explores the highest level of basketball, the NBA, in a very interesting way. It explores the NBA through a fan's perspective, not a author's perspective. Learning all about the current NBA greats like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and much more. You learn about how each player is able to excel at what they do what makes them do it so well. A little glimpse of the book is that it starts out talking about Kobe's killer instinct. After reading it, I don't know if he's actua The Art of a Beautiful Game explores the highest level of basketball, the NBA, in a very interesting way. It explores the NBA through a fan's perspective, not a author's perspective. Learning all about the current NBA greats like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and much more. You learn about how each player is able to excel at what they do what makes them do it so well. A little glimpse of the book is that it starts out talking about Kobe's killer instinct. After reading it, I don't know if he's actually human. I would think that he grew up with a very rough childhood but he did not. It is said that in high school, when playing 1 on 1 games with his teammates, he would be up around 80 to 0 and would be play hard no matter what. I wish I could have the mindset of Kobe Bryant, but he may just be one of the mentally toughest people in the world. This book explores every integral part of the game of basketball at the NBA level and that would make any fan go crazy. If basketball is your passion, I would highly recommend this book to you. The game is very beautiful and this book goes deeper into the beauty and art of the game.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    This is an exceptional sports book, even though it is less ballyhooed than Bill Simmons's The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy. Chris Ballard gets some great interviews, from major stars like Shaq, LeBron James, and Steve Nash, as well as less heralded players like Shane Battier, Steve Kerr, and Craig Ehlo. The chapters are broken down into aspects of the game (shooting, rebounding, dunks, blocks, defense, killer instinct, etc.) and it makes the reader appreciate how it is This is an exceptional sports book, even though it is less ballyhooed than Bill Simmons's The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy. Chris Ballard gets some great interviews, from major stars like Shaq, LeBron James, and Steve Nash, as well as less heralded players like Shane Battier, Steve Kerr, and Craig Ehlo. The chapters are broken down into aspects of the game (shooting, rebounding, dunks, blocks, defense, killer instinct, etc.) and it makes the reader appreciate how it is not merely the physicality of the athletes which makes them great. The detailed look at off-season workouts and tape studies reflects how much work NBA players put into their craft, and how deeply they think about it. Thanks to my friend Demetri for the recommendation.

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