I believe this is my first book review of a basketball book. Most of my sports reading focuses on baseball books but I saw Tall Tales and Short Shorts - Dr. J, Pistol Pete & The Birth of the Modern NBA by Adam J. Criblez on the new release shelf at my local library and decided to pick it up. I am very glad I did.
This book tells the story of the NBA during the decade of the 1970s. This is an era, outside of what I learned in Bill Simmons, The Book of Basketball that I knew very little about. I was born in the early 70s and never paid attention to the NBA until the Kansas City Kings relocated to Sacramento in 1985. In addition to Simmons' book, my other basketball reading has consisted of a book about Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, a couple books about Charles Barkley and that's about it. These were all in my 1980s-1990s basketball wheelhouse.
This book has a chapter about each season starting with the 1969-1970 season. Each chapter talks through the regular season of each team in the NBA. Some only a paragraph, others maybe 2-3 but each team got a little love and the author shared who some of their top players were, news about the team, how they fared during the regular season and at times intertwined a few social items that were going on outside of basketball that either paralleled the NBA or gave some insight into how America operated at the time.
Each chapter would then go into some detail about all the playoff series match-ups. Almost every game got at least a brief mention with some of the more memorable games having quite a bit of depth to the story. Rightfully so, the NBA finals got the most coverage with quite a few details about the star players, how the series unfolded and who the eventual champ was. These chapters ended with a full listing of the year's standings, a list of each playoff series with results, the All NBA first and second teams, the league leaders in key statistical categories and finally the NBA MVP and Rookie of the year winners.
There were also 3 other chapters interspersed that shared some details on key figures and turning points in the league. The first talked about Pete Maravich and the second Julius Erving. Each player was covered in some depth from their childhood upbringing through their college careers. These chapters really gave some good insight into how they were shaped as players and what they brought to the league. The final chapter was about the ABA and NBA merger. The ABA was referenced a little during some of the season chapters but this chapter went into the formation of the league and the journey that the ABA went through that ultimately led to the merger. There is a final chapter that talks about some of the key players and teams in the 1980s and 90s.
I really enjoyed this book and learned a ton. There were star players in the 1970s that I had never heard of. We all have heard of Wilt and Dr. J and Pistol Pete and Kareem. There are tons of other well know players as well. However, the All NBA teams were littered with players I had never really heard about. I felt like the amount of information in the book was just the right amount. There are several story lines that could support an entire book on their own but I got just enough out of the book to understand how the NBA was in the 1970s and gain a greater appreciation.
If you are a sports fan and someone who likes basketball I think this would be an enjoyable read. I am not the passionate fan I was in the late 80s and 90s but I still follow the sport on the periphery. Even at that level of fandom, I found myself really appreciating this book.