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The 1980s were arguably the NBA's best decade, giving rise to Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan. They were among the game's greatest players who brought pro basketball out of its 1970s funk and made it faster, more fluid, and more exciting. Off the court the game was changing rapidly too, with the draft lottery, shoe commercials, and a style driven largely by excess. One player who personified the eighties excess is Micheal Ray Richardson. During his eight-year career in the NBA (1978-86), he was a four-time All-Star, twice named to the All-Defense team, and the first player to lead the league in both assists and steals. He was also a heavy cocaine user who went on days-long binges but continued to be signed by teams that hoped he'd get straight. Eventually he was the first and only player to be permanently disqualified from the NBA for repeat drug use. Tracking the rise, fall, and eventual redemption of Richardson throughout his playing days and subsequent coaching career, Charley Rosen describes the life-defining pitfalls Richardson and other players faced and considers key themes such as off-court and on-court racism, anti-Semitism, womanizing, allegations of point-shaving within the league, and drug and alcohol abuse by star players. By constructing his various lines of narration around the polarizing figure of Richardson-equal parts basketball savant, drug addict, and pariah-Rosen illuminates some of the more unseemly aspects of the NBA during this period, going behind the scenes to provide an account of what the league's darker side was like during its celebrated golden age.
A few years after its invention by James Naismith, basketball became the primary sport in the crowded streets of the Jewish neighborhood on New York's Lower East Side. Participating in the new game was a quick and enjoyable way to become Americanized. Jews not only dominated the sport for the next fifty-plus years but were also instrumental in modernizing the game. Barney Sedran was considered the best player in the country at the City College of New York from 1909 to 1911. In 1927 Abe Saperstein took over management of the Harlem Globetrotters, playing a key role in popularizing and integrating the game. Later he helped found the American Basketball Association and introduced the three-point shot. More recently, Nancy Lieberman played in a men's pro summer league and became the first woman to coach a men's pro team, and Larry Brown became the only coach to win both NCAA and the NBA championships. While the influence of Jewish players, referees, coaches, and administrators has gradually diminished since the mid-1950s, the current basketball scene features numerous Jews in important positions. Through interviews and lively anecdotes from franchise owners, coaches, players, and referees, The Chosen Game explores the contribution of Jews to the evolution of present-day pro basketball.
During the 1972-1973 basketball season, the Philadelphia 76ers were not just a bad team; they were fantastically awful. Doomed from the start after losing their leading scorer and rebounder, Billy Cunningham, as well as head coach Jack Ramsay, they lost twenty-one of their first twenty-three games. A Philadelphia newspaper began calling them the Seventy Sickers, and they duly lost their last thirteen games on their way to a not-yet-broken record of nine wins and seventy-three losses. Charley Rosen recaptures the futility of that season through the firsthand accounts of players, participants, and observers. Although the team was uniformly bad, there were still many memorable moments, and the lore surrounding the team is legendary. Once, when head coach Roy Rubin tried to substitute John Q. Trapp out of a game, Trapp refused and told Rubin to look behind the team's bench, whereby one of Trapp's friends supposedly opened his jacket to show his handgun. With only four wins at the All-Star break, Rubin was fired and replaced by player-coach Kevin Loughery. In addition to chronicling the 76ers' woes, Perfectly Awful also captures the drama, culture, and attitude of the NBA in an era when many white fans believed that the league had too many black players.
Commentator, analyst, author, and all-around pro basketball presence, Charley Rosen may seem like a natural, sprung upon the sports scene with the NBA in his blood. Phil Jackson, Rosen's longtime collaborator, might agree; after all, he attributes the statement on a plaque on his desk to Charley: Basketball isn't just a metaphor for life-it's more important than that! And yet how Rosen arrived at his present position comfortably overseeing basketball at its finest is a story as unexpected as it is delightful, documenting basketball travels as unlikely as they are nomadic and eclectic. Rosen's story begins during his undergraduate days at Hunter College, where his basketball exploits were equally triumphant and embarrassing, including a pickup game against Wilt Chamberlain. Things really got interesting when he made his way into the Continental Basketball Association (CBA), the breeding ground for nothing less than the second-best gathering of basketball players in the world. In the circus that was the CBA, Rosen found his place alongside Phil Jackson, then the newly hired coach of the Albany Patroons. Life in the CBA, as Rosen tells it, was never dull, with players doing illegal substances on van rides through snowstorms and teams financed by porn producers. His journey from the CBA to a desk at Fox Sports is a one-of-a-kind basketball story-only to be believed in the words of the guy who actually lived it.
Players and Pretenders tells the story of the flip side of basketball's March Madness, where the game is played by average players for love, not for money. At the end of the 1970s at Bard College, where there was no pretense of institutional support, Charley Rosen gathered his hoops hopefuls and put together a basketball season whose impact reached far beyond the court. Writing with a humorous touch, Rosen details the Running Red Devils' season, simultaneously examining the lives of those who made it so memorable and providing a glimpse of how the team members existed off the courts as both players and pretenders. His book playfully depicts the 1979-80 basketball season at Bard College and the sports for fun side of the game.