11.08.2006

NBA Book Fair Pt. 475565

On the heels of Simmons scooping us today by commenting on JR Smith's clowning of Julius Hodge for reading books; and in concurrence with esteemed reader, Squidiotic, sending us Artest's gem of an interview in Stuff magazine (more on this in a second), it seems as though a more thorough investigation into the reading habits of the Association's finest is merited. Psychology is something that we are no strangers to, and in our continuing quest to understand the mental makeup of the league's constituents, it seems like book-reading habits will get us one step closer. Some players' book choices are obvious, telling us nothing. For instance, we have already documented at length, Dwyane Wade's love for Jane Austen; and I don't need Paul Shirley to tell me to go read Fortress of Solitude. A cursory google search on [NBA+Players+"favorite book"] reveals far more, as you will see:

--Shane Battier: Claims his favorite book is Lonesome Dove. I don't know anything about this book except I remember it, like, in every person's parents' bookshelf when I was young. And I remember the cover had a very bland desert aesthetic, almost cowboy-esque. In other words, this book seems mad Kryzewski.

--Allen Iverson: Claims his favorite book is The Color Purple. Now I'm not saying that Iverson hasn't read The Color Purple, but let's just say he's definitely seen the movie. Just as Iverson signifies pain in a post-pain NBA (following the 1980s style of on-court brawls, muggings, Barkley and Rodman socking people, players doing coke), so too is Spielberg's take on the Alice Walker classic somewhat removed from itself.

--Lebron James: Coming out of High School, he stated that his favorite subject in school was American Literature, because he "Liked reading books by the accomplished authors." Such a statement of vapid perfection, very LeBron. I too liked reading Walt Whitman and JD Salinger in high school, but I didn't really get it until later. When you're 21 years old and living in Brooklyn and "trying to feel alienated" as everyone has to do for a few months in the 21st century, you're like, "Oh yeah, I get what that stuff was about." But while you're reading those authors in high school, you just use heuristics to say, "Well, this person is famous so it must be good." Thanks LeBron, for again giving us the hollow truth.

--Adonal Foyle's favorite book is Native Son. Shocker. This one is almost too obvious to list, but it's also ironic in the sense that Foyle is actually the exact inverse of Bigger Thomas, adopted by Colgate professors, and taken from his home in St. Vincent to attend college there and experience a normal white middle class upbringing.



--Evan Eschmeyer claims his favorite book is Walden by Thoreau. I'm just going to pretend that he said his favorite book is Walden Two by BF Skinner, which is a weird psychological-sci-fi drama about a Utopia, in which all children are raised through this creepy systematic sort of operant conditioning. I imagine Eschmeyer to have resulted from a similar large-scale science project.

--Tim Duncan's favorite book as a child was Encyclopedia Brown. I don't really have a comment here, except that it's cool that Duncan didn't say Dr. Seuss like every other NBA player (when asked in the context of "Read to Achieve" events). It's as if reading isn't "cool" in the NBA (cf. Simmons on JR Smith's earlier comments), so as a means of attaining faux street cred, NBA players cite Dr. Seuss, because it sort of sounds like rap. For example: Shawn Marion states [referring to Green Eggs and Ham], "When I was little, I liked all the Dr. Seuss books. They had little catchy slogans to them and the rhymes were cool." Ok fine.

--Amare Stoudemire claims his favorite book as a child was Rumplestiltskin, stating, "I was about eleven when I read it. He (Rumplestiltskin) was a bad dude."

--Wang ZhiZhi--and this just confounds me, claims his favorite "book" is Dante's The Divine Comedy. This is just further proof that ZhiZhi is 850 years old, and Chinese basketball players are completely on some other shit. Like, I can imagine any number of NBA guys "having" to read Dante at some point in college, but to decide that it was their "favorite" book?

--Ron Artest, from the aformentioned Stuff Magzine interview:

Favorite Book:

Black Boy by Richard Wright

"I can't remember the story--he was going through slavery or something--but every time somebody asks me what my favorite book is, I say Black Boy."

Ok, at first I was pissed at Ron-Ron, because let's face it, this is just some DUMB shit to say. But the more I thought about it, I was like, you know, this just means that Ron is a fucking dude. Like, this is basically the same as trying to impress some girl by telling her you read Infinite Jest or The Brothers Karamazov or whatever. Ron is like, YEAH, IT'S IMPORTANT, I GET IT.

34 Comments:

At 11/09/2006 12:16 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

i saw even eschmeyer at a bar in evanston (chicago) once. he looked like everyone else there, except taller.

wv: jugsof = you mind if i touch it, to see if it's sof'?

 
At 11/09/2006 12:38 AM, Anonymous Pichi Campana Aguanta said...

So as I was reading the post I said to myself "Didn't BF Skinner raise his daughter in a Skinner Box?"

But then a 10 second tango with Google and Snopes revealed the error of my ways:

http://www.snopes.com/science/skinner.asp

 
At 11/09/2006 1:51 AM, Anonymous Rob I said...

That further proves that Tim Duncan is Everyman, except tall and with Innate Basketball Skills. Who among us didn't idolize Encyclopedia Brown (18 years ago)?

Also, I wouldn't expect anything more specific from The Great Generalization, Mr. James.

 
At 11/09/2006 1:57 AM, Blogger matt bird said...

When you're 21 years old and living in Brooklyn and "trying to feel alienated" as everyone has to do for a few months in the 21st century, you're like, "Oh yeah, I get what that stuff was about."

So true -- though in my case I was older, like 27. (I'm 28 now).

David Harrison on an online diary type thing posted on slamonline.com (an entry I can't find anymore) writes that he recently read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and is working on Alice in Wonderland. Perhaps the reading habits of bench players are worth exploring?

In his day, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a tremendous reader. His favorite book (or at least among his favorites) was The Autobiography of Malcolm X. And he's also a great writer, or at least a great collaborative author. I've read his autobiography, Giant Steps (written in collaboration with Peter Knobler), twice. It's what got me into basketball.

 
At 11/09/2006 5:19 AM, Anonymous Talbot Ledbury said...

Now this is arable soil. I love peeping what people are reading, and then presumptively pigeonholing them for thumbing something dumb on Monday's subway run to the scutwork of scrubbing spreadsheets or whatever, Mr. Dan Brownstain on the drawers of mind. Respect how J.D. subtly dumps on Mary Jane in "Uncle Wiggily" by noting how she passes "two heavily stocked bookcases [in her friend's place] without glancing at any of the titles."

Anyway, I'd like to hear the favorite books of the contributors to this page. For example, not that anyone cares:
Childhood: _Island of the Blue Dolphins_
Later: _The Book of Sayings of Tsiang Samdup_

 
At 11/09/2006 9:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I.J. and Brother's K. are my favorite books for serial

 
At 11/09/2006 9:28 AM, Blogger Captain Caveman said...

Eschmeyer went to Northwestern, so I'm not really surprised by that choice. He and his brother Jeff always seemed quiet and thoughtful in class.

The NBA player who says "The Things They Carried" is his favorite book becomes my favorite player of all time.

 
At 11/09/2006 9:51 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i wonder how this works with the oft-fabled, rarely verified "smartest players in the nba." i'm kind of surprised that duncan didn't have something better, given that we're always told what a bright guy he is. and i know that basketball IQ is different from off-court genius, but duncan strikes me as someone who might've actually done a little bit of work in college. okafor's another one of those whom i would expect to come with something marginally interesting. or at least grown-up.

 
At 11/09/2006 10:02 AM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

this in no way answers shoals' question, but i would just like to add that in corroboration of my point about dr. seuss, nate robinson, when asked what his favorite book IS, coming out of college said: "the cat in the hat."

 
At 11/09/2006 10:07 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

here's a new theory: big men are smarter than little ones. to be a smaller guy who makes it, you have to really distinguish yourself, probably at the expense of ever reading a book. if you're nate robinson, that effect triples. but since big men also find themselves in the nba just by virtue of being big, they can become more well-rounded individuals and still end up at the professional level.

and maybe amare seems like the exception to this, but i feel like "rumpelstiltskin" was a symbolic choice. like at a young age, he realized he was destined to be the baddest man in the game.

 
At 11/09/2006 10:24 AM, Blogger JoshLove said...

From a Charlotte Observer interview with Okafor :

16. How about books?

I love to read. Mostly fiction. I was on a Dan Brown kick for a little bit. I read a lot of his books. "The Da Vinci Code," "Digital Fortress," "Deception Point" and "Angels and Demons" -- all those.

Of course, he also repped "City of God" on the movie front. So I guess his aesthetics are a wash.

 
At 11/09/2006 10:29 AM, Blogger Trey said...

As an expansion to Shoals' theory:
Maybe the more athletic a player is, the more juvenile their book choice is.
Almost as if they showed such brilliance at a young age that they were never pushed hard to assimilate any more challenging books. Kind of like they're trapped in the time when they were first recognized for their potential as an athlete rather than as a student.

 
At 11/09/2006 10:37 AM, Anonymous le pen&zizou said...

A bit of a mixed bag from Ray Allen.

Ray is an avid reader. His all-time favorite book is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, copies of which he has gifted to each of his Bucks coaches and teammates. He also enjoys the works of authors Tony Robbins and Dr. Phil.

Does it follow that pure shooters, who have spent the most time refining their strokes, would necessarily like self-help gurus?

 
At 11/09/2006 10:37 AM, Blogger SilverBird5000 said...

re: shoals' theory, i would also think that the "freak of nature" stigma tends to lend itself to a certain kind of introspective disposition, especially during those key cognitive development years. having grown up with 3 arms, i say this from experience.

 
At 11/09/2006 10:43 AM, Anonymous Jesse said...

On bigs and reading: Not to contradict Shoals' point, but as a prelude, an interesting cross-section would also be to see how many of the various "more thoughtful" bigs were gangly and uncoordinated at some point in middle school or high school? That's certainly part of the Walton myth, along with the stutter. Assume most slashers were kings of the playground as 6' 13-year-olds, but what about a 6'6" 150 lb. kid tripping over himself. He's a rock star by 16 or 17, but before that, he might have some serious alone time.

I'm throwing this out with no empirical evidence, of course.

 
At 11/09/2006 10:50 AM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

Jesse may have a point...further supported by the fact that most league smart guys are bigs:

Tim Duncan
Emeka Okafor
Dikembe Mutombo
Adonal Foyle
Nazr Mohammed
Etan Thomas
Mark Madsen
Yao

 
At 11/09/2006 10:57 AM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

Has anybody ever read that story by WP Kinsella (called "How I Got My Nickname") where he's an 18 year old late season call-up to the 1951 Giants? All the players on the team are voracious readers- it's the ultimate nerd fantasy. Kinsella basically projects the image of a physically average, bookish, sports-obsessed kid (which I imagine most FD heads are/were) onto his objects of obsession.

I know Kinsella is corny as fuck, but I'm just sayin.

 
At 11/09/2006 10:57 AM, Blogger matt bird said...

I vote that Amare extend the Rumplestiltskin connection by adopting the Snoopism, "What's my motherfucking name?"

I wonder about the big men are smarter theory. It's hard for me to picture Wilt (i.e. when he was among the living) or Shaq, for example, opening books with much frequency. I think another factor that needs to be taken into account is that while big men have more free time to develop as individuals, how they use that time varies. Wilt, for instance, apparently spent quite a good deal of his time in legendary sexual pursuits.

 
At 11/09/2006 10:58 AM, Anonymous Tinns said...

For what it's worth, at one of these Read to Achieve events a couple weeks ago in Toronto Bosh was repping the Odyssey as his book, but when asked his favourite book he said it was X's autobiography. What!?! He said it reminded him of struggle and success. OK fine. But Bosh must never have had to struggle for nothing, right? I mean nothing. But then I got to thinking that X would be a perfect way for one to stay up top and resist any temptations to fall off. All of which bodes really well for us Raptors I'm supposing. (And that crazy shot last night's gonna help too. That stuff NEVER happens for Raptors teams.)

 
At 11/09/2006 11:00 AM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

DLIC- Mark Madsen is the stupidest motherfucker ever. I went to see a taping of Letterman in like 98 or so on Thanksgiving. It was during the preseason NIT, and I ended up standing in line with a mix of players from Purdue, North Carolina and Stanford. Madsen and this gargantuan blond chick were talking and it was the most inane thing I had ever heard in my life. A quote:

You know, so there's like three kinds of "merry." there's "merry" christmas, "let's get "married" and "my name is mary."

Wow. Stanford.

 
At 11/09/2006 11:05 AM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

dude, that's all part of madsen's GAME. he was playing dumb.

you're telling me this isn't poetic brilliance? (from the mad dog blog):

We're staying in "The Lodge" hotel close to Moline, IL and on the border of Iowa getting ready for our game tonight. Every time we get close to Iowa, Fred Hoiberg always sings the same tune: "Iowa is the best state in the union." Freddy, I like Iowa too, but I just hope that Iowa State doesn't have to face Stanford in the NCAA tournament!

 
At 11/09/2006 11:08 AM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

Whenever I hear the words "Fred Hoiberg," I just imagine a dude shooting set shots with a belt on his shorts.

 
At 11/09/2006 11:17 AM, Blogger Gladhands said...

Looking over DLIC's list of smart players, I don't see a lot of Euros or Americans.

 
At 11/09/2006 11:25 AM, Blogger Gladhands said...

my previous statement should have read "born to American parents".

 
At 11/09/2006 11:42 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

gladhands - could this play into jesse's theory about big men and alone time? you're awkward and abnormally tall AND you're a stranger in a strange land -- books are your only friends.

 
At 11/09/2006 12:03 PM, Anonymous Jesse said...

The worrying part is that this all seems to fit too neatly into a hackneyed "right kind" and "wrong kind" racial semiotics. Plucky Carribean and African first-gen families are okay -- they're hard workers. And sure, why not East Asians too?

Not saying we should ignore the evidence (and there certainly is something about families from countries without organized basketball pushing for more serious backup plans out of their sons) but there's got to be some reason *why* the media was so quick to push this angle on Okafor. Compared to with, say, Mike Mussina, who is said to be a smart guy (in a boring Times-crossword-puzzle sort of way) in a sea of much dumber players.

 
At 11/09/2006 12:05 PM, Blogger SilverBird5000 said...

this seems like an appropriate moment to share the following priceless excerpts from an nyrb review of that "Operation Yao" book:

Clumsy and slow as a child, Yao showed little aptitude for basketball. He says "he hated basketball with a passion." But the state had marked him as a player, and that was that...He and his fellow child athletes were trained according to a system designed by the Russians, and they played in a "joyless silence that shrouded them...completely." As part of his conditioning, and this was true of all big Chinese sports, Yao was fed a pharmacopoeia of traditional plants and insects, combined with muscle-building drugs that many believe were brought to China by East Germans.

and my personal favorite:

Yao Ming was invited to attend a basketball camp in Paris, and by 1998 he was added to Nike's High Five American team...Yao was almost a foot taller than anyone else. But while he had some good shots, he was unable and unwilling to perform the highest-percentage shot in basketball, especially for players over seven feet tall: the slam dunk. Dunking was intolerable to the gentle Yao, who had "deeply inculcated aversion to showing off and hurting other players' feelings." Yao's American coach eventually got him to dunk by making the rest of the team run penalty laps whenever Yao avoided the shot. His teammates begged him to dunk, and eventually he agreed—and began to enjoy it.

 
At 11/09/2006 12:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From an interview with Yaofucious Ming:

TFK: I know you participate in the NBA's 'Read to Achieve' program and you have read to kids both in the U.S. and China. I read that you said 'Reading and learning are important no matter where you live…'Can you tell me your purpose of reading to the kids?

Yao Ming: Knowledge is very important. Even for players like us, we still need to read a lot. Knowledge is not just the knowledge of books. There are various kinds of knowledge. For us who play basketball, we should be able to summarize our experiences of success and failure. This is also a type of learning. So learning is very, very important for every profession.

TFK: What were your favorite childhood books?

Yao Ming: I liked to read history books and biographies. To this date, I still like these types of books.

 
At 11/09/2006 12:59 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

the introspective loner idea works well for people like dampier, elgin campbell.. .those distant, surly types that clearly think too much and have reps for being "too smart for their own basketball-playing good"

wilt was not at all dumb. and bill russell certainly isn't.

 
At 11/09/2006 1:25 PM, Blogger matt bird said...

Yeah, I felt suspicious myself of my Wilt comment. Poorly played. I apologize.

 
At 11/09/2006 3:12 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

Re: stranger in a strange land theory:
Isn't it much easier these days to order, for instance, The Ukranian Channel, than it is to find a book in Ukrainian?

Re: Tall Men with Books = The Loneliness of Being Tall:
I can buy this. There was a documentary on one of the science channels recently about the super-tall. Pretty tame work, but Robert Wadlow was both tragic and a total mack.

Re: More athleticism = Poorer book choice:
This isn't a new idea, but evolutionary biology has fleshed it out. In multiple examples all over the animal kingdom, we find that female promiscuity ends up selecting for males with smaller brains and bigger testes.

 
At 11/09/2006 7:58 PM, Blogger T. said...

I think if we are thinking about smart players and the NBA as an entire entitity, then we'd probably have to begin with Sentaor Bill Bradley and Jerry Lucas.

Steve Nash? How predictable is this:
Nash's reading habits have become famously eclectic - from Karl Marx and Che Guevara to Immanuel Kant and Charles Dickens.

I know Okafor was very close to going to Stanford, so he probably is very smart. (And he did attend Bellaire High in Houston - that place is amazingly scary with smart students.)

 
At 11/09/2006 11:31 PM, Blogger Sergio said...

Okafor is one smart cookie. HOWEVER, it is vital to remember that he was a finance major. To paraphrase David Duchovny, they're a different breed.

 
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