Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Can I Keep My Jersey?

Can it be not recommended day? I tend to feature most of the books I finish reading upon completion. Usually if I make it to the end, there is at least something to recommend it, albeit sometimes with reservations that I usually try to note. It's much easier to profile a book while it's still fresh in my mind and I still remember what it is exactly I liked about it. Or in this case, didn't. I just finished Paul Shirley's memoir of the first four years of his professional basketball career--a career that includes stints (usually very brief) at a few NBA teams as well as ABA, CBA, and European ones. Shirley grew up in small town Kansas and I saw him play in high school once, as well as in college at Iowa State (on TV). Other than him being 6'10'', I don't think many people would have pegged him for a future NBA player. NBA general managers would seemingly agree. There are glimpses of an interesting book here--about the business of professional sports, about the itinerant nature of the not-quite-good-enough player, some musings on athletes and religion (apparently in the NBA, you're more likely to be invited to a Bible study than a strip joint). Unfortunately, those glimpses are too few and too completely focused on Paul Shirley himself. Really, this is the most narcissistic memoir I think I've ever read--you would think during a career in professional athletics and long stints in foreign countries you would bump up against some pretty interesting characters. But, though we are treated to frightening levels of detail concerning a catheter, none of Shirley's fellow players get more than a paragraph or so mention. It doesn't help that the book is told almost exclusively with a self-deprecating, sarcastic humor, which normally I like. But along about the 500th time Shirley says, "I'm such an ass!", I really found myself quite agreeing with him. Despite his small town origins and long odds, Paul Shirley is no "Rudy" like figure. If he possessed any love for the game or competitive desire whatsoever, it does not come across in this book. The book came about from a blog he wrote for the Suns and for ESPN that developed a following and I had read once or twice. Toned down and in much smaller doses, I'd probably like this a lot more. It's worth a glance at a bookstore to read a small section or two, but not very tolerable in large doses.

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