Sunday, July 14, 2019
Books: "Elevated" On The Rise Of The NBA
Elevated: The Global Rise of the N.B.A.
By Harvey Araton and the staff of The New York Times; Foreword by Jeff Van Gundy
Triumph Books; hardcover, 483 pages; $30.00
The NBA has grown into a world game, with stars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Curry helping turn it into a sport that generates attention every single day. These players have become business tycoons, Hollywood celebrities, and advocates for many causes.
Hall of Fame honoree Harvey Araton of the New York Times has been along for the ride, and, in the new book Elevated, he curates and annotates and curates a selection of Times stories illuminating the evolution of the league during the past four decades.
Elevated covers both the major headlines and lesser known tales, which makes it an incredible collection and thorough history and thoughtful examination of the league's unprecedented growth and influence.
There is a perceptive foreword from broadcast analyst and former NBA head coach Jeff Van Gundy; stories from The Times's standout basketball writers through the years, including Selena Roberts, Lee Jenkins, and Howard Beck; insights on the growing role of players as social activists, and how the league has handled issues with racism on and off the court; profiles of legendary teams and players, such as the Showtime Lakers, the Bad Boys of the late-1980s Detroit Pistons, Michael Jordan's Bulls, and modern talents like Durant and James; and original reporting from Araton and other contributors detailing how the stories broke, what obstacles the journalists overcame, and insights on how these pieces hold up today.
Araton writes of an international game in 2002 that showed the growth of basketball in the world, "Ten years after the Dream Team's colorful and thorough demonstration of United States basketball invincibility, Mike Wise filed the following lead for The Times one wild September night in 2002 from what was then called Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis:
"'Down by 20 points before halftime, dumbfounded by a former Temple University point guard in need of work, 12 N.B.A. players and their tortured coach were shockingly outplayed by a team from another continent tonight.'
"The coach was George Karl. His team - led by Reggie Miller and Paul Pierce - was an unprepared, unsuspecting United States entry into the world basketball championships. The opponent was Argentina, led by the Temple alum Pepe Sanchez and a player described by Wise as 'Emanuel Ginobili, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard drafted by the San Antonio Spurs, whom most of the world has yet to hear about.'
"I actually had heard of Ginobili, who was nowhere close to being known simply as Manu. On a trip that summer to Tbilisi in the Republic of Georgia for a story on 19-year-old Nikoloz Tskitishvili, who had come literally from nowhere in a basketball sense to being the fifth pick of the 2002 draft by Denver, I stopped off in Treviso, Italy, where Tskitishvili had played half a season in the Italian league for Mike D'Antoni.
"Ettore Messina, the new Treviso coach who had had Ginobili in Bologna the previous season, told me that Ginobili was a can't-miss dynamo who would 'change the culture' in San Antonio. I sarcastically thought, yeah, of course he will. And then, sitting alongside Wise that night at Conseco, I watched Ginobili absolutely abuse the United States guards and confound Jermaine O'Neal and Ben Wallace at the rim, while Argentina cut and passed the fundamentally lacking Americans to death.
"A new day had arrived, and more international talent was coming. I realized why in Tbilisi when I visited the small apartment Tskitishvili had lived in with his mother and younger brother in a run-down old Soviet Bloc building, with a satellite dish primarily used for N.B.A. games.
"On the wall in one corridor I noticed a poster of Michael Jordan soaring for one of his patented dunks, ball palmed high in his right hand. Looking closer, I realized the photo had been taken at Madison Square Garden, and, even closer, that one of the courtside reporters looking up in awe was clearly me.
"I called over my hosts - which included Tskitishvili's youth coach and his Georgian agent - and pointed to myself. They hugged me, pounded my back. 'Friend of Jordan!' they cried.
"Dirk Nowitzki was already a rising N.B.A. star in Dallas, stretching the floor, changing the game. 'Next Nowitzki' was what Kiki Vandeweghe, the Nuggets' general manager, was thinking when he drafted Tskitishvili, who never made it to the N.B.A. As with many American draft projections that backfired, he wasn't the only international flop. But that's not the point, which was that the N.B.A. by the turn of the century was truly a global phenomenon.
"All around the world, Nike-wearing, Gatorade-drinking boys were growing up, dreaming of the league of opportunity and opulence,, wanting to Be Like Mike."
Elevated is one of the best histories of the NBA you will ever read, from some of the best to ever cover the game of basketball.