Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hoop Genius, by John Coy, illustrated by Joe Morse

In our sports-crazy world, it's hard to imagine life without basketball.  You can hardly drive through your neighborhood without seeing a hoop, on people's driveways or at the school playground.  Churches, schools, community centers abound with basketball courts.  The NCAA tournament is one of the top sporting events every year, NBA players are paid astronomical salaries, and basketball is one of the major attractions at the Olympics.

For the sport that now holds such universal appeal, we can thank James Naismith.  In an effort to bring some order to a rowdy gym class, Naismith invented what we now know as basketball.  It's a familiar story that John Coy tells in Hoops Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball.  Joe Morse's illustrations bring the story to life, capturing the period (1891) and the energy of Naismith's pioneering players.

My favorite part is the reproduction of the typed rules that Naismith posted in the gym for the boys to read as they were learning the game.  It's remarkable how much the game still looks like Naismith's vision.  The biggest omission was dribbling.  The original rules don't seem to allow for moving while dribbling the ball.  Before the introduction of dribbling, basketball must have looked more like ultimate frisbee.  Ultimate basketball. . . that would be interesting. . . .

Hoop Genius is a fun, colorful introduction to the invention of basketball.  Thanks to Naismith, for inventing a great game, and thanks to Coy and Morse for bringing it to life!

And thanks to NetGalley for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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