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Hot Potato: How Washington and New York Gave Birth to Black Basketball and Changed America's Game Forever

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Reprint Good [ No Hassle 30 Day Returns ] [ Edition: Reprint ] Publisher: University of Virginia Press Pub Date: 2/20/2006 Binding: Paperback Pages: 256.

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Overview

"The players today are much better than we were.... But there is one thing that we could do better. We could pass the ball better than they can now. Man, we used to pass that basketball around like it was a hot potato."—Sam "Buck" Covington,former member of the Washington Bruins

n a nation distinguished by a great black athletic heritage, there is perhaps no sport that has felt the impact of African American culture more than basketball. Most people assume that the rise of black basketball was a fortuitous accident of the inner-city playgrounds. In Hot Potato, Bob Kuska shows that it was in fact a consciously organized movement with very specific goals.

When Edwin Henderson introduced the game to Washington, D.C., in 1907, he envisioned basketball not as an end in itself but as a public-health and civil-rights tool. Henderson believed that, by organizing black athletics, including basketball, it would be possible to send more outstanding black student athletes to excel at northern white colleges and debunk negative stereotypes of the race. He reasoned that in sports, unlike politics and business, the black race would get a fair chance to succeed. Henderson chose basketball as his marquee sport, and he soon found that the game was a big hit on Washington’s segregated U Street. Almost simultaneously, black basketball was catching on quickly in New York, and the book establishes that these two cities served as the birthplace of the black game.

Hot Potato chronicles the many successes and failures of the early years of black amateur basketball. It also recounts the emergence of black college basketball in America, documenting the origins of the Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association, or CIAA, which would become the Big Ten of black collegiate sports.

The book also details for the first time the rise of black professional basketball in America, with a particular emphasis on the New York Renaissance, a team considered by experts to be as important in the development of black basketball as the Harlem Globetrotters. Kuska recounts the Renaissance’s first victory over the white world champion Original Celtics in 1925, and he evaluates the significance of this win in advancing equality in American sports. By the late 1920s, the Renaissance became one of the sport’s top draws in white and black America alike, setting the stage for the team’s undisputed world championship in 1939. As Edwin Henderson had hoped—and as any fan of the modern-day game can tell you—the triumphs certainly did not end there.

University of Virginia Press

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Editorial Reviews

Earl Lloyd

This is essential reading for anyone interested in basketball or African-American history. I highly recommend it.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813925561
  • Publisher: University of Virginia Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Bob Kuska, who spent a decade researching this book, is a science writer for the National Institutes of Health.

University of Virginia Press

Bob Kuska, who spent a decade researching this book, is a science writer for the National Institutes of Health.

University of Virginia Press

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Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
1 In the Beginning: 1905-1910 1
2 The Golden Era of Amateurism: 1910-1918 29
3 The Decline of Amateurism: 1919-1923 68
4 The Rise of Professionalism: 1923-1930 120
Epilogue 181
Notes 187
Index 201
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Interviews & Essays

S06

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