Loose Balls: Easy Money, Hard Fouls, Cheap Laughs and True Love in the NBA

Loose Balls: Easy Money, Hard Fouls, Cheap Laughs and True Love in the NBA

4.5 27
by Jayson Williams

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The first candid report from a land of fragile egos, available women, unexpected tenderness, intramural fistfights, colossal partying, bizarre humor, inconceivable riches, and desperate competition, Loose Balls does for roundball what Ball Four did for hardball. From revelations about the meanest, softest, and smelliest players in the league, to Williams…  See more details below


The first candid report from a land of fragile egos, available women, unexpected tenderness, intramural fistfights, colossal partying, bizarre humor, inconceivable riches, and desperate competition, Loose Balls does for roundball what Ball Four did for hardball. From revelations about the meanest, softest, and smelliest players in the league, to Williams’s early days as a “young man with a lot of money and not a lot of sense,” to his strong and powerful views on race, privilege, and giving back, Loose Balls is a basketball book unlike any other.

No inspirational pieties or chest-thumping boasting here—instead, Jayson Williams gives us the real insider tales of refs, groupies, coaches, entourages, and all the superstars, bench warmers, journeymen, clowns, and other performers in the rarefied circus that is professional basketball.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

New York Post
Think Dennis Rodman played for laughs instead of raunch—Ball Four with a bigger ball.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The $100-million star of the hapless New Jersey Nets, Williams may want to be remembered as "a good man," but this brash collection of anecdotes and rants shows that he can be as cruel as he is kind. For one, Williams is willing to speak his mind so shamelessly he makes Keyshawn Johnson look shy--yet that brazenness may be the book's greatest strength. His insights into talking trash and team dynamics, his often scathing portraits of coaches and players, his look at front-office machinations--all make for scandalous reading. (Of course, Williams may have to wear a throat guard and flak jacket on the court once other players read this book.) The book's thematic structure, showing that Williams has reformed himself from his wild early days, mixes up old, sometimes violent, escapades with recent good works, such as visiting sick children in hospitals.His accounts of the brutal prejudice he and his family encountered in South Carolina will shock many of his fans, while his descriptions of the intensive loyalty he feels toward his college buddies reveal a more appealing side of his character. In the end, readers may not like Williams, but they'll have had fun hearing him run at the mouth. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Williams, a former All-Star who played for the Phoenix Suns and the New Jersey Nets, doesn't mince words when talking about the fast lifestyles, on-the-court antics, and lavish spending of today's NBA elite. Using a tongue-in-cheek writing style (massaged and packaged for better reading by freelance journalist Friedman, who has written for Esquire, GQ, and Men's Journal), Wil-liams describes days filled with intense practice—both physical and mental—and nights of drinking and excess with fellow NBA All-Stars Charles Barkley, Armen Gil-liam, Larry Bird, and the man Williams calls the "Black Jesus in Sneakers"—Mi-chael Jordan. The Jordan reference brings to the forefront some features that make this book a surprisingly relevant classroom tool and an interesting read for senior high students and adults. Loose Balls has an excellent index. I wasn't sure of its importance until I was looking for that Jordan quote to include in this review. Another benefit of the index as an effective tool for teachers is to pinpoint the topical issues that make this book more than an "ego piece." Williams speaks candidly of racism, AIDS, interracial marriage, alcohol use, and other topics with thought-provoking insight into each—great for informative essay reports and general topic background research when students need analysis of an issue from different perspectives to add that certain "present-day spark" to their writing. Loose Balls has some unexpected "spark" of its own—foul language, and some questionable grammar. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2000, Random House, Broadway, 276p. index. 21cm. 99-41569.,$12.95. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Tom Adamich; Cataloger-Tech. Svcs., Stetson Univ. College of La , July 2001 (Vol. 35, No. 4)
Library Journal
Pro basketball is sweaty, hard, and mean--but Williams makes it funny. Sample chapter: "Sex, Drugs and Alcohol and How Charles Barkley Took Me Under His Wing and Proceeded To Shave Four Years Off My Life." Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
The New Yorker
Haphazardly organized, this book nonetheless gets by on William's irrepresible personality and charm...His coming-of-age story, on court and off, proves more compelling and individual than the usual-suspects parade of the game's outsized egos.
Charles Salzberg
Jayson Williams is refreshingly candid about race, sex, money and alcohol in the National Basketball Association in his memoir, Loose Balls... the riffs are entertaining and give a nice insider's view of professional basketball.
The New York Times Book Review

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Dumb & Dumber Don't Even Begin to Describe It--My Years with the Philadelphia 76ers (Following a Brief Detour in the Desert)

The only thing I knew about Phoenix when I came out of college was it was hot and it had a lot of pickup trucks. So when the Suns drafted me out of St. John's in 1990, and when the guy at the podium said, "Going to the Suns is Jayson Williams," I said, "Oh, no, I'm not. No, I'm not." Actually I didn't just say it. I yelled it.

Unfortunately, the TV cameras happened to be focusing on me at that moment, scowling and waving my arms, yelling, "Oh, no, I'm not." I don't think that helped me with the Phoenix fans.

I waited two months before going out there. The night before the trip, I went to a party at Tunnel, a New York City nightclub. I had my last drink at 5:30 a.m. The plane left a little after 6:00 a.m. Then I was drinking on the plane, and when I got to Phoenix, I had some drinks from the minibar in the hotel room. Then I passed out. And you know how sometimes when you wake up in a hotel room, you don't know where you're at? That was what it was like, but worse. I look outside and there's nothing but desert. And as far as I knew I was still in New York. I had forgotten all about the plane ride. So I look outside and there was nothing but desert, and the heat just smacked me. It was 122 degrees that day. And the heat just knocked me down. I get up and there's the desert again. I think I'm still in New York and all I see is desert.

"Holy smokes," I say, "they dropped the bomb."

Now I'm all bug-eyed, trying to call the front desk, ask what the emergency evacuation plans are, who bombed the city, are the phone lines down, can I get in touch with my parents? And I hear a loud knock on the door. I answer it in my underwear. It's Jerry Colangelo, owner of the Phoenix Suns. I'm sweating--stinking, I'm sure, like a distillery. I can feel the alcohol coming out of my pores.

Jerry looks at me.

"Jayson?" he says.

But I'm still in New York. At least I think I'm in New York.

"What happened?" I yell. "They dropped the bomb on us. Where am I? I need to get in touch with my parents to make sure they didn't get hit by the bomb. Can you get me a phone line?"

Jerry's still looking at me.

"Oh, my," he says. "We've got a problem."

When Big Daddy Lost His Voice

A few weeks later they call me to the office, Jerry Colangelo and his boys. I'm overweight, out of shape, and I hadn't played basketball in a while, because I had a broken foot my senior year of college. Also, I'm continuing to hate Phoenix. Jerry tells me I have an attitude problem. Then he insults St. John's, my alma mater. I think Jerry's trying to piss me off.

"Screw you!" I say. Then I knock everything off Jerry's desk. Tell him I'm going home.

He says he'll meet me at the hotel, we can work things out, we have to work things out. But I don't even go to the hotel. I just go straight to the airport, then fly home, to my father.

I figure he'll be happy to see me, so when I knock on his door and he opens it, I'm all smiles.

"Dad," I say, "I'm home!"

"What the hell are you doing here?" he says. "You're supposed to be in Phoenix."

"Dad, they were treating me real bad out there. They're calling me 'boy.'"

Now I'm crying.

"They're talking down to me, yelling at me, criticizing me, saying I'm the worst player in camp."

My dad puts his hand on my shoulder.

"Jay," he says, "let me tell you something. You're my son, and I don't care what, you ain't never got to do something you don't want to do. You don't want to go out to Phoenix, you ain't got to go."

As soon as he says that, briiing! briiing!

I pick up the phone and it's Jerry Colangelo.

My dad's asking who it is, and I'm telling him don't worry, I'll handle it. And Jerry's yelling at me. He's saying, "Son, you don't come to Phoenix, we're going to give you the minimum, a hundred and fifty thousand. And you're never going to make more than that in this league."

My father sees my face and he says, "Let me speak to him. Let me have him."

"Dad," I say, "don't worry about it, man. I got him."

But my dad says, "Boy, I told you. You ain't gotta do nothing you don't want to do. Now, let me talk to him."

So I give my father the phone.

"Yeah, this is Big Daddy," he says, all belligerent. That's my father's nickname, Big Daddy. "What do you want?"

Then there's quiet.

"Oh, yeah?" he says again, but not so belligerent.

More quiet.

"Oh, yeah?" Real quiet now. "Ohh. Oh, man. Okay. Okay, thank you."

My dad hangs up the phone. Then he says, "Son, you've got to get your butt on the next plane back to Phoenix."

Car Trouble

When I'm back in Phoenix, because I'm the team's first-round draft pick, the team gives me a Pontiac Grand Prix. The second-round pick gets a Cadillac. I'm pissed off about that. So I take that Grand Prix and I drive into the parking lot and crash into every pole I can see, then I gave the car back to them.

So the owners tell me--they're being real cute--"You know, that car we gave you might have been too little. So we're gonna give you a big ol' Grand Marquis."

But I crash that one up, too. So finally they give me an LTD. Real Barnaby Jones model.

The day I get the car I have to go to the airport to pick up my brother Victor. I get there early, so I have a few drinks. For some reason I get drunker drinking at airports and Yankee games than anywhere else in the world. So when Vic finally arrives, I'm a little drunk, but we get in the LTD anyway, and I drive him back to the hotel.

Excerpted from Loose Balls by Jayson Williams. Copyright 2000 by Jayson Williams. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Meet the Author

Jayson Williams, the All-Star center of the New Jersey Nets, is a ten-year veteran of the NBA and a graduate of St. John's University. He is a recipient of the NAACP Trailblazer Award for community service, and sponsors the Jayson Williams Foundation for Underprivileged Youth. A native of New York City, he lives in northern New Jersey.

Steve Friedman is a contributing editor at Esquire magazine and a former senior editor at GQ. He has written for Outside, ESPN The Magazine, Details, and many other national publications, and his work has been collected in The Best American Sports Writing. He lives in New York City.

From the Hardcover edition.

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