Pickup Artists: Street Basketball in America

Overview

The stories of the playground and the basketball players who have made their legends there have, until now, largely gone untold, the melodramas of these athletes' lives playing out only before the select few who frequent the blacktops. But for the first time, the history of the playground game - and how it's played today in prisons, on Indian reservations, among drug dealers and by women - is told in Pickup Artists. On a trip to a blacktop, perhaps you'll see James 'Speedy' Williams. Age twenty-nine, Speedy makes...
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New York, NY 1998 Hardcover New Condition New. Quantity Available: 1. ISBN: 1859842356. ISBN/EAN: 9781859842355. Inventory No: ABE428135724.

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Overview

The stories of the playground and the basketball players who have made their legends there have, until now, largely gone untold, the melodramas of these athletes' lives playing out only before the select few who frequent the blacktops. But for the first time, the history of the playground game - and how it's played today in prisons, on Indian reservations, among drug dealers and by women - is told in Pickup Artists. On a trip to a blacktop, perhaps you'll see James 'Speedy' Williams. Age twenty-nine, Speedy makes his living playing basketball for drug dealers in New York City. All along the East Coast, dealers recruit, assemble, and subsidize their own teams and play each other for as much as $100,000 per game. The playground game, once a drama acted out anonymously in America's ghettos, has become a multimillion dollar business. Tournaments today are sponsored by shoemakers and record companies, and these contests have branched out from the inner-city into the suburbs and onto the farms.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Basketball was inaugurated in 1891 and soon developed into a game of teams rather than individuals, featuring dribbling, passing and carefully structured plays. New rules introduced in the 1930s facilitated a style of play that developed on street courts in major cities, especially New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles, where playground athletes, many from working-class families, altered the basic nature of the game and laid the groundwork for the sport as it is played today. This significant contribution to the history of the game by a current (Anderson) and a former (Millman) writer for Sports Illustrated details the ways in which this evolution caused by the "city game" took place, emphasizing fast breaks and slam dunks and what the authors characterize as the "testosterone-charged, showtime style." Many of the greatest pickup artists are profiled, not a few of them derailed by drugs, and there is also mention of the top women players who lost out. The authors see the game now as primarily under the control of the largest sneaker manufacturers, with local tourneys so common that a potential talent even as young as seven may be spotted and assisted in his career. (July)
Kirkus Reviews
This first book by a pair of veterans of Sports Illustrated is a highly intelligent look at the colorful world of playground hoops and, with it, the ghettos that support the game. Basketball has changed more radically in the past half-century than any of our other major sports, and the influence of playground ball has been one of the major reasons. From its opening portrait of street legend James "Speedy" Williams, a 29-year-old black man from Brooklyn who supports himself by playing in games organized by drug dealers and hustling one-on-one contests with unsuspecting marks, Pickup Artists is an unusually well-written and astute picture of the ways that basketball has evolved in this country. The soil from which the game sprung to its current tremendous size can be found in the cracked blacktop of dozens of inner-city playgrounds where creative athletes challenge one another with reputation and sometimes money on the line, a way for disadvantaged youth to climb out of the economic trough. As Anderson and Millman amply show, that reality has begun to change subtly. Big corporate money has found the playground—big college money, tooþand the playground has succumbed in ways that are leading to its demise as an arena for self-expression, turning instead into a showcase for talent that resembles a meat market. Along the way, the authors give telling glimpses of an array of near-mythical figures, from Nat Holman to Earl "The Goat" Manigault (who died shortly after the bookþs completion). They mince no words in reporting on the ugly deaths and drug problems that have clung to the playground game. Indeed, after reading this volume, one realizes that playground ball has oftenbeen a fabulous jewel with a lethal curse; one wonders how something so beautiful can destroy so many. An exemplary piece of reporting and writing, transcending sports to give us a somber view of America's crumbling cities.
From the Publisher
Pickup Artists is an unusually well-written and astute picture of the ways that basketball has evolved in this country ... An exemplary piece of reporting and writing, transcending sports to give us a somber view of America’s crumbling cities.”—Kirkus Reviews

“A passionately but conscientiously assembled book. Riveting profiles give life to figures both forgotten and never heard of, while a long overdue history of basketball’s most elemental version is a valuable contribution to the game's historiography.”—Alexander Wolff, Senior Writer for Sports Illustrated

“Anderson and Millman obviously know their subject and have done a wonderful job tracking down playground heroes.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“The book’s strength lies in its characterization of the numerous figures, both tragic and comic, who have played out roles on the nation’s asphalt stages ... A meticulously researched, richly written look at a vital part of American popular culture.”—Philadelphia Inquirer

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781859842355
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 6/28/1998
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2001

    Excellent Writing

    Evaluation of ¿PICKUP ARTISTS: Street Basketball in America¿ Written by: Lars Anderson and Chad Millman The way we look at some of the biggest cities in America, affiliated with basketball will never be the same due to two men. The two authors of ¿PICKUP ARTISTS: Street Basketball in America¿ are a pair that should not be taken lightly with their writing. Their inside look of street basketball in New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles will make you wonder what if these athletes that they describe about went to college, or played in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Are some of these street ball legends even better then Michael Jordan? While I read this book I couldn¿t help but wonder what these guys look like when they are on the courts doing what they love. From James ¿Speedy¿ Williams to Earl ¿The Goat¿ Manigault, what skills they must possess. The way Anderson and Millman describe the creativity that the players in this book possess is beyond any imagination. The explicit detail that you get out of this book is unbelievable and no one person will be able to comprehend all that is in this magnificent writing. With a walk down any major city block where there is a hoop and blacktop, it is almost impossible for myself to look at a court in the same way that I used to. After reading this book, you will always think twice, I wonder if he or him played here back as a kid, or did that professional ever learn that one move on this court? The tremendous insight that one receives from the first street ball player to the last in this book will make you respect the fabulous artwork that basketball has evolved into. This book not only takes a look at the men who have ruled the blacktops for so many years, but it also looks at the drugs, gambling, money, and female ballplayers behind the skyscrapers and sites of the 4 major cities. The money is a real reason why players like James ¿Speedy¿ Williams can support a family on just playing pickup games and one-on-one games. The way Anderson and Millman show how the big money comes from the wrong people will make you think twice of watching the courts in the summer with the great players on them. These days the ghettos and the street courts are no longer ruled by skill, but rather the money. The shoe companies to the record companies are all putting up the excess money for the players¿ future. Give a 10-year old a pair of shoes that Allen Iverson is wearing and he will be a Reebok fan for life. When I started this book I didn¿t even know that the name brands would target someone as young as 7 years old. These 2 men did their research and did an incredible job at it. When you read this book it just feels like the 2 were at every game, on every court, every minute of their lives for the last 50 years. The feelings that I felt when I read this book, were everyone that one person could feel, from sorrow to complete shock. The 2 made sure that every detail is in the book and left out nothing from the deaths of drugs to the problems of debt, and welfare. The 2 former Sports Illustrated writers had a vision when they started this book. A simple vision of introducing what life is for people with talent, but no future. These 2 men chose basketball. A game that they loved and that they showed to the whole world that others love the game to, but for different reasons. I personally love the game for the teams that play it, the coaches, the enjoyment I feel when I play or watch a game on television. This too, in my opinion is why the two wrote the book, but they felt the outside world does not understand why people of large cities love the game. The outside world being any place where a kid or even you grew up where playing basketball was not to get away from the drugs and violence. Many of the ball players that are mentioned or talked about in this book are guys that did not come from riches or even middle-class, but rather poverty

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