Ball Don't Lie

Ball Don't Lie

by Matt de la Peña


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Ball Don't Lie by Matt de la Peña

Newbery Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Matt de la Peña's Ball Don't Lie "is a must-read." [The Bulletin]

Sticky is a beat-around-the-head foster kid with nowhere to call home but the street, and an outer shell so tough that no one will take him in. He started out life so far behind the pack that the finish line seems nearly unreachable. He’s a white boy living and playing in a world where he doesn’t seem to belong.

But Sticky can ball. And basketball might just be his ticket out . . . if he can only realize that he doesn’t have to be the person everyone else expects him to be.

Matt de la Peña's breakout urban masterpiece, Ball Don’t Lie takes place where the street and the court meet and where a boy can be anything if he puts his mind to it.

★ "[An] inspiring story. Sticky is a true original, and de la Peña has skillfully brought him to life." --School Library Journal, Starred

"Riveting.... Teens will be strongly affected by the action; and the questions about race, love, self-worth, and what it means to build a life without advantages." --Booklist

"Stunningly realistic." --VOYA

"Gritty and mesmerizing." --Kirkus Reviews

"I have never before seen blacktop ball depicted so well. In this novel, you will find its flash, its power, and its elegance without chains. This is powerful stuff." --Antawn Jamison, forward for the Los Angeles Clippers

"Truly authentic in its examination of both the game I love and the invariable missteps toward manhood. You cannot fail to be moved by the eloquence and truth of this story." --Rick Fox, former forward for the Los Angeles Lakers

An ALA Best Book for Young Adults

An ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385734257
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 03/13/2007
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 119,135
Product dimensions: 5.13(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Ball Don't Lie is Newbery Award-winning author Matt de la Peña’s first novel, which was chosen by the American Library Association as both a Quick Pick and a Best Book for Young Adults. He attended the University of the Pacific on a basketball scholarship and went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at San Diego State University. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he teaches creative writing. Look for Matt's other books, Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here, I Will Save You, and The Living, for which he received the Pura Belpré Author Honor Award, all available from Delacorte Press. You can visit him at and follow @mattdelapena on Twitter.

Read an Excerpt

Dreadlock Man,

with his fierce fists and suspect jump shot, sets his stuff ($1.45 sandals, key to bike lock, extra T-shirt) on the bleachers and holds his hands out for the ball. It's ten in the morning and Lincoln Rec has just opened. Sticky's at the free-throw line working out his routine, while all the regulars come swaggering in. Come on, little man, Dreadlock Man says. Give up the rock.

Sticky throws an around-the-back, no-look dime. Watches Dreadlock Man rise into the air with his awful form--calves tightening, dreads scattering, eyes poised on the goal--and let go of a sorry-looking line drive. Before he comes back down to the dusty old hardwood, he yells out: Peanut Butter! Says it every time he takes a jumper. Peanut Butter! That's what he wants everyone to call him, but nobody does.
When the ball ricochets off the side of the backboard, entirely missing the rim, he says what any man would say: Hey, yo, Stick, let me get one more.

Hawk passes through the door, from sunny day into old dark gym. A big black man. Wears bright wraparound shades and baggy shorts, the new Jordans on his size-sixteen feet. Hawk has a little money to his name. He's one of the few Lincoln Rec ballers who does. Some of the regulars say he made a few movies a couple years back. A stunt double maybe or security on the set. If you look quickly, get a fast profile shot, you might think he looks like someone.

Hey, yo, Dreadlock Man, he says, megaphoning a hand around his mouth. I got five says you brick that shot. The whole side of his shaved head flexes as he chews hard at his gum.
Dreadlock Man takes a couple awkward dribbles and rises again. Peanut Butter! This time his ball arcs through the air without backspin. A Phil Niekro knuckleball that thuds off the back of the rim and drops into Sticky's waiting hands.

Damn, Dreadlock Man, your shot's straight broke. Hawk falls into the bleachers laughing, goes to lace up his new sneaks.

Other dudes come strutting into the gym. Slapping hands. Slinging their bags onto the bleachers and talking trash.

Sticky high-dribbles to the other end of the court, spins in an acrobatic reverse. He points up at an invisible crowd.

Dreadlock Man watches, hands on hips. Yells out: Come on, Stick, we tryin to shoot down here.
A couple other balls get tossed into the rotation. Everybody shooting short set-shots to get warm, stretching out stiff shoulders and legs. Most of these cats are just out of bed. A couple have pulled themselves off a piece of cardboard on court two, having spent the night where all the homeless stay.
Lincoln Rec functions both as a great place to hoop and a small-time homeless shelter.
Sometimes things overlap.

Sticky comes dribbling down from the other side of the court with his left hand. He goes right up to Dante, who's just walked in carrying a duffel bag, the best player in the gym, and shoots a soft twenty-footer over his outstretched hand. Dante and Sticky watch the ball smack both sides of the rim and bounce off toward the east sideline.

Go get that brick, Stick, Dante says. Bring it back my way so you could watch a real shooter.
Dante played ball overseas for six or seven seasons; he's slick with both the rock and his mouth. Some cats say, Watch it, man, to newcomers, dude will beat you two times. Then they sit back and clown those who brush off their warning:

Told ya, dawg. Didn't I tell him, Big J, when he walked his sorry ass in here?

Yeah, I heard it, OP. I was sitting right there when you said it.

Dante's skin shines black as night, and his hair is scarecrow wild. The devil's growth fingers out from his chin.

Sticky skips a bounce pass to Dante, who pats it around his back a little, through his legs some, close to the ground with his tips like a magician, and then fires up a twenty-five-footer that nestles in the gut of the net. You see how I play the strings, young Stick? He laughs a little and nods his head: Just like that, baby boy. That's string music.

Dante struts off the court with hip-hop rhythm, brushes past a businessman (who's stopped in to watch these black guys play: arms folded, subtle smile) and lies down near the bleachers to stretch his thirty-seven-year-old back.

This is Lincoln Rec on a Thursday, midsummer.

It's the best place in L.A. to ball. Some sports mag even did a cover story about it a few years back. Gym manager Jimmy's gold-tooth smile spread right across pages seventy-two and seventy-three. The article talked about how one court houses the homeless and the other accommodates the fearless. How Michael Cage sometimes shows up. Cliff Levingston. Eddie Johnson. Bill Walton was quoted saying: "It's the sweetest run in all of Southern California." The gym is in the middle of a pretty good-sized park, adjacent to some museums and business offices. The place gets so dark that when you've been in there a while and you go to peek your head outside to check your car, your eyes freeze up and hide like you've just stared in the sun.

Games go to eleven straight up. No win by two here. Fouls are called by the offense. The ball they use is dead weight. The leather has soaked up so much sweat from so many different dudes over the years, it takes a lot of legs just to get it up to the rim.

Other than that, there's a constant sour smell in the air, a no dunking sign that nobody pays attention to, and an unwritten rule that all who step foot through the gym doors with the intention of getting on the court better come with their A-game.

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Ball Don't Lie 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book Ball dont lie was a great book. I loved this book and could not put it down because it was about the sport I play. It is not for younger children. I'd suggest it for middle schoolers that like action and sport. this is a realistic fiction book. The characters come to life in the inner cities and all they do is play basketball.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great book. The best part about it is the plot. Its one of those suspenceful books that just makes you want to keep reading and reading and you dont want to stop but eventually you have to. This book is also aspecially good if you like anything about basketball because its a basketball book. You honestly dont even need to like basketball to read this book, if your in to reading about children that have a rough life at home and about how life is actually on the streets this is a great selection for you. This book is about this kid named Sticky just your average normal kid in the wrong part of the neighborhood. The bad part is...thats his home, the neighborhood. he has no where to call HOME,he gets abussed by a group of pimps everyday and he's a foster kid with a prostitute mother so he basically just keeps bouncing from one fostor family to the next because he cant fine anything secure...he doesnt have the greatest life in the world. Beside from that this kid can ball, hes a really good baller and that could be the solution to him getting out of the neighborhood. Might I mention that he is in an all black community and he is definatly showin them up. He is the only white kid in his community so is the outcast. But the fact was he was able to ball with these kids and he was good. The problem with him not getting reconized by people is because of the neighborhood he lives in and the community. No one wants to go out to that area to look for basketball players because their afraid. I definatly recomend this book to everyone...especially people that like to read about that sort of stuff. Maybe that one day will come for Stick and he'll be able to get out, read the book to find out!
edspicer on LibraryThing 6 days ago
If there is a sports book that can crack the award circles this year, Ball Don¿t Lie is the one. Matt de la Pena has written a lyrical book about a cast off teen, Sticky, who doesn¿t seem to fit anywhere. He¿s a white basketball player in a mostly black neighborhood. He¿s a foster kid alone on the street. Abused. Busted (petty vandalism). Sticky¿s got game (and that¿s about it). Sticky¿s voice is a masterpiece. We hear a troubled, insecure soul trying to dribble away huge problems¿ problems that may well land him in jail or worse.Sticky does what he does every day. He stands on the free-throw line with his ball. Simple as that. It doesn¿t matter who says what to him, if a ball caroms out his way, or nothing: He¿s not moving. He puts his rock between his knees, and goes to tuck his shirt in. Pulls his shirt back out and retucks. Pulls it out and retucks. Ball between his knees, watching everybody shoot warm-up jumpers. Pulls out and retucks. Pulls out and retucks¿.He¿s seventeen and white; these guys are men. (p.5)Sticky spits on his right hand, watching. Lifts his right foot up and wipes the dust off his sole. Spits and wipes. Spits and wipes. He¿s watching Dallas handle Crazy Ray, but he¿s thinking about that smooth-looking gold bracelet. Figuring out the different ways he can go about snatching it. Trying to picture Anh-thu¿s face when he drops it on her tonight. Never thought he¿d actually be excited to get a girl a gift. But Anh-thu¿s different. Anh-thu¿s his lady.He spits again and wipes his right sole. Spits and wipes. Does the same thing again and again and then starts in on the left. Spits and wipes.Spits and wipes.Spits and wipes. (p. 14)As Sticky ties and reties and ties his laces, we find ourselves slowly and steadily and loudly clapping ,cheering, and standing up for this unlikely hero¿as loud and long as his pals at Lincoln Rec. This book reads like hip-hop, but it will win over even the most non-hip readers.
shannonseglin on LibraryThing 12 days ago
at white boy can ball¿.He don't play like no regular white boy. Sticky, 17, has spent his life being abused by pimps living with his prostitute mother, bouncing from one foster home to another, and living on the street between failed placements. But he's developed incredible hoop skills that have given him considerable social standing among his mostly black peers. And he gets a girlfriend named Anh-thu, who loves him and wants to help him reach his dreams. Sticky sees basketball as his way out of his dead-end life and is determined to make the right moves in the game to attain his goal. But he doesn't quite know how to make the right moves in his life, until a bad decision leads him to confront dark secrets.
Mckenzie_N More than 1 year ago
The book Ball Don't Lie by Mat t de la Pena, published by Random House Children's Books in 2005, seems like it takes place present day. It was a very unique and realistic book, even for it being fiction. A lot of teens can relate to the main character, Sticky, also known as Travis Reichard. He was a young kid, hopping around from one foster home to another throughout the area of Santa Monica, California. Always quiet and keeping to himself.  As many children, teens, and even adults, he had a big dream. He wanted nothing more than to make it big in the NBA, basket ball was his life.  Sticky grew up with a mother who was in the prostitution business and her boyfriend who was abusive. Money was always tough for them, so Sitcky's mother would stick him on a busy street in dirty clothes with sign, begging for change. One day, when Stick was out with his bowl for change, he would sit there and take the change out. Toss it back in. Take it out, and repeat until it sounded right. He ended up being OCD, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Growing up, he focused a lot on basket ball. It was his life, his world revolved around it, "Cause it's all I got in my life, you know? Playin ball. It's all I got in the whole world." (pg.69) Having obsession compulsion disorder, only made him better at the came because he spent so much time perfecting every play he made. There was more to the story besides the game, there was love too. It was a really special thing that him and his girl, Annie (Anh-thu) had together. It was an instant connection, it's not everyday you walk into a store to steal some pants, and instead walk out with someone holding your heart. She supported him 100%, attending all his games, even the play-off's. Everyday, Sticky's life was changing and he was growing, and so was his game. The pick-up games he played in at the Lincoln Rec court with the older guys for fun, just built him up more. He believed the God was going to get him into the NBA, it was his plan for him. He believed it too.  This book taught me a lot, it showed me that no matter what kind of life style you come from, or how bad your past is, as long as you stay focused and have the drive to go for your dream you have a chance. Sometimes, something good can come out of something bad. You just have to be open minded and not dwell on things that will only bring you down. Focus on what your good at and what makes you happy, that's how you get by in life, just like Sticky did. He did what he knew best and what made him happy. All in all, it was a nice book. I'm not really into third person writing, and it confused me at times when it jumps from the past to the present, but it was very good. I would recommend this book to anyone with a love of basket ball or even any sport, or someone who's going through a similar process Sticky did. Moving around from place to place, never having the money, things that a lot of teens go through having a hard life. There's always hope.
Marshall_Edmunds More than 1 year ago
When starting this book, I was very interested in the story of Sticky and the other ballers at the Lincoln Rec. Excited to read the hardships and deep stories, I dove into the book with high. It didn’t keep my attention, seemed predictable and was not as interesting as I had thought. The plot also seemed like it had been written before. Sticky seemed almost predictable at times. With all of his problems, none of them seemed real and the story just couldn’t draw me in. Characters seemed only paper deep and couldn’t create a picture in my head of who they were and how they acted. Maybe it was my lack of sympathy or just the story went over my head, but when I read, the story couldn’t pull me in. I would honestly only recommend this book to children under 15. Any age over that, nobody would enjoy the fake storyline.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are the type of person that like to see the development of plot, the advancement of the lives of many people, ports, and drama, then you'll love Ball Don't Lie. The book's first few chapters give a very thorough description of the characters' lives. The description is so thorough, that you will feel as though you've lived that life yourself. The title stood out to me and drew my attention by the fact that I love basketball, and I automatically knew it was about basketball. Anyone can relate to the events that takes place in the book. No matter if they were sad, happy, frightening or even fear, you can relate, or even feel the emotion. The book doesn't perplex you, and has a great significant message.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AlexD14 More than 1 year ago
An interesting story of a boy dedicated to the sport of basketball. His tough life in the inner-city helps him understand that he doesn't need to be like everyone else. Especially when it comes to basketball. The author's details about the basketball games make you feel like you're actually playing the game. The story started slowly but once it got into the games it became more interesting to read. If you like basketball, you will like this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you like basketball I think you would love this book.Everthing is written almost perfect the way he gives complete detail of the main characters and the game of basketball he really helps you get into the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mr. De La Pena was once my english/writing teacher, and when he recommended this book to me, I read it from cover to back hundreds of times and I still like it!
calogero More than 1 year ago
i like the book alot since it from the period of the early 2000s and the setting is in california my home state.... the story itsef is easy follow none of that looking up the dictionary for every word....highly reccomended.