As he did for another larger-than-life sports star whose achievements in his game were always shadowed by his demons outside of it, Kriegel (Namath) offers a rounded, insightful look at one of basketball's enigmatic icons. Kriegel presents Pete Maravich (1947–1988) as a "child prodigy, prodigal son, his father's ransom in a Faustian bargain." His father, Press Maravich, was the poor son of Serbian immigrants to Pennsylvania, a man obsessed with basketball as a means of personal and financial redemption. His rise as a coach loomed over Pete, who described himself as a boy as "a basketball android." A veteran sportswriter, Kriegel is more than up to the task of eliciting Pete's on-court greatness and describing basketball action in a fluid, dramatic fashion (Pete's deadeye shot earned him the nickname "Pistol"). But the book is more notable for how Kriegel evokes Press's support turning into suffocation, and the effect of the impossible expectations on Pete (he played for Louisiana State, then later for the New Orleans Jazz). In the end, Kriegel's portrait is a sad celebration of a gifted player whose collegiate legend never quite blossomed into professional greatness as he battled alcoholism, sought solace in religion and left a troubled legacy that's still felt by his children and those who knew him. (Feb.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
This reviewer was a young child when "Pistol" Pete Maravich (1947–88) was performing his awe-inspiring exploits on the college hardwood. Reading Pistolwill surely bring back memories among his fans and, for younger readers who know too little of this man who predated rampant TV sports programming, this is also an essential read. His amazing 44.2 points per game—before the three-point era—at Louisiana State University is still an NCAA record. His nickname was owing to his unerring aim at the basket as well as in passing. Maravich's professional career (1970–80) with the Hawks, Jazz, and Celtics included five All-Star appearances and was followed by induction into the NBA Hall of Fame in 1987. Kriegel (former sports columnist, New York Daily News; Namath) not only provides a wonderful evocation of the basketball life of Maravich, but he also gives readers a delightfully written biography. Included are important stories about Maravich's relationship with his driven father, "Press" Maravich, a Serbian immigrant to the United States who lived to coach basketball (including his son at LSU), and the sad story of the athlete's decline. Readers of all ages, sports fans or not, will thoroughly appreciate this book. Highly recommended for all libraries.
By Daniel Lombardo, formerly with Jones Lib., Amherst, MA
The bittersweet tale of Pistol Pete, one of basketball's most talented and tragic legends. Pete Maravich, born in 1947, was groomed from birth to be the best basketball player of all time. His father, Press, was his coach and taskmaster; the pair functioned as extensions of each other. Kriegel (Namath, 2004) begins by expounding at length on Press's hardscrabble youth, when basketball became his salvation and his life. Press imbued his son with every ounce of his ambition. It didn't take long for Pete, fanatical about perfecting every drill he was taught, to display an almost preternatural affinity for basketball. Pistol Pete integrated flawless fundamentals with showy moves. As his legend grew and he became the "great white hope" of the NBA, the weight of expectations crushed his free spirit, which was further battered by his mother's 1974 suicide. His thin frame began to break down, and old-school coaches who didn't appreciate Pete's talent lessened his competitive fire. He sought comfort in everything from alcohol to belief in extraterrestrials. Despite spurts of brilliance and a reputation as one of the most talented players of all time, he walked away from the NBA in 1980, after ten seasons, with no championship ring. He would find happiness in Jesus and his family until a heart attack during a pickup match ended his life at the age of 40. Kriegel occasionally lingers too long on Press, but his son emerges in this compelling, nuanced account as a man both talented and complex. Sure to send readers in search of the highlight reel.
"I grew up possessed by the legend of 'Pistol' Pete Maravich. I've marveled at the supernatural skills of Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Jerry West, Kobe Bryant all of them were greater basketball players than the 'Pistol'. Yet none of them could touch the magical, otherworldly qualities he brought to the court, the genius and wizardry and breathtaking creativity. He could light up a crowd like a match set to gasoline. His game was lordly, inimitable and he should have been the greatest player to ever play the game. This great book by Mark Kriegel will explain why he was not. I never saw a greater or more electrifying basketball player and the 'Pistol's' is one of the saddest stories ever told. What a book!"
Pat Conroy, bestselling author of My Losing Season and The Prince of Tides
"Pistol is a classic American tale wonderfully told. With deep research and a vivid narrative style, Mark Kriegel brings us the joy and sorrow of Pete Maravich, an inimitable basketball player who was both timeless and before his time, an original talent haunted by demons his father's and his own."
David Maraniss, author of Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero
"Pistol is not just a biography of a transcendent, doomed athlete; it is a mesmerizing tale of a striving, grasping American family as dramatic as myth, of a father and son as intertwined as Daedalus and Icarus. Kriegel has written the rarest of sports books: a fast-paced, through-the-night page-turner. This isn't a slam dunk, it's a tomahawk glass-shatterer. Pistol is nothing but sensational."
Rick Telander, author of Heaven Is a Playground and senior sports columnist, Chicago Sun-Times
"Pistol Pete's moves on the basketball court defied the laws of physics. He did things you can't even film. He deserves a biographer with magic powers of his own, and he's found one in Mark Kriegel."
Will Blythe, author of To Hate Like This Is to Be Happy Forever
"This is the best sports book I've read in years. The research, the writing, the pace it's All-Pro material."
Terry Pluto, The Akron Beacon Journal
"Mark Kriegel has written the sport's bio equivalent of Maravich on a fast break: dazzling and smart, and, even at 381 pages, over before you knew it."
The Wall Street Journal
"Pistol skillfully pulls off the balancing act required of good sports biography. It plays large historical forces (segregation, the rise of televised sports) against the individual magic of its subject." New York Magazine
"A remarkable book that is the best researched biography yet of this revolutionary basketball player." The Raleigh News and Observer
"Like the best journalists, Kriegel has the ability to get out of the way and let a good story tell itself." The Atlanta Journal Constitution
"Pistol is a beautifully written book that captures the soul and inner turmoil of this son and father." The Tennessean