The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and the Golden Age of Basketball

The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and the Golden Age of Basketball

by John Taylor
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The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and the Golden Age of Basketball by John Taylor


In the mid-1950s, the NBA was a mere barnstorming circuit, with outposts in such cities as Rochester, New York, and Fort Wayne, Indiana. Most of the best players were white; the set shot and layup were the sport’s chief offensive weapons. But by the 1970s, the league ruled America’s biggest media markets; contests attracted capacity crowds and national prime-time television audiences. The game was played “above the rim”–and the most marketable of its high-flying stars were black. The credit for this remarkable transformation largely goes to two giants: Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.

In The Rivalry, award-winning journalist John Taylor projects the stories of Russell, Chamberlain, and other stars from the NBA’s golden age onto a backdrop of racial tensions and cultural change. Taylor’s electrifying account of two complex men–as well as of a game and a country at a crossroads–is an epic narrative of sports in America during the 1960s.

It’s hard to imagine two characters better suited to leading roles in the NBA saga: Chamberlain was cast as the athletically gifted yet mercurial titan, while Russell played the role of the stalwart centerpiece of the Boston Celtics dynasty. Taylor delves beneath these stereotypes, detailing how the two opposed and complemented each other and how they revolutionized the way the game was played and perceived by fans.

Competing with and against such heroes as Jerry West, Tom Heinsohn, Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, and Elgin Baylor, and playing for the two greatest coaches of the era, Alex Hannum and the fiery Red Auerbach, Chamberlain and Russell propelled the NBA into the spotlight. But their off-court visibility and success–to say nothing of their candor–also inflamed passions along America’s racial and generational fault lines. In many ways, Russell and Chamberlain helped make the NBA and, to some extent, America what they are today.

Filled with dramatic conflicts and some of the great moments in sports history, and building to a thrilling climax–the 1969 final series, the last showdown between Russell and Chamberlain–The Rivalry has at its core a philosophical question: Can determination and a team ethos, embodied by the ultimate team player, Bill Russell, trump sheer talent, embodied by Wilt Chamberlain?

Gripping, insightful, and utterly compelling, the story of Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain is the stuff of sporting legend. Written with a reporter’s unerring command of events and a storyteller’s flair, The Rivalry will take its place as one of the classic works of sports history.

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400061143
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/11/2005
Pages: 432
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

John Taylor, a journalist for more than two decades, has been a contributing editor at New York magazine and a senior writer for Esquire. He is the author of four books, including, most recently, The Count and the Confession, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Falling, which Entertainment Weekly ranked as one of the five best nonfiction books of 1999. He lives in East Moriches, New York, with his wife, Jeannette Walls.

From the Hardcover edition.

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The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and the Golden Age of Basketball 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
pussydestroyer69 More than 1 year ago
honestly i jack off to this book
DianeZ More than 1 year ago
This was one of the best, if not the best, sports book I have ever read. Not only did I get an in-depth portrait of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, but also of every other great basketball player and coach who had a part in that era. I felt like I was coming into contact with a lot of old friends I had not seen in a long time. It is well written and hard to put down once you start it. Fascinating book - highly recommended!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The psychology of conflict has been at the core of all of John Taylor's books, but he believes The Rivalry was different. ¿I soon became convinced that it also had the form of a classical epic, beginning in 1959, building through various reversals and shifting alliances over a ten-year-period, and reaching a climax in the last minutes of the 1969 finals.' No two players in NBA history better epitomize the two different approaches to the pro game than William Felton Russell and Norman Wilton Chamberlain. But while Taylor's latest work centers (pun intended) on two of the greatest bballers in NBA history, this book isn't your typical slam-jam basketball biography. It's a finely crafted historical chronicle showcasing the fledgling days of the National Basketball Association, circa today¿s tattoo-flaunting, hip-hop happy hoopsters and multi-million dollar play palaces. His narrative provides vivid eyewitness accounts of an NBA that played fourth fiddle to other sports, and where games were often played in front of vegetable throwing crowds that would make the Throwdown in Motown seem like a summer camp pillow fight. Off the court, the main subjects of the book were as different as the revolutionizing way they played the game. Russell was reserved, introverted ¿ some said surly. Chamberlain was flashy, outgoing and tried more coaches¿ patience than a roster full of Portland Trailblazers. Taylor¿s riveting narrative style and thorough historical research make The Rivalry a classic sports work deserving of space alongside Plimpton, Feinstein and Halberstam.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wilts the best
Anonymous More than 1 year ago