“The Breaks of the Game” by David Halberstam

I do not usually read a lot of sports books, but this one was given to me by a friend.  It revolves around the Portland Trailblazers, post their championship team.  But though the Blazers are central to the story it is really a book about how the NBA was changing at the time.   When I first started following the NBA the Blazers championship was one of my first memories, but what Halberstam manages to weave throughout the book was not just what happened to the Trailblazers post championship, but what was happening to the NBA.

There are many figures in the book, which are covered in detail.  It covers all the legendary players in Portland – Bill Walton, Maurice Lucas, Bobby Gross, David Twardzik, Lionel Hollins, Lloyd Neal, etc…A central figure of course is Dr Jack Ramsey and what at times seems eternal hope for another successful season that finishes with a run for the title, just like it had before.  The Portland team and organization is central to the book and the 1979 season.  How  they are woven in is brilliant story telling.

In a lot of ways this is a sad book.  You watch what happened to Portland following the title, you see a bunch of young men who knew not what they had, until it was gone.  So much of what happened to Portland was bad luck, bad timing.   Bill Walton had one healthy year. They could have signed as his back-up, Moses Malone, but they were cheap.  Players become disgruntled with their contracts.  The owner stuck in what would become the past, a contract is a contract, no renegotiations.  Some players with immense talent who never reached their potential.  It even touched on the challenges with the beloved Seattle Supersonics (whom David Stern condemned to hell)

Then there is the writing of David Halberstam.  The way the Halberstam weaves the story between the history of players,the frustration of the Portland team following the championship.  He manages to pull in some of the players in the rest the NBA such as Marvin Barnes, Moses Malone, and Sydney Wicks to name but a few.  You also feel the dawn of the Bird/Magic era.  The state of the NBA as a “black” players league.  The TV contracts, etc..The bottom line is Mr. Halberstam can flat-out write.  It is a shame we lost him too early, but he left a lot of books for us to read and if say you are an NBA fan I won’t take you seriously unless you have read this book.

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann June 20, 2013

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