By Terri Schlichenmeyer
A little less than two feet.
That’s how far you can get your two feet off the floor if you’re an average kid doing an average vertical jump. Not quite twenty-four inches, but don’t worry: the taller you grow, the higher you could be able to jump. Practice some, dribble a little, shoot more three-pointers, and you might jump right into a book like “Who Got Game? Basketball” by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Jez Tuya.
Here we are, football season’s almost over, and your mind has turned to other things – namely, hoops set high over your head, and a round bouncy basketball. Kids like you who “got game” have had it for more than a century. Yes, the game of basketball was created by Dr. James Naismith in 1891 in Massachusetts.
In the years since, basketball has changed a lot, thanks to what Derrick Barnes calls “pioneers.” Julius “Dr. J” Erving improved the dunk. Before that, in 1950, the NBA first allowed Black basketball players on the teams. There have been super-tall players (Manute Bol and Gheorghe Muregan were both seven feet, seven tall) and smaller b-ballers – five-three Muggsy Bogues had a vertical jump of nearly four feet! – and just two years after the game was invented, America had its first women’s team.
A lot of off-court people poured themselves into the game, too. Barnes writes, for example, about Pat Summitt, hoopster, leader, and “one of the greatest coaches in all of sports history.” Her record of 1,098 wins ranks her at first-place in coaching women’s basketball, and as the coach with the second-most wins overall.
You can probably guess that in a book about buckets, there are bucketfuls of stats. Barnes includes a list of NBA players who jumped to a team right out of high school. He writes about the greatest basketball park ever, he explains why winners cut down the net, how Title IX changed the game, why backboards rarely break into a zillion pieces anymore, high scores, bad injuries, “hoops movies,” and where in the world you can pick up a game today.
So your 9-to-13-year-old loves basketball so much that they dribble a ball in their sleep? They think their favorite jersey is church-wear? Then you’ll be the hero of the day when you bring home “Who Got Game? Basketball.”
But first, there’s one big thing you need to know: this is not a how-to book. There aren’t any instructions inside here, no rules or plays to follow. Instead, author Derrick Barnes makes young b-ballers happy by sharing little-known info about the game they love so much, short lists, great stories about great players, wins and losses, and phrases they should know to talk the talk. All this knowledge is supported by colorful illustrations by Jez Tuya that kids will enjoy alongside the facts.
This book is for die-hard young b-ballers, but don’t be surprised if an adult finds a thing or two to learn here. “Who Got Game? Basketball” is a book any fan will want to jump on.