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Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association

1 rating: 3.0
A book by Terry Pluto

Pluto, sports journalist for the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal , coauthored such bestsellers as Forty-Eight Minutes , with Bob Ryan, and Tark , with Jerry Tarkanian. This time, however, he will disappoint his readers. The story of the ABA--which lasted … see full wiki

Tags: Book
Author: Terry Pluto
Genre: Sports
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
1 review about Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the...

Shooting from 3-point land

  • Jul 6, 2009
Rating:
+3
Most sports fans who remember the 70's vaguely remember that Doctor J and Moses Malone had played most of their careers somewhere else before leading the Philadelphia 76ers to an NBA championship. That "somewhere else" was the ABA - the home of the 3-point line, the red-white-and-blue ball--and a cast of crazies who really weren't ready for prime time.

Pluto conducted extensive interviews, and rather than write them into a single narrative, instead edited them into an oral history of the league in the words of the owners, coaches, players, agents, and assorted hangers-on. Some names, notably a remarkably young and callow Bob Costas and a too-short but talented guard-turned-coach named Larry Brown, will be known by any sports fan. And then, of course, there's J himself, whose exploits as a young high-flying talent in a wide-open league before age and injuries brought him to earth are worth the price of admission; you will, as several interviewees do, need to seriously assess whether Michael Jordan or Dr J was the better player at their peak.

Then there was the "wild life" promised in the title--player-flakes like Marvin Barnes, Bob Netolicky, and Wendell Ladner (his coach, when someone commented that Ladner didn't know the meaning of the word fear, responded "That's right; of course, he doesn't know the meaning of many other words, either."); franchises like Pittsburgh (that won the inaugural ABA championship, then moved to Minnesota the next year before returning to Pittsburgh for three more years of badly-played basketball before folding) and Miami (whose two brief years of existence are best remembered for the even briefer costumes of the ball girls who were the main attraction for the small crowds).

While there is plenty of laugh-worthy insanity and horrible business sense here to make a movie out of it (Will Ferrell vehicle Semi-Pro - Unrated (Two-Disc "Let's Get Sweaty" Edition)), there was also enough good basketball and human decency here to make a league that lasted nearly a decade and gave us Dr. J, George Gervin, Moses Malone, and the 3-point line (and probably deserved a better movie). Fun trip through recent history.

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