CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 16 . . . . April 14, 2000
If you are a basketball fan, chances are you hold a vivid memory of the first time you laid eyes on a player who was capable of skywalking. Not simply jumping or scoring all professional basketball players can do that but skywalking: soaring and improvising and creating something wonderful out of the smallest sliver of opportunity.Though basketball was invented by a Canadian, the popular myth still exists that most Canadian boys want to grow up to play in the NHL. However, with two National Basketball Association (NBA) franchises operating in Canada and with Victoria, BC's Stephen Nash being selected #15 in the 1996 NBA draft, the nation's youth now have a new dream available to them. Basketball afficionado, Jeff Rud, who is also a sports columnist with the Victoria Times-Colonist and author of Long Shot: Steve Nash's Journey to the NBA, has put together a most readable collected biography of 10 young individuals, including two women, who entered the ranks of professional basketball between 1996 and 1998. Organized alphabetically from Shareef Abdur- Rahim to Dawn Staley, each 15-20 page entry follows the player though his/her initial interest in the sport and shows how s/he progressed through high school and college basketball until being drafted by the NBA or the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). The biographies then go on to examine the players' professional careers through the 1998-99 season. Each entry concludes with a summary of the players' core biographical info, plus college and pro stats and a listing of records/awards. Unlike most nonfiction for YA's, Skywalking identifies the information sources used for each entry, although, unfortunately, not at a level of specificity that would easily allow readers to retrieve them. A 24 page section of captioned, black and white action photographs of the 10 players can be found in the middle of Skywalking.
Rud, who has a lively, engaging writing style which allows the 10 players to emerge as individuals, has selected his subjects well. They come from a variety of backgrounds, and, if the book has a message for adolescents, it is that there is no single path to a professional career in basketball. Two, Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant, jumped directly from high school to professional teams while Tim Duncan came from the Caribbean island of St. Croix and Michael Olowokandi from England. WNBA players Chamique Holdsclaw and Dawn Stanley both began playing basketball in inner-city neighborhoods while Allen Iverson spent four months on a state prison farm. With each player, Rud shows how s/he overcame obstacles in order to play basketball professionally. Of the group, likely Canada's Steve Nash, the Vancouver Grizzlies' Shareef Abdur-Rahim and the Toronto Raptors' Vince Carter will be the names with the highest reader recognition amongst average Canadian youth.
Though hockey books may still dominate the sport shelves, definitely make a place for Skywalking!
Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in YA literature at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.