Friday, August 17, 2012

The Olympics Unshelved: Basketball

For our very last Olympic Friday, Pat takes on Basketball and the Dream Team! 
Dream Team 1992 or Dream Team 2012?  When Kobe opened his mouth and made the (obviously impossible to prove) claim that the 2012 U.S. Olympic men's basketball team would beat the 1992 Dream Team of Michael, Magic, Larry and company, everybody had an opinion.  

Because not only do we love to watch sports, we love to talk about sports. We love to argue about sports. Team Edward or Team Jacob? Small potatoes compared to Team Carolina or Team Duke (Go Heels!).  Red Sox or Yankees?  Celtics or Lakers? Ohio State or Michigan?  Real Madrid or Barcelona?  True fans love to get all worked up over this stuff.

And we love to read about sports when we're not watching or talking about our favorite teams.  To get you in the mood for what we hope and expect will be dominant, gold-medal performances by both the men's and women's U.S. Olympic basketball teams, here are a few all-star book recommendations.

It's not the Olympics, but the NCAA's March Madness that sets the stage for The Final Four by Paul Volponi. Malcolm McBride is a super-talented, brash, outspoken freshman guard for the Michigan State Spartans.  He's only playing in college because of the NBA rule that requires high school players to wait one year after graduation before entering the league. After growing up dirt poor on the mean streets of Detroit, all  Malcolm wants is to get to the NBA so he can earn money to help his family.  He generates significant press with his comments that the NCAA, the universities, and television networks are making obscene amounts of money on the backs of young college players.
Facing the Spartans are the Troy University Trojans, a Cinderella team that fought its way  into the semi-final game.  Led by Roko "Red Bull"  Bacic, an emerging pro prospect from Croatia, the Trojans want to prove that they are the real deal.  

The Final Four is packed with great basketball action and keen insights into the minds and lives of the players on the hardwood. Trojans or Spartans? Who will win? You may just find yourself cheering for all these great characters.

In Boost by Kathy Mackel, 13-year-old Savvy Christopher has a sweet three-point shot.  She's six foot two and still growing.  After moving  to a new town, even though she's not yet in high school, Savvy makes the elite18-and-under team.  The competition is fierce, but she is that good, working hard and pushing herself to excel.  But when steroids are discovered in Savvy's gym bag on a tip from a rival player,  Savvy's world falls apart. Can she convince everyone that she is not using steroids?  Boost takes you into the competitive world of elite young athletes facing enormous pressures.  What will they do for a spot on the team?  What would you do?

Boy 21 by Matthew Quick.  Tough filled with great basketball sequences, this book reaches well beyond the court.  Finley has worked hard all summer for his senior year of basketball.  He's ready to own the team.  Then Coach comes to him with a request to make friends with Russ, a new guy who is supposed to be the hottest player since MJ. A guy that would likely take Finley's spot on the team.  And Russ is strange--he calls himself Boy 21 and claims he's from outer space. For real. How is Finley supposed to deal with that?  And if this guy is supposed to be so good, why won't he pick up a basketball?  There is lots to discover in this gripping book.  Check it out!
Walter Dean Myers, the current Ambassador for Young People's Literature and a prolific author, has written several excellent basketball books. In Game, Drew Lawson's plans to make it at the next level rely solely on basketball, as his grades will not get him there.  But it shouldn't be a problem because he's always been the main man on his Harlem high school team.  But when a new player shows up, a guy with serious game, a white guy, Drew has to decide what kind of a player he really is.  Other titles by Myers that you'll want to check out include All the Right Stuff and Slam!

So that should get you started for London 2012!  Let's go out with Top Ten highlights from that 1992 Dream Team.  And try to hang on until you see number one.  Unbelievable!  Go U.S.A.!

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