Saturday, March 30, 2013

the last book I ever read (Bill Bradley's Life on the Run, excerpt seven)

from Life on the Run by Bill Bradley:

Milwaukee gets the tip. Oscar Robertson passes to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who hits a drifting hook shot from the middle of the lane. Oscar hits a jumper and passes for three more. Milwaukee takes a 10-to-2 lead. They are running well.

Oscar and Kareem, the old and the young, make Milwaukee a devastating team. Kareem’s calmness engulfs opponents. With a beard covering his face and his alert eyes darting back and forth across the court, he looks like a member of some royal family. He does things on a basketball court that are truly astounding. At 7’3”, he is as graceful as any player in basketball. In one game, I saw him grab a rebound two feet over the basket, dribble the full length of the floor ending with one dribble behind the back, leap from about the foul line, and dunk it. He does not have the massive bulk of Wilt Chamberlain or the coiled reflexes of Bill Russell; but he seems to be flying effortlessly, giving and taking at his whim.

Oscar’s play has been my model since I was in high school, when I saw him play against St. Louis University. He never wastes a movement; the form is always perfect. His arm fits under the ball as if its sole function is shooting baskets. The same motion releases the ball in the same manner every time. The Robertson body fake frees him time after time for the short jump shot. He dribbles at you slowly, then fakes right with his head, shoulders, and arms. His man jumps right, and he brings his body back left for a clear shot or drive to the basket. His passes are crisp and pinpointed. He is unselfish with the ball but demands that the game be played properly—his way.

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