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The Soul of Basketball
Cover of The Soul of Basketball
The Soul of Basketball
The Epic Showdown Between LeBron, Kobe, Doc, and Dirk That Saved the NBA

The Soul of Basketball tells the story of an NBA prodigy, his league and their sport in the throes of crisis during the pivotal 2010-11 season. It began with The Decision, that infamous televised moment when uber-star LeBron James revealed that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers – thereby distancing himself from his role model Michael Jordan – to pursue his first championship with his former opponents on the Miami Heat.
To the great fortune of LeBron, the NBA and basketball itself, the mission didn't work out as planned. In the cultural tradition of Moneyball and Friday Night Lights, veteran NBA writer Ian Thomsen portrays the NBA as a self-correcting society in which young LeBron is forced to absorb hard truths inflicted by his rivals Kobe Bryant, Doc Rivers and Dirk Nowitzki, in addition to lessons set forth by Pat Riley, Gregg Popovich, Larry Bird, David Stern, Joey Crawford and many more.
This is about the making of a champion. Brimming with inside access, The Soul of Basketball tells the inspiring story of LeBron's loneliest year, insecure and uncertain, when his ultimate foe was an unlikely immigrant who renewed the American game's ideals. From Miami to Boston, Los Angeles to Dallas, Germany to the NBA's Manhattan headquarters, the biggest names in basketball are driven by something more valuable than money and fame – a quest that will pave the way for Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and future generations to thrive.

The Soul of Basketball tells the story of an NBA prodigy, his league and their sport in the throes of crisis during the pivotal 2010-11 season. It began with The Decision, that infamous televised moment when uber-star LeBron James revealed that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers – thereby distancing himself from his role model Michael Jordan – to pursue his first championship with his former opponents on the Miami Heat.
To the great fortune of LeBron, the NBA and basketball itself, the mission didn't work out as planned. In the cultural tradition of Moneyball and Friday Night Lights, veteran NBA writer Ian Thomsen portrays the NBA as a self-correcting society in which young LeBron is forced to absorb hard truths inflicted by his rivals Kobe Bryant, Doc Rivers and Dirk Nowitzki, in addition to lessons set forth by Pat Riley, Gregg Popovich, Larry Bird, David Stern, Joey Crawford and many more.
This is about the making of a champion. Brimming with inside access, The Soul of Basketball tells the inspiring story of LeBron's loneliest year, insecure and uncertain, when his ultimate foe was an unlikely immigrant who renewed the American game's ideals. From Miami to Boston, Los Angeles to Dallas, Germany to the NBA's Manhattan headquarters, the biggest names in basketball are driven by something more valuable than money and fame – a quest that will pave the way for Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and future generations to thrive.

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About the Author-
  • IAN THOMSEN is a special contributor to NBA.com and has been writing about sports in America and around the world for three decades on behalf of the Boston Globe, the National Sports Daily, the International Herald Tribune, and Sports Illustrated.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 12, 2018
    Through an array of profiles, NBA.com contributor Thomsen insightfully examines the 2010–2011 NBA season, which saw players and coaches negotiating the league’s rise in popularity, massive financial success, and increased marketing savvy. Realizing that the NFL and MLB had “recognized their own symbolism” (“Baseball was peace. Football was war”), the NBA board questioned what its “higher calling” might be. Thomsen focuses on four key players he believed helped, knowingly or not, NBA’s mission. Veteran Celtics coach Doc Rivers tried to maintain his team’s winning team-first tradition in an era when players were more concerned with individual accomplishments; superstar LeBron James turned the scrappy inner-city narrative into unheard-of success, but experienced backlash when he announced on his vanity show The Decision that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat; Kobe Bryant early on emulated Michael Jordan, but because of accusations of sexual assault, instead followed the “controversial path of Jordan’s adversary Isiah Thomas”; and Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki was the underdog who became a star. Thomsen’s ability to get personal, especially with unlikely sources, will hook readers, as when he captures the stoic Larry Bird gushing over LeBron James’s otherworldly skills, proclaiming him “the one guy I could watch play basketball all day long.” By thoughtfully plumbing the NBA’s biggest names, Thomsen offers a fascinating, thorough look at pro basketball’s continuing evolution to becoming the “sport of the American Dream.”

  • Kirkus

    March 1, 2018
    A blow-by-blow account of the 2010-2011 NBA season, which reshaped the face of pro basketball in a flurry of big money.There was no end to the talent assembled when the teams lined up to play out that season, but it had opened on a note that was sour to many ears when LeBron James aired a "curious vanity show" meant to promote his brand and "extend his reach further into the entertainment mainstream." He did that, taking his free agency option to leave his home-state Cleveland Cavaliers and sign on with the Miami Heat. As fans will remember, and as NBA.com contributor Thomsen (Flutie!, 1985) painstakingly reminds us, James was but one of an extraordinary group of free agent players whose movements shook up long-settled lineups. There were Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Bosh, and Amar'e Stoudemire, among many others, joining contract-bound players like Kobe Bryant, who had lately emerged as the league's chief bad guy: "Instead of emulating the likability of [Michael] Jordan, Kobe appeared to be following the controversial path of Jordan's adversary Isaiah Thomas." Everyone wanted to be Jordan, and by moving to Miami, aside from raking in a fat paycheck, James would find himself on a squad whose combined talent was guaranteed to crush all comers. It didn't quite work out like that. Thomsen goes deep behind the scenes into locker rooms, conference rooms, and boardrooms to follow what often amounts to a nonstop clash of egos--and a few friendships, too. Notable was the rancor between old-school owners like Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson and arrivistes like Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. "Whereas his rivals tended to see pro sports as a secretive society of sacred traditions," writes the author, "Cuban viewed the NBA as an entertainment industry that needed to evolve." Evolve it did, and with sometimes unintended consequences.Perhaps not the soul of basketball but certainly the wallet. A fine work of sports journalism and a must for every bookish roundball fan.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    March 15, 2018

    Sports Illustrated writer Thomsen chronicles a year in the NBA, from the Los Angeles Lakers' 2010 championship to the triumph of the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. At the core of the narrative is Lebron James's decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat. Thomsen paints a highly critical portrait of James, who comes across as naive and entitled compared to other basketball superstars. Conversely, Dirk Nowitzki is presented as humble and struggling to integrate into NBA culture as one of the league's first international players. The motivations of James and other players of his generation are contrasted with veterans such as Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett. Thomsen briefly addresses the NBA's business side, including the impact that free agency, the collective bargaining agreement, and the 2011 lockout have had on players and teams. The discussion on officiating, including an interview with former referee Joey Crawford, is the most original content. VERDICT By covering multiple teams, coaches, and players, this work sometimes suffers from a lack of a cohesive narrative. Recommended primarily for die-hard fans of the NBA or the Dallas Mavericks.--Chris Wilkes, Tazewell Cty. P.L., VA

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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The Epic Showdown Between LeBron, Kobe, Doc, and Dirk That Saved the NBA
Ian Thomsen
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