Starting is always the most difficult part of getting done. You see that the lawn needs to be mowed and what do you do? You look around you for a quick excuse not to mow the lawn. Maybe there's a magazine article you wanted to read or a chair that needed a leg put back on. Anything to avoid walking a mower back and forth for an hour in 95 degree heat, with the possibility of running over a wasps nest and getting stung forty times.
It's no different starting this book - my first. I could easily go outside and play some basketball for two hours, excusing my truancy by saying, "I was thinking about what to write." That would be a lot easier than facing the heat of actually having to write something down on paper. I might write something stupid and get stung by the critics or, even worse, by all the publishers in the U.S.
But if someone other than a publisher is reading this, that means that someone influential understood and liked what I have to say. (Well, maybe not.) Maybe they even thought it was important and revolutionary. Then again, maybe they only thought that they could make a quick and easy buck by publishing some nineteen-year-old kid's thoughts on basketball.
A lot of hard work has been done to get this far - three paragraphs - into the book. Three years of off-and-on research, involving coming home at 5:30 from a summer job, sitting down at the dining room table with books, tables of statistics, paper, pen, and a calculator, then working until midnight. During the school year, research time was any time in between physics, chemistry, math, introductory engineering classes, and philosophy that wasn't taken up by basketball practice or sleep.
Many times, segregation of such a schedule was impossible as there were many physics quizzes that had notes written on them like: "Is the three pointer hurting the offenses of the NBA? Check development since '80." In the back of one of those blue test booklets used to take a math final, there are workings of a study to determine why Kareem Abdul-Jabaar has stayed in the league the past five years despite low rebound and blocked shot totals. In the corner of an environmental engineering homework assignment, there's a scribble with only a few legible words: "Fat Lever...triple double figure from James' power-speed number." Doing homework with a Lakers' game on the radio often produced notes concerning whether Isiah Thomas should have been traded for Ralph Sampson or whether Rolando Blackman really was one of the best shooting guards in the NBA.
The questions about basketball dealt with in this book are questions that can be approached from a mathematical/scientific perspective, which is my background. Questions about where Xavier McDaniel gets his hair cut or whether Frank Layden coaches Little League Baseball over the summer, while they may have interesting answers, are questions I can't yet answer because I have neither the contacts nor an appropriate reason to butt into the personal lives of people I don't know personally. The experience I do have around NBA players has come from watching them play pick-up games and, though I may have learned something about their personal lives there, it is more my concern to deal with their basketball habits, especially how they see the game or how they get to be so good at what they do.
Anyone familiar with Bill James' Baseball Abstract should find this book to be similar in method (and perhaps style) because it was James' yearly Abstracts that inspired this effort. Anyone unfamiliar with James' work should find The Basketball Hoopla to be an eye-opening and unique look at the why's and how's of NBA Basketball.
Basketball Hoopla, © 1988, L. Dean Oliver