‘Basketball (and Other Things)’ is a Delightful Synthesis of Hoops and Pop Culture

By Javier Reyes, Staff Writer

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The hardcover of the ‘Basketball (and Other Things)’ by Shea Serrano and illustrated by Arturo Torres.
Photo courtesy of Arturo Torres’s Twitter

In “Basketball (and Other Things): A Collection of Questions Asked, Answered, Illustrated,” author Shea Serrano takes a deep dive into the mechanics of the NBA and basketball as a whole. He does this by answering the most important and outright absurd questions that only the most hardcore of fans would dare to ponder.

The book is divided into 33 chapters, with each chapter serving as the basis for new and profound questions that Serrano seeks to answer. These can be reasonable, grounded questions like “Basketball Court: Who’s More Important to the History of Basketball, Allen Iverson or Dwyane Wade?” that are especially geared towards real NBA junkies.

There is a myriad of unorthodox issues that Serrano tackles in chapters named, “Which NBA Player’s Group Are You Joining if the Purge Begins Tonight?” and “If 1997 Karl Malone and a Bear Swapped Places for a Season, Who Would Be More Successful?” that are on a level of lunacy you can’t help but get invested in.

Arturo Torres’s hysterical illustrations featuring NBA icons ranging from Steve Nash doing a “Rambo” impersonation to Larry Bird shooting a shot in the middle of an ocean while an octopus grabs his leg, contribute to the book’s captivating qualities.

The zany and deranged chapters in Serrano’s book display a distinct personality. Sometimes this can be a detriment to the book’s less insane sections, with some chapters feeling like they’re more casual variations of basketball debates that others have written about more effectively elsewhere. This is not so much a criticism of Serrano as it is of whatever preconceived notions you might have of what a sports book is. You are reading for entertainment more so than concrete facts.

You don’t have to be a huge statistical nerd to enjoy the book. “All you need to know is that whenever a stat gets mentioned somewhere, high numbers are good and low numbers are bad,” writes Serrano.

The book is a fun conversation that incorporates intangible factors rather than the typical stat mumbo-jumbo; with plenty of integral pop culture references infused throughout.

I wouldn’t go so far as to definitively say that the book is intended or approachable for any audience. There’s still plenty of nuance that non-basketball fans might not fully appreciate in certain chapters like “Am I allowed to _______ During Pickup Basketball?” Serrano’s writing style is so endearingly irreverent that any topic can be unique and enjoyable in its own way.

Even if you are not the biggest of basketball fans, Shea Serrano interweaves pop culture into the book in ways that are creative and humorous. You are sure to find something you will enjoy within the book. It’s a counter-culture oddball in the world of sports writing; a cacophony of ideas that draw you into a world of humorous writing and storytelling. “Basketball (and Other Things): A Collection of Questions Asked, Answered, Illustrated,” is one of the most unique sports book you will find.

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