‘Heaven is a Playground’
Although Davis compliments “Heaven Is a Playground” as “very historically significant” and a “really fun read,” he undersells the reverence basketball fans still have for this nonfiction account of street basketball in 1974. Written before cell phones, disposable cameras, and cable television, ‘Heaven is a Playground’ captures the timeless romance felt by anyone who has ever played basketball.
Telander experiences the emotional pulls of the game firsthand, thrusting himself into the pickup scene and the story. In 1974, he intended to spend a few days reporting a magazine piece on the court wizards of Brooklyn’s Foster Park. He ended up staying the entire summer, becoming part of the players’ lives and eventually the coach of a ragtag bunch known as the Subway Stars. Telander offers dazzling descriptions of the on-court play and reveals the tireless efforts of one promoter-hustler-benefactor to get these kids a chance at a college education.
Davis admires the way Telander gets readers to identify with the players. “Why do some guys who have talent to go far in the game don’t make it and then others do? ” he asks rhetorically. “That’s not just a basketball question. . . . I think he just really caught the zeitgeist.”
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