Sunday, June 17, 2007
Can I Keep My Jersey?
Paul Shirley's basketball memoir is subtitled "11 Teams, 5 Countries, and 4 Years in My Life as a Basketball Vagabond." I was particularly interested in reading his account of his basketball career because he was a benchwarmer for the Phoenix Suns a couple years ago, writing a blog for the Arizona Republic. I read the blog while he was here, and followed his accounts of his time with the Suns.
Shirley is an intellectual 6'10" player who often found himself on the outside looking in, even when he was part of a team. And, which teams? He went to the Lakers training camp after graduating from Iowa State, but that was as far as he went with them. Over four years, he played for teams in Greece, Spain, and Russia. He was a player on minor league teams that traveled the United States, playing under abysmal conditions. For a short time, he played with the Chicago Bulls, until he had a bizarre injury. His longest stint with any team was his time spent with the Phoenix Suns, seven months. He does have positive comments about the Suns' style of play, but he has few other positive comments about his years in basketball.
Paul Shirley admits he is "cynical, judgmental and sarcastic," and all of those attitudes come across in his basketball memoir. For anyone wondering what life is like in the world of professional sports, Shirley's account is not a glamorous story. It's probably a very realistic view of the life of any player who doesn't attain star status, but remains a journeyman. For an outsider, it appears to be a lonely, sad life.
Can I Keep My Jersey? by Paul Shirley. Villard, ©2007. ISBN 978-0345491367 (hardcover), 326p.