Black Ball: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Spencer Haywood, and the Generation That Saved the Soul of the NBA

Bold Type. Mar. 2023. 368p. . ISBN 9781645036951. $29. SPORTS
The 1970s proved to be an era of impactful professional basketball that gave rise to the modern-day NBA. That’s the story that scholar of African American history Runstedtler (American Univ.; Jack Johnson, Rebel Sojourner: Boxing in the Shadow of the Global Color Line) recounts. The author describes pro basketball in the 1970s as the time when Black players challenged team owners, led the fight for free agency, gained higher salaries, and introduced a new style of playing that incorporated the skills many learned on neighborhood and playground courts. That’s also when legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Spencer Haywood joined the league. Utilizing meticulous research, Runstedtler describes key events that occurred then, such as the antitrust lawsuits of Connie Hawkins, Spencer Haywood, Oscar Robertson, and the players association; the introduction of the dazzling new style of Earl “The Pearl” Monroe; and the advocacy for players by Black pioneers, such as Wayne Embry and Simon Gourdine, who challenged the NBA from within the front office. The book demonstrates that major advances during the 1970s paved the way for basketball greats, such as Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Allen Iverson, and Steph Curry, to name just a few.
VERDICT This is an intriguing and insightful look at pro basketball’s critical historical moments and players during the 1970s. It is highly recommended for all collections and should be considered a top purchase.
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