Ball Don't Lie!
Myth, Genealogy, and Invention in the Cultures of Basketball
Temple University Press 2016
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Popular CultureNew Books in SportsNew Books Network June 8, 2016 Bruce Berglund
Leading up to this year’s NBA Finals, sports media outlets offered their take on the most important storylines of the series between the Cavaliers and Warriors. Who will claim his place as the game’s greatest current player, LeBron James or Stephen Curry? How will Cleveland fill the role of underdog? Can Golden State establish themselves as a new dynasty in the sport?
This term “storylines” has been appearing regularly in American sports media as of late, especially before big match-ups. Attention to storylines is based on the notion that the media-generated narratives surrounding an event are themselves worthy of analysis and interpretation. In other words, the storylines are the story. University of Michigan professor Yago Colas acknowledges the importance of these narratives in our understanding of sports. But rather than discussing narratives in order to gauge which ones are more “true,” as sports pundits do, he looks at the prejudices and moral assumptions at the root of our sports storylines. As Yago explains in his book–Ball Don’t Lie! Myth, Genealogy, and Invention in the Cultures of Basketball–(Temple University Press, 2016), narratives in sports, just like narratives in literature or politics, are grounded in particular ways of seeing the world. In his examination of the history and culture of basketball, he shows how storylines pass those perspectives on, from one generation of fans to the next. We learn that the narratives surrounding the 2016 NBA Finals are nothing new, even though the names and uniforms are different. The storylines we read and hear today are variations on those that have been present in basketball culture for decades.