Dan GrunfeldMar 21, 2022
By the Grace of the Game
The Holocaust, a Basketball Legacy, and an Unprecedented American Dream
Triumph Books 2021
When Lily and Alex entered a packed gymnasium in Queens, New York in 1972, they barely recognized their son. The boy who escaped to America with them, who was bullied as he struggled to learn English and cope with family tragedy, was now a young man who had discovered and secretly honed his basketball talent on the outdoor courts of New York City.
That young man was Ernie Grunfeld, who would go on to win an Olympic gold medal and reach previously unimaginable heights as an NBA player and executive.
In By the Grace of the Game: The Holocaust, a Basketball Legacy, and an Unprecedented American Dream (Triumph Books, 2022), Dan Grunfeld, once a basketball standout himself at Stanford University, shares the remarkable story of his family, a delicately interwoven narrative that doesn't lack in heartbreak yet remains as deeply nourishing as his grandmother's Hungarian cooking, so lovingly described.
The true improbability of the saga lies in the discovery of a game that unknowingly held the power to heal wounds, build bridges, and tie together a fractured Jewish family. If the magnitude of an American dream is measured by the intensity of the nightmare that came before and the heights of the triumph achieved after, then By the Grace of the Game recounts an American dream story of unprecedented scale.
From the grips of the Nazis to the top of the Olympic podium, from the cheap seats to center stage at Madison Square Garden, from yellow stars to silver spoons, this complex tale traverses the spectrum of the human experience to detail how perseverance, love, and legacy can survive through generations, carried on the shoulders of a simple and beautiful game.
Paul Knepper used to cover the Knicks for Bleacher Report. His first book, The Knicks of the Nineties: Ewing, Oakley, Starks and the Brawlers That Almost Won It All was published in 2020. You can reach Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @paulieknep.