For many of us, March Madness will inform our Lenten Journey in profound ways. These are tales of struggle and grit. Myths will be crushed. Hopes will be dashed. People who never cared before will – suddenly – care deeply about Ducks and Hawkeyes, Musketeers and Jayhawks.
We must ready ourselves. We must prepare for bracket selections and hoops hoopla. We must pay tribute to The Greats of Basketball Past.
Here are four books that will fortify our knowledge, whip up our school spirit, and stir up feelings of acrimony which only Jesus can heal:
- The Secret Game – A Wartime Story of Courage, Change, and Basketballs’s Lost Triumph by Scott Ellsworth This is my favorite on this list. Jim Crow laws prohibited African America college teams from playing in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the National Invitational (NIT) Tournaments. But on March 12, 1944, a secret game was played in Durham, NC between the white Duke University medical school team and the black North Carolina Central University team. This book is extraordinary because the characters and their back stories are extraordinary. Love. This. Book.
- To Hate Like This Is to Be Happy Forever by Will Blythe. The Blythes sat behind the Edmistons in church throughout my childhood and I happened to see Dr. Blythe the Sunday before he passed away. “It’s nice to see the Edmistons today like old times,” he said to me and my sister when we were visiting that church years ago. Yes, this is a basketball book but it’s also about a son’s love for his father. And it captures my childhood and my feelings about another university down the road from my hometown.
- The Legend’s Club: Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano, and an Epic College Basketball Rivalry by John Feinstein. Those were the days. Two of those legendary coaches have passed away, and Feinstein is clearly a Duke fan, but this new book is a pretty great read if you are an Atlantic Coast Conference fan (pre-expanding the ACC to include universities nowhere near the Atlantic Ocean.)
- (And recently suggested by my neighbor:) Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons from a Hardwood Warrior. PK Phil Jackson clarifies what some of us intuitively know: that there are spiritual aspects to the great game of basketball. Good leadership lessons in here too.
Read and be inspired! It will be here before we know it.