Chris Ballard's The Art of a Beautiful Game is subtitled The Thinking Fan's Tour of the NBA, which in my estimation, is a slightly misleading title. At once the book seeks to detail the nuance of a variety of different parts of the game: Kobe's killer instinct, Steve Nash's passing, shooting with Steve Kerr. However, the book only touches on these subjects in broad, general terms. In essence, it's a "thinking fans" guide to the NBA... if the fan only has a grammar school education.
The chapters, each of which tackles a different aspect of the game, tend to follow this formula: introduction to the subject, a reader's digest background on the subject, a bunch of quotes from other people about the person and subject, summary of chapter/thoughts on the future of the aspect of the game.
My biggest gripe with the book is that it appears the book was written based solely off interviews and personal anecdotes. Now, there's certainly nothing wrong with that, and that's the way that the majority of sports journalism is done, and that works well the two column articles that show up in the local sports pages. But, to qualify as something for a "thinking fan" there has to be some degree of, a) background knowledge of the literature in that area; and b) original research. Even for a mass market book I'd settle for a summary of new original research (see Gladwell, Malcolm), but, unfortunately, Ballard manages to cite exactly one book through the entire 200 pages.
So, my recommendation would be that if you are familiar with things like PER, true shooting percentage, a pinch post, then this might be a book to pass on... you're not going to get anything new. On the other hand, it is a well written book with some fun anecdotes, so if you're not planning on attending the Sloan Conference at MIT (or have no idea what I'm talking about), then it may be a fun little read.
Up next: After how easy I found this one, I think I'm going to head back to A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.
2011 Book Club Results
3. The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History| Free Darko (not applicable)|A
4. The Art of a Beautiful Game| Chris Ballard (228 pages)| C