Thursday, August 23, 2012

Book review: Tip Off, by Filip Bondy

Tip Off isn't a bad book, but it's hard to get excited about.  In fact, a one-word review would simply be "meh".  Filip Bondy presents us with the equivalent of watching a player take a 17' jump shot when he could have dunked on three guys - it's just as effective and may even be the right play, but leaves the audience slightly underwhelmed.

This is a shame, because Bondy chose a fascinating topic: the 1984 NBA draft, which saw Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Sam Perkins, Charles Barkley and John Stockton arrive in professional basketball.  It also provided the backdrop for the most high-profile draft blunder in history, when Portland selected Kentucky center Sam Bowie instead of Jordan with the second overall pick.

It's a succinct read which touches on the leadup to the draft, what each team was thinking when making their selections and also a brief look at how each player fared.  There's little coming together of the players - of every player drafted, the book may as well be about the six guys listed above.  Nobody - well, nobody except the most hardened basketball-philes - wants to know Chicago's thinking behind taking NBL legend Butch Hays with a seventh-round pick, or the reasons that Indiana chose Charlotte legend Stuart Gray.

Bondy writes to get the facts out rather than to entertain.  It is well-researched and the author has obviously researched and interviewed broadly, which all serves a purpose but at times upsets the book's flow.  Each chapter focuses on one aspect of the draft process, be it Chicago or Houston allegedly tanking (leading to the institution of the draft lottery in 1985), the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics or Sam Perkins' background in upstate New York.  The result is that there are minimal shared experiences which takes away from the Draft's inherent maturation storyline.

The information is all there, but given the storied nature of that draft, the reader is left feeling as if they're in some way short changed and that perhaps a writer with a greater sense of the event may have made Tip Off  more enjoyable.  As it is, it's intriguing at times (did you know that Philadelphia offered Dr. J or Andrew Toney and the no. 5 pick for the no. 3 pick so they could take Jordan?) but labours with an invasive flatness.

A perfectly average read.

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