Cover image for Big game, small world : a basketball adventure
Big game, small world : a basketball adventure
Wolff, Alexander, 1957-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Warner Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
xxiv, 424 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GV885 .W62 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



In this engaging piece, the bestselling author of "Raw Recruits" canvasses the globe and travels to 16 different countries (and ten states in the U.S.) to find out exactly why basketball has become a worldwide phenomenon.

Author Notes

He is an award-winning senior writer for Sports Illustrated and is considered the dean of basketball writers with the magazine industry. He lives in New York & Connecticut.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Wolff first burst on the scene two decades ago as the coauthor of The In-Your-Face-Basketball Book (1980), a hoop junkie's nationwide guide to the best pickup and playground basketball in the country. He's now a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, and he's still moving without the ball. This journey takes him to 16 countries and 10 states as he examines the effect basketball is having on the world. A trip to Lithuania reveals a country in which patriotism and basketball became synonymous during decades of Soviet rule. Wolff investigates the origins of the crossover dribble and finds himself in Peoria, Illinois. There are also stops in Ireland, Italy, the Philippines, and an Ontario village that houses a small museum devoted to James Naismith, the inventor of basketball. Along with the more travel-oriented pieces, there are also several outstanding profiles of such disparate figures as a cloistered nun who was a talented basketball player, Michael Jordan's best pal in college, and former Princeton basketball coach Pete Carril, an iconoclast whose teams consistently competed successfully with larger, more athletic opponents by employing intelligence, patience, and fundamentals. Wolff's passion for the game burns as feverishly as it did 20 years ago, when he was looking for pickup games. This is a wonderful book, certainly the best on basketball this season. --Wes Lukowsky

Publisher's Weekly Review

In his newest, Wolff (coauthor of Raw Recruits) sets off on his international tour of "the country of basketball" 16 different nations and eight states with his thesis: "Basketball is quick-cutting, digital, and perfectly adapted to... manifestations of American cultural power." And fortunately for fans, he's also a stylish reporter (for Sports Illustrated). Basketball is now stepping on the heels of soccer as the world's game (Wolff claims that 71% of middle-class teenagers worldwide play or watch, including "two of every three girls on the planet." In the middle of a 1998 Princeton game, Wolff had an epiphany: he would become a roundball anthropologist. His first expedition was to explore professional basketball culture in Europe and to record indigenous versions in Japan, the Philippines, Bhutan and Brazil. He proves that the game's essence transcends national boundaries, and he turns up dozens of dedicated, delightful even tragic basketball stories and characters in what will seem unlikely places to an average Kansas State fan, for instance. He doesn't neglect U.S. homegrown teams, however, and includes familiar interviews in Chapel Hill, Kansas and Texas but it is the new comparative basketball culture that excites his best writing. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Basketball's popularity worldwide often goes beyond the bounds of recreation, business, and entertainment. In some countries, its impact is political and even cultural, as Sports Illustrated writer Wolff makes clear in this enlightening sports travelog. The author explored the game's international reach by interviewing some of the best and brightest players, coaches, and observers in 16 countries. He starts his research in Ontario, Canada, birthplace of James Naismith, who is credited with inventing the game in Springfield, MA, in 1891. Europe was Wolff's next destination, and he presents many colorful anecdotes from stops spanning Poland, Italy, and Bosnia. Back in the United States, Wolff traveled widely and asked players of numerous ethnic backgrounds about basketball's influence on their lives and aspirations. More trips to Brazil, Japan, and Bhutan demonstrate the myriad differences in how various countries approach the sport, but it's quite evident by the end of the book that there are more unifying elements than divisive ones. Wolff's knack for finding fascinating people to interview goes far in humanizing basketball in a global context. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries. Will Hepfer, SUNY at Buffalo Libs. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prologuep. xi
Called for Travelingp. xv
FALL: Founding Myths, Conflicting Cultures
1. Almonte, Ontario: Duck on a Rockp. 3
2. Lithuania: Forest Brothers in Short Pantsp. 18
3. Poland: The Sultans of Zlotyp. 33
4. Switzerland: Please Do Not Air Your Dirty Laundryp. 52
5. Celebration, Florida: Communities of Threep. 65
6. Italy: Strength vs. Virtuep. 76
7. Sarajevo Airport: Prisoners of Warp. 90
8. Bosnia: The Woman Who Sells Menp. 108
WINTER: The American Game and Her Far-Flung Offspring
9. Peoria, Illinois: Crossover Dreamersp. 123
10. Eastern Kansas: Driving Mister Johnp. 136
11. El Paso: The Bear in Winterp. 148
12. Whiteriver, Arizona: Shoots from the Skyp. 163
13. Boone, North Carolina: Mayberry Friendsp. 173
14. Ireland: To Build a Gymp. 186
15. Israel: The Long Arm of the Law of Returnp. 200
16. The Philippines: Madness and Mimicryp. 219
17. China: Qiao Dan, Celestial Citizenp. 235
SPRING: The Game Within
18. Philadelphia: Quaker Meeting Housep. 253
19. Brazil: Women of the Laughing Bloodp. 267
20. Des Moines: Unguarded Momentsp. 282
21. Japan: A Journey of a Thousand Miles, Begun with a Single Shotp. 292
22. Bhutan: Gross National Hoopinessp. 311
SUMMER: Fast Break to the Future
23. Washington, D.C.: Going to the Next Levelp. 337
24. France: The "I Love This Game" Theory of Conflict Preventionp. 351
25. Angola: Lasme's Plane Will Be Arriving Shortlyp. 360
26. Kansas City: To Rest, Rather Than to Mischiefp. 384
27. Princeton, New Jersey: Through the Back Doorp. 393
Epiloguep. 403
Acknowledgmentsp. 415