Thursday, October 24, 2019

Review of "Ball Hawks: The Arrival and Departure of the NBA in Iowa," by Tim Harwood

Review of

Ball Hawks: The Arrival and Departure of the NBA in Iowa, by Tim Harwood ISBN 9781609385880

Five out of five stars

 One of the main stories about sports in the current news is the fallout from a message posted by Daryl Morey, general manager of the NBA team the Houston Rockets. In that message he expressed support for the freedom protests in Hong Kong opposing Chinese attempts to suppress democracy there. The Chinese government has fought back hard and billions of dollars of revenue for the NBA is at stake.

 Given this modern context, it is hard for people to comprehend that the NBA was once a small league where many of the franchises were in small towns. One of those towns was Waterloo, Iowa, a city that has never had more than 80,000 residents. They were the Waterloo Hawks and they were a competitive team in the NBA’s first season of 1949-50.

 While it is often dull with routine descriptions of the action with no embellishments, this book is an educational description of the very early years of professional basketball. Many of the teams struggled, 3,000 was often considered a large crowd and the teams sometimes had trouble finding a place to play. Owners often struggled financially with teams folding in the middle of the season, necessitating creative adjustments of won-loss records. Like baseball, players often barnstormed during the off season in an attempt to earn a true living.

 This book is a historical eye-opener to the early days of the NBA, when it was largely a footnote in the sports consciousness of America and the world. The players, coaches and owners did not know it at the time, but they were laying the foundation for a business that now has over $8 billion in revenue per year and so influential that governments pay attention to what is said.

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