From its early days as a sport to build “muscular Christianity” among young men flooding nineteenth-century cities to its position today as a global symbol of American culture, basketball has been a force in American society. It grew through high school gymnasiums, college pep rallies, and the fits and starts of professionalization. It was a playground game, an urban game, tied to all of the caricatures that were associated with urban culture. It struggled with integration and representations of race. Today, basketball’s influence seeps into film, music, dance, and fashion. Hoops tells the story of the reciprocal relationship between the sport and the society that received it. While many books have celebrated specific aspects of the game, Thomas Aiello presents the only contemporary cultural history of the sport from the street to the highest levels of professional mens and womens competition. He argues that the game has existed in a reciprocal relationship with the broader culture, both embodying conflicts over race, class, and gender and serving a s public theater for them. Aiello places cultural icons like Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, and Kobe Bryant in the context of their times and explores how the sport negotiated controversies and scandals. Hoops belongs on the bookshelf of every reader interested in the history of basketball, sports, race, urban life, and pop culture in America.
Thomas Aiello is a professor of history and African American studies at Valdosta State University in Georgia. He is the author of several books including Dixieball: Race and Professional Basketball in the Deep South, 1947-1979 (Tennessee) Jim Crow’s Last Stand: Nonunanimous Criminal Jury Verdicts in Louisiana, and The Kings of Casino Park: Black Baseball in the Lost Season of 1932.
CHAPTER 1: Muscular Christianity
CHAPTER 2: Professionalizing the Amateur Game
CHAPTER 3: The Negro Leagues
CHAPTER 4: Early Collegiate Basketball
CHAPTER 5: The Growth of the Women’s Game
CHAPTER 6: Mid-Century Scandal
CHAPTER 7: The Birth of the NBA
CHAPTER 8: Integration
CHAPTER 9: Race and Civil Rights
CHAPTER 10: The ABA and the Merger
CHAPTER 11: Magic and Larry
CHAPTER 12: The Jordan Rules
CHAPTER 13: College Basketball at the Millennium
CHAPTER 14: The Rise of Women’s Basketball
CHAPTER 15: The NBA in the 21st Century
Arguing that the court “embod[ies] conflicts over class, race, and gender, and serv[es] as a public theater for them,” he offers an impressive overview of the game—from its invention in the late 19th century through the rise of pro teams, and the impacts of Title IX and ESPN. The sections on basketball’s early days—including the struggles by Black and female athletes to break into the sport—are especially valuable.
Sports historians have long hoped for a grand basketball narrative that appeals equally well to scholarly and popular audiences and centers the game at the heart of the American experience, alongside baseball and football- two sports that have elicited far more scholarly attention. Thomas Aiello has finally written that book. It comes in the form of a concise yet sweeping narrative that traces basketball's evolution, both at the college and professional levels, from its origin and early development in the 1890s, through its mid-twentieth-century maturation, and to its ascent as a premier professional sport, embodied by the post-1970s National Basketball Association (NBA).... [This book is] the most comprehensive and all-around best historical overview yet written about American Basketball and is a volume that no sports historian or basketball enthusiast should do without.
Hoops is more than a history of basketball; it's a cultural history of modern America with basketball as the protagonist. Aiello connects basketball to broader historical issues of race and gender, extraordinarily presenting the material in profoundly relevant and refreshingly readable ways. This book includes impressive storytelling, authentic cultural critique, and ends with a unique bibliographic essay more comprehensive than anything anywhere else.
Using basketball as a central theme, Aiello provides a wonderful overview of cultural life in the late Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries...[his] enthusiasm for basketball shines boldly through as he spins a great story.