Saratoga Springs author M.E. Kemp weighs in with her favorite:
THE RIVALRY: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and the Golden Age of Basketball by John Taylor
You don’t have to be a sports nut to enjoy reading THE RIVALRY because it’s not about basketball, it’s about the men who play it. Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell were Titans in a personal clash that raised the level of play to Heroic. Chamberlain was the first ego-driven Superstar — fast cars, faster women, a gigantic appetite for the good things and the talent to command them. The only one who could control him on the court was Celtics’ Bill Russell, a proud, complicated and intelligent man with a family life and a cause.
Russell fought racism all his life. Chamberlain had fun playing off-season with the Harlem Globetrotters. Russell would never demean himself playing for a bunch of clowns. Mercurial Walt would up and quite when he felt like it. Russell never quit; he was driven to win, and always as a team. Wilt was a showboat most of his career.
Russell had the one thing Chamberlain really envied — a coach who would fight for his players. Any book with Red Auerbach in it has to be a fun read. The legendary Celtics coach had a mouth worth two points to the team with his browbeating of officials.
The book starts off with his finagling to acquire Russell in the first place — a deal about the Ice Capades for Russell as a draft pick. This is a fun read except for the ending, when one of the Titan’s dies. The reaction from the other is surprisingly touching. Read it and weep.
M. E. Kemp is the author of DEATH OF A DUTCH UNCLE (coming March ’07) and MURDER, MATHER AND MAYHEM.