I’d like to start this review by stating that I am not good at basketball. I can’t make a basket to save my life. Heck, I can’t even recall the last time I watched a game. But wow, did this comic make me want to find the nearest court and start shooting hoops (or attempt to). The Comic Book Story of Basketball, written by Fred Van Lente, might not be what you’re expecting. It is, however, quite literally exactly what it says on the tin – a complete and comprehensive history of basketball from its origins to the present day, presented in a comic book format.
Now, wait, ok, I know I might have lost some of you. And if not, I’m sure you have some questions. You might be thinking, “ok, ok, interesting, but there’s a plot, right?” Maybe you tuned out when I mentioned sports. Or hey, maybe you find yourself genuinely intrigued by all of this. Still, regardless of your expectations, I can assure you that this comic exceeds them.
The Comic Book Story of Basketball is different from most other graphic novels. It doesn’t have a plot or main characters in the same sense as many of its kind. Yet, it still feels like it does. Basketball, the game, the sport, itself is the main plot and character. The great and unique thing about this particular story is the way it adds the charm and flair of comic books to what is essentially a pretty extensive sports history lesson.
Of course, that isn’t to discount the writing. This is essentially a collection of anthologies and vignettes from the world of basketball. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of the history of the sport. We get to see visual depictions alongside fascinating stories of famous events, teams, people, and developments through all of basketball history. It is informative, well-paced, and sprinkled with meaningful quotes, tangential fun facts, and humorous remarks from the author.
In addition, many aspects of the stories told are of pretty major cultural importance. This is a story about race and its relationship to basketball. Of gender, and how women became involved with the sport. Of the struggles, challenges, and successes people faced, and the way the sport has inspired people. Even if just for purely educational reasons, there is a lot to take away from this comic book. I was honestly shocked at how much there was to learn about the way the sport came about; how it has changed and developed, how it spread around the world, the issues surrounding its past and present, the icons it formed, and just the sheer impact it has made.
I would be remiss if I didn’t call specific attention to the art from Joe Cooper. If you ask me, this is what truly makes the comic shine. Not only is it amazingly detailed, consistent, and striking, but it adds so much to make the overall novel enjoyable and entertaining. Just as much as it is beautiful and realistic, action-heavy and dynamic, it is also often fun, comical, and cartoonish with exaggerated or unrealistic images to convey a point or represent parts of history. My favorite example is a recurring image of teams of players sharing a singular, gigantic brain to represent their skillful teamwork and coordination.
Now, do you have to be a basketball fan to read this and enjoy it? I don’t think so. As I said, I wouldn’t call myself one, and yet I still found the history fascinating and the art stunning and entertaining. If you are even a little bit interested in learning about the origins of one of the most impactful sports of our time, give this one a read. And if you are a big fan of the sport, I can’t recommend this enough.
The Comic Book Story of Basketball can be purchased in shops from 22nd September or ordered through Penguin Random House and Amazon. Have a personal favorite fun fact about basketball? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter!