The Chronicle asked me to review Melissa King’s memoir of pickup basketball, “She’s Got Next”:

“Melissa King’s got guts. She wanders the streets of Chicago and Los Angeles looking for a good game of pickup basketball, playing with street- smart kids and lecherous men, 6-foot-5 dunkers and trash talkers. She’s also got issues: insecurity, indirection and a wariness of the opposite sex, albeit that seems more warranted with every creepy specimen she introduces. The courts are her life classroom. A premise ripe for hokey wisdom? Yes, if the frankness of her voice didn’t keep her memoir, “She’s Got Next,” so authentic.

“I’ve always tried to look like I have some game when I’m dribbling around trying to get in, but I never say too many cocky things like ‘I got skills,’ or ‘Get that weak s — outta here,’ or ‘Not in my house, baby,’ or much of anything else, really,” she writes with characteristic slouch. “Words can get squirrelly sometimes, and I know I’m just an average type of player.”

It’s easy to see why sections from the early chapters of the book, first printed in the Chicago Reader, got plucked for the anthology “Best American Sports Writing.” The writing is not precise, but it’s direct, displaying a teenager’s disdain for dishonesty but leveled with an adult’s maturity. And it can’t be separated from the likable toughness of King’s persona. This is an Arkansas-born woman who hates it when men try to pick her up and carry her, who chooses baggy shorts over spandex, who doesn’t mind calling herself a “stubborn jackass.” She’s a woman who requires intimacy on her own guarded terms.

But the appeal of King’s experience comes over better in short sections than as a book-length narrative. King’s life on the courts is scattershot. So is the storytelling in this book.”

Click here to read the full review.

1 Comment

  • Book Freak Posted June 15, 2005 7:48 am

    This review is a bit hard on the book. The dislocatin of the narrative arc seems, to me, to by design. King’s intelligence, political and social insights, all combine to make a stand-up book worthy of attention from men and women alike, sports fans or not.

    I stumbbled across a feature on her in June 10 issue of Entertainment Weekly as well as a feature on the book on ESPN and it’s obvious she’s a crackerjack philosopher, comedian, and social commentator.

    A great investment for bench warmers, street players, high school teams (despite some salty languae and drug use) and an inspiration to all 20-something women who are too scared to trow themselves so completely into the masculine world of pick-up basketball.

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