Basketball and Philosophy: Thinking outside the Paint

Basketball and Philosophy: Thinking outside the Paint

Basketball and Philosophy: Thinking outside the Paint

Basketball and Philosophy: Thinking outside the Paint

Synopsis

What can the film Hoosiers teach us about the meaning of life? How can ancient Eastern wisdom traditions, such as Taoism and Zen Buddhism, improve our jump-shots? What can the "Zen Master" (Phil Jackson) and the "Big Aristotle" (Shaquille O'Neal) teach us about sustained excellence and success? Is women's basketball "better" basketball? How, ethically, should one deal with a strategic cheater in pickup basketball? With NBA and NCAA team rosters constantly changing, what does it mean to play for the "same team"? What can coaching legends Dean Smith, Rick Pitino, Pat Summitt, and Mike Krzyzewski teach us about character, achievement, and competition? What makes basketball such a beautiful game to watch and play? Basketball is now the most popular team sport in the United States; each year, more than 50 million Americans attend college and pro basketball games. When Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, first nailed two peach baskets at the opposite ends of a Springfield, Massachusetts, gym in 1891, he had little idea of how thoroughly the game would shape American -- and international -- culture. Hoops superstars such as Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Yao Ming are now instantly recognized celebrities all across the planet. So what can a group of philosophers add to the understanding of basketball? It is a relatively simple game, but as Kant and Dennis Rodman liked to say, appearances can be deceiving. Coach Phil Jackson actively uses philosophy to improve player performance and to motivate and inspire his team and his fellow coaches, both on and off the court. Jackson has integrated philosophy into his coaching and his personal life so thoroughly that it is often difficult to distinguish his role as a basketball coach from his role as a philosophical guide and mentor to his players. In Basketball and Philosophy, a Dream Team of twenty-six basketball fans, most of whom also happen to be philosophers, proves that basketball is the thinking person's sport. They look at what happens when the Tao meets the hardwood as they explore the teamwork, patience, selflessness, and balanced and harmonious action that make up the art of playing basketball.

Excerpt

If you are an avid basketball fan, you are certainly aware of my passion for the game that has served me so well. I have been so lucky to have been involved in this game, which was started over a century ago by Mr. Naismith. Interestingly, I bet many of you did not know that Mr. Naismith was a philosopher and a Presbyterian minister as well as a man who was active in many ways in the great game he invented.

My journey has taken me through every level involving the roundball game. I’ve had the golden opportunity to coach on the scholastic, collegiate, and professional levels. Also, for several decades I have been blessed with the opportunity to share the microphone on ESPN/ABC to discuss this magnificent game. I pinch myself every day thinking how lucky I have been to be able to sit at courtside watching many of our greats, such as Jordan, Magic, Bird, LeBron, Dwyane, Shaq, and many others. I certainly have seen it all in the world of basketball, baby!

But here’s something I haven’t seen: philosophers sharing their concepts and feelings about the game I respect and revere. Wow—I may not agree with all their theories and arguments, but Mr. Walls and Mr. Bassham have created an exciting concept for hoops fanatics to analyze. They take you on a thrill ride as they and their fellow philosophers express their views of this magical game. Trust me, you will be challenged and amazed by the variety of ways they have found to look at the game. For example, who would ever think to associate basketball with the term “communitarianism”? That’s a mouthful, baby! Or who would ever expect to be talking about hoops and Aristotle in the same sentence? Or . . .

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