Sep 28

Breaks Of The Game: The Journey Begins

By sarahhecht Posted in: breaksofthegame
It’s confession time. I, Sarah Hecht, Portland Trail Blazers fan since 1991, have never read David Halberstam’s The Breaks of the Game. Lacking firsthand knowledge of the acclaimed tome I find myself on the outside of some fan circles. From conversations in the office to chats in the Rose Garden, I’m constantly out of the loop when the topic comes up.

A few days ago, as I perused my copy of Blazermania, Halberstam’s opus on the Trail Blazers post-championship team was mentioned again. With summer coming to a close I realized this would be the last time over the next few months I’ll be able to squeeze in some quality reading. So I took it upon myself to seek out a copy.

Luckily, Powell’s had two in stock. Naturally I flipped through both copies. That’s when I noticed a bookmark in one. I opened it up and found a mint condition John Salley trading card. Ha! Now I know what you’re thinking, John Salley? He wasn’t even a Trail Blazer, and you’re right, he wasn’t. But the discovery of this little morsel told me this: The Breaks of the Game is about more than just the Portland Trail Blazers. It appeals to fans of basketball in general.

Big leap? I think not. Again, the book revealed a secret and proved my hypothesis correct. Inside the front cover in rolling script was an inscription, “To Dad, Received from  Lorena, Wayne and fam for my 58th birthday.” Yep, this book was owned by a solid fan of the game.

I continued my perusal, ran my fingers across the cover and then read the synopsis in the jacket. The words drew a physical reaction.

I got goosebumps.

From the jacket:

The Breaks of the Game is a bold and brilliantly detailed exploration of professional sports in America—of a place in our society where power, money and talent collide and corrupt each other, where national obsessions and yearnings are baldly exposed. It is a book of rare intimacy.


The density and authenticity of Halberstam’s knowledge of the basketball world are nothing short of phenomenal. Yet he is writing here about far more than just a game. The money and influence of big media, the fans and the hype they subsist on, the clash of contemporary ethics, the terrible physical demands of modern sports from drugs to body size, the grotesque salaries, the conflicts of race and class, the consequences of sport transmogrified into mass entertainment and athletes into superstars—such themes trouble and enrich The Breaks of the Game. This is David Halberstam’s most powerful, revealing and riveting book.”

Knowing that over the next few weeks I would throw myself into the pages of what the New York Times Book Review Editor called “one of the best books I’ve ever read about American sports,” I smiled and headed up to the counter to make my purchase.

Over the next month or so I’ll share my thoughts and discuss with you the history, people and social issues presented in The Breaks of the Game. If you own a copy, dust it off and give it another read. If you don’t, go grab yourself one (it was reprinted in paperback in 2009) and we’ll read together. Or, just follow along with me and contribute to the conversation. However you choose to play it—enjoy the ride, this one’s going to be a goodie.


  1. I finally got around to reading this book a couple years ago and I'm glad I did. What makes the book poignant for me is that Herm Gilliam was my first basketball coach; I went to elementary school with his son Riki and Herm coached our team in 5th and 6th grade. I remember at the first practice, we were sitting on the gym floor and Herm passed around his 1977 NBA championship ring and I accidentally dropped it. He died in 2005, and I had no idea he was a central figure in this book until I read it. I always wondered why he didn't stay with the team after 1977 (since he was a big contributor in the championship run), and now I know why.

    by PortertoDrexler on 9/28/2011 11:01 AM
  2. You couldn't have picked a better time to read an epic book like that, especially since the season looks bleak from the lockout.

    by blazerdarren77 on 9/28/2011 3:12 PM
  3. I am a slow reader Sarah, so I will read along with you. Next chapter please LOL.

    by Hg on 9/29/2011 9:30 AM
  4. @Hg, the next installment will be Wednesday :)

    by sarahhecht on 9/29/2011 9:37 AM
  5. Don't feel left out you are quite knowledgeable.

    by mbmurr1 on 10/1/2011 7:43 AM
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