From its early days as a sport to build “muscular Christianity” among young men flooding nineteenth-century cities to its position today as a global symbol of American culture, basketball has been a force in American society. It grew through high school gymnasiums, college pep rallies, and the fits and starts of professionalization. It was a playground game, an urban game, tied to all of the caricatures that were associated with urban culture. It struggled with integration and representations of race. Today, basketball’s influence seeps into film, music, dance, and fashion. Hoops tells the story of the reciprocal relationship between the sport and the society that received it. While many books have celebrated specific aspects of the game, Thomas Aiello presents the only contemporary cultural history of the sport from the street to the highest levels of professional mens and womens competition. He argues that the game has existed in a reciprocal relationship with the broader culture, both embodying conflicts over race, class, and gender and serving a s public theater for them. Aiello places cultural icons like Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, and Kobe Bryant in the context of their times and explores how the sport negotiated controversies and scandals. Hoops belongs on the bookshelf of every reader interested in the history of basketball, sports, race, urban life, and pop culture in America.
Thomas Aiello is a professor of history and African American studies at Valdosta State University in Georgia. He is the author of several books including Dixieball: Race and Professional Basketball in the Deep South, 1947-1979 (Tennessee) Jim Crow’s Last Stand: Nonunanimous Criminal Jury Verdicts in Louisiana, and The Kings of Casino Park: Black Baseball in the Lost Season of 1932.
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