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It’s that time again, that time of year when even the most casual of sports fans (and plenty of non-fans) start paying attention to the wild and wooly world of college hoops.

You guessed it, folks. NCAA tourney time is upon us.

Selection Sunday is on March 13 this year, so I figured I’d try to get some thoughts out there far enough in advance for you fine folks to take advantage when the time comes to fill out your own brackets.

(Please bear in mind - I’m no expert when it comes to the college hardwood. At all. I have the basic knowledge of the general sports fan and that’s it. However, I do have a touch of the degenerate gambler about me, so … take that for whatever you like.)

We all know the drill at this point: you pony up some cash or sign up for a contest and fill out your own copy of the bracket, picking winners all the way through the tournament, up to and including the 2022 champion. If you make the best picks, you win the pot.

Of course, with over 9 quintillion ways to fill out a bracket, the odds are not in your favor. But hey - there’s always a chance.

Here are a few of my (very basic) observations with regards to the sweet science of bracketology.

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He’s the winningest Division I men’s basketball coach in NCAA history. He’s won multiple national titles and been to even more Final Fours. He’s been in charge of USA Basketball and led the national team to gold medals more than once. He is an iconic figure, one of the titans of the game’s last half-century.

You know who he is … even if you might not know how to spell his name.

Ian O’Connor’s “Coach K: The Rise and Reign of Mike Krzyzewski” (Mariner Books, $28) purports to be the definitive biography of the man who is arguably the definitive figure in college basketball in the past 50 years. From his early days growing up in Chicago to his time as West Point – first as a player, then as a coach – to his ascension to the top job at Duke, where he turned a decent ACC team into one of the greatest college basketball programs ever.

O’Connor dives deep, digging through extant sources as well as conducting his own interviews with scores upon scores of people with close connections to Coach K. The result is a fascinating portrait of sporting greatness, a long look at a man who ascended to the heights of his profession. A man who, for all his flaws, would prove to be a beloved figure in the history of his sport.

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Sports biographies tend to be a mixed bag. Sometimes, you get flowery hagiographies, other times, straight-up hit pieces. It all comes down to a confluence of circumstances – the author, the subject and the audience – and how they come together.

Take a figure like Kobe Bryant. Considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Bryant’s career featured plenty of controversies – his Colorado rape trial foremost among them – and he was in many ways a love him or loathe him figure, both in the context of his sport and in the greater celebrity sphere. Add to that his tragic and too-soon passing in a helicopter crash in early 2020 and his legacy only grows more complicated.

How do you tell this story?

With “The Rise: Kobe Bryant and the Pursuit of Immortality” (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99), longtime Philadelphia basketball writer Mike Sielski takes an altogether different tactic. This isn’t the story of Kobe’s life in the league, the tale of his successes and failures. No, this is an origin story. “The Rise” isn’t about Kobe the NBA baller, but rather, it’s about the journey that got him there.

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The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has begun the process of finding their Class of 2022.

As often happens with sports Halls of Fame, there’s an ebb and flow regarding the influx of new candidates. Just a couple of years ago, we saw perhaps the biggest powerhouse collection of first-timers in Hall history – Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh all hit the ballot at the same time.

Obviously, you’re not going to get multiple no-doubters on every ballot. And this year, we’re looking at a much different group of debuts.

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It’s easy to forget, in this world of commonplace multimillion-dollar contracts across the professional sports landscape, that it wasn’t always about the money. Well, not entirely about the money anyway.

Take the NBA, for example. Today, the league is a global powerhouse, a corporate machine featuring massive television contracts and marketing deals and individual teams worth literal billions of dollars. But it wasn’t so long ago that pro basketball was a good living, but far from providing the generational wealth it does today.

It was a different time. A time worth remembering.

“Wish It Lasted Forever: Life with the Larry Bird Celtics” (Scribner, $28) takes a look at an iconic team in the days just before everything changed. Written by Dan Shaughnessy about his time covering the Celtics beat for the Boston Globe (1982-86), it’s an up-close-and-personal look at a time that simply doesn’t exist anymore. It’s a book packed with the sorts of stories that could never happen today, tales from the road when everyone – players, coaches and media – traveled together and dined together, staying in the same hotels and generally being a constant presence in one another’s lives.

These stories – stories about what the players were really like in the locker room and at the bar after the game as well as about their performance on the court – are a fascinating snapshot of a bygone era, featuring compelling and thoughtful looks at some of the greatest to ever play the game. Rendered with the standard self-deprecatory wit and good humor by Shaughnessy, it’s a book that any Celtics fan – any NBA fan, really – will find to be fascinating reading.

Published in Sports

I’m a sucker for sports history. It doesn’t even really matter the sport – I generally lean toward the Big Four, but honestly, any discussion of the athletic past will work. I have my sporting foci – baseball and football foremost among them – but as a general fan, I can derive joy from coverage of just about any athletic endeavor.

The moral to the story is simple: With the right pairing of subject matter and author, a work of sports nonfiction can really sing.

Longtime Boston sports journalist Leigh Montville is one of the best to ever do the gig, with a decades-long body of work covering some of the most iconic moments in American sports. His latest book is “Tall Men, Short Shorts – The 1969 NBA Finals: Wilt, Russ, Lakers, Celtics, and a Very Young Sports Reporter” (Doubleday, $29), a look back at the series that would ultimately mark the ending of the lengthy Celtics NBA dynasty of the 1950s and 1960s. A series that saw a certain bright young man – just 24 years of age and setting out on what would become an iconic career as an ink-stained wretch – crisscrossing the country as part of the now-legendary NBA Finals matchup between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers in 1969.

It’s also a wonderful bit of autobiographical writing, a reflection on the beginnings of a storied career. Those moments of memory and memoir are what elevate this book from what would be a perfectly adequate work of sports history into something more, a wry look back from someone who understands that the person he once was had a lot to learn.

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The great internet arbiter Judge John Hodgman has a saying: “Nostalgia is a toxic impulse.” While I don’t necessarily fully agree with that sentiment – I think there can be real value in reengaging with aspects of our past that we remember fondly – I also acknowledge that the tendency to get lost in our own personal pop culture ephemera-strewn memory palaces can result in some dark turns.

All this is to say that while I understand why “Space Jam: A New Legacy” was made and the thoughts and desires that led to that outcome, enabling the nostalgic impulse without any critical regard to the reasons behind the memory can result in something hollow and ultimately unsatisfactory.

As a late Gen-Xer, I’m a hair too old to have the same fondness for 1996’s “Space Jam” that many millennials carry. However, I do still carry a soft spot for the film – I mean, Michael Jordan, the Looney Tunes and a pre-folk hero Bill Murray? What’s not to like?

That said, the sequel – this one starring LeBron James – fails to achieve even the modicum of loose charm that surrounded the original, exchanging the winking self-awareness and quirkiness of the original for a seemingly unending cavalcade of product placement and self-celebratory IP exploitation.

Directed by Malcolm D. Lee (who replaced original director Terrence Nance a few weeks into filming) from a screenplay with no less than six credited writers, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is the unfortunate result when you attempt to recreate something whose appeal you don’t fully understand; there’s a goofball kitschiness to the original film that is lost here, the lunacy (sorry – “Loon-acy”) replaced by an overstuffed commitment to the idea that instead of using references to make jokes, the jokes ARE the references.

Published in Sports

Sports biographies are tricky things.

The history of professional sports in this country is built on a foundation of legacy. The lionization of athletic giants is an underlying tenet of pro sports, with the games in a constant conversation with their own history. Protecting that history – that legacy – is paramount to many if not most pro athletes.

At the same time, leaving that history unexamined does a disservice to the reader. A simple and glowing account of an athlete’s feats, all buffed glossiness, is nothing more than hagiography – overly simplistic, unchallenging … and incredibly dull.

And it only gets trickier when the subject isn’t directly involved.

That’s the juggling act Scott Howard-Cooper has undertaken with his new book “Steve Kerr: A Life” (William Morrow, $28.99). It’s the story of the rich and fascinating life lived by Steve Kerr. From his globetrotting boyhood to an underdog basketball journey to the pinnacle of his profession, Kerr’s is a tale almost too interesting to be real, marked by triumph and tragedy.

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The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has announced its 2021 class of inductees.

Just one day after the delayed induction of the 2020 class finally took place – an historic group of entrants including Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and the late Kobe Bryant – the Hall put forward its 2021 group, set to be enshrined on Sept. 11 of this year.

A quartet of big names head up the list. Paul Pierce is probably the biggest star of the bunch, though Chris Bosh, Chris Webber and Ben Wallace are no slouches. There are also a trio of coaches – Rick Adelman, Jay Wright and Bill Russell (who is already in the Hall for his play, but is now a dual inductee) – and a pair of WNBA stars in Yolanda Griffith and Lauren Jackson, as well as a number of other committee and contributor selections.

But it is the four at the top that will be of interest to most.

Published in Sports

Sports documentaries are always a mixed bag, but that bag is particularly mixed if the doc is about a single individual. It’s a fine line; a person isn’t going to sign onto a film that’s going to be a hatchet job, but venturing too far into the realm of hagiography undermines the credibility of the filmmakers and the credulity of the viewer.

“Tony Parker: The Final Shot,” currently streaming on Netflix, manages to find its way into the middle ground, albeit considerably closer to the hagiographic side of the equation. Directed by French filmmaker Florent Bodin, it’s a journey through the career of Tony Parker, the retired NBA point guard who is generally considered to be the greatest player in the history of French basketball.

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