The Basketball Lie

Check out SLAM Magazine’s excellent review of Living Through the Hoop: High School Basketball, Race, and the American Dream by Reuben A. Buford May.

For many black teenagers, the perception of choices for identity in their lives is limited, May said. The sport of basketball in particular becomes central for their lives as a method of bringing sense into their world, he said.

“Basketball is key to their salvation,” May said. “Our American social system is based upon the very real human need for hope, and even the difficult aspiration to play professional basketball is part of that system.”

May’s book focuses on his exhaustive study of the boys’ basketball team—the Knights—at Northeast High School in Northeast, Georgia primarily over a five-year span ending in 2005. The practice of ethnography, or participant observation, allows the researcher to learn firsthand about the subjects he is studying by being a part of their activities.

In addition to serving as assistant coach at practices and games, May took elaborate notes over the years as the Knights players interacted with each other, coaches, parents, school officials, and other players. He also conducted extensive one-on-one interviews with players at the end of each season.