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March 16, 2008
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v2.1 Reference

Basketball and Philosophy

Thinking Outside the Paint

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.

About the Authors

Jerry L. Walls is professor of philosophy of religion at Asbury Theological Seminary. Among his previous books are Heaven: The Logic of Eternal Joy and Hell: The Logic of Damnation. Gregory Bassham, professor of philosophy at King's College (Pennsylvania), is the author of Original Intent and the Constitution and coeditor of The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy: One Book to Rule Them All and The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy: The Lion, the Witch, and the Worldview.


"The essays in this collection do a terrific job of demonstrating how one can glean genuine philosophical insights through reflection on sport."—Aeon J. Skoble, co-editor of Woody Allen and Philosophy: You Mean My Whole Fall

"A remarkably profound and wide-ranging collection. Cerebral fans will love this book."—Booklist

"[T]he simple American game splayed with ball and net has prompted some deep thinking among its players, coaches, and fans... [and] this remarkably profound and wide-ranging collection of essays exposes readers to some of the best of that thinking."—Booklist

"An excellent book. It makes me almost believe that philosophers can jump and that guys like Shaq can break down philosophical arguments almost as well as defenses."—Eric Bronson, editor of Baseball and Philosophy: Thinking Outside the Batter's

"An engaging entrée into philosophy through basketball, the philosophy of basketball, and philosophical issues particular to basketball. This is fun philosophy!"—Kelly James Clark, coeditor of Human Nature in Chinese and Western Culture

"Offers a deeper examination about that connection between what we think, deep down, and what we play, straight up."—Lexington Herald-Leader

"Basketball isn't just about wins and losses, points and turnovers. It's about preparing young athletes for the disappointments and victories that we all experience. Basketball and Philosophy clearly demonstrates that basketball can teach us a lot about life and gives the reader a deeper appreciation of the depth and complexity of this great sport."—Mike Krzyzewski, Head Basketball Coach, Duke University & USA National Team

"Published by the University Press of Kentucky, Basketball and Philosophy is entertaining and thought provoking. Whether you're a basketball fan or a student of philosophy, you must have an appreciation for a book that contains a chapter entitled, 'Plato and Aristotle on the Role of Soul in Taking the Rock to the Hole.'"—Kentucky Monthly

9780813191867 : basketball-and-philosophy-walls-bassham
Paperback / softback
302 Pages
$28.00 USD

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Basketball and Philosophy

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