You’ve probably heard of Shea Serrano, but if you haven’t here’s your shot. Serrano is currently a writer for The Ringer, Bill Simmons’ current internet venture. He previously contributed to Grantland, Simmons’ now-defunct ESPN collaboration website. His path to internet fame and literary stardom was unconventional.
Before his writing career, the San Antonio-born Serrano taught middle school in Houston. He started writing as an additional way to support his family. He freelanced about rap and hip-hop, the editors at Grantland noticed his work, and he was brought onto one of the most talented writing teams in the country. In October of 2015, Serrano published The Rap Year Book: The Most Important Rap Song From Every Year Since 1979, Discussed, Debated, and Deconstructed. The Rap Year Book made the New York Times best seller list.
For years, Shea Serrano has cultivated an army of internet homies. He dispenses sage advice on Twitter—encouraging followers to take risks and “shoot their shot” in their professional and personal lives. He writes hilarious jokes and references obscure movies.
His legend reached new heights during Hurricane Harvey. Over Twitter he remotely connected people with rescue boats to Houstonians in dire circumstances, many of whom were begging for help online and social media was their only alarm. He initiated a “Fuck Hurricane Harvey” fund and raised over $130,000 in a few days in what he labels “guerilla philanthropy.” For me, as new blogger and former kindergarten teacher, Serrano seems like a really special dude and, dare I say, a role model.
This brings me to the point of this whole thing. Serrano is obsessed with basketball. He regularly curates serious and not-so-serious discussions, writes regularly, and he just published another book. It’s called Basketball (and Other Things): A Collection of Questions Asked. Answered. Illustrated. In it’s first week on shelves it finished #2 on the New York Times Best Seller List.
In the spirit of the book, I thought of 10 reasons why you should buy it immediately (support your local bookstore). If you already have it, buy it as a gift for someone.
10. The illustrations: Arturo Torres, the book’s illustrator, is a master. You could buy this book, never read a word, and your purchase would still be worth it. Just look at the cover here: Shaquille O’Neal standing in his Magic jammies, Magic Johnson, a bear, a giant squid, M.J., and others are all featured on the cover. The start of each chapter has a full-page illustration of an iconic jersey of a player who wore the chapter’s number. Chapter 30 is a gorgeous illustration of Steph Curry from the neck down. Other illustrations include, but are not limited to Kurt Rambis and Kevin McHale having a backyard tea party, Charles Barkley holding the Larry O’Brien trophy with tears streaming down his face, and a Warriors tombstone.
9. The rankings: Serrano loves rankings. My favorites include lists of the most important NBA championships, the 10 greatest hairstyles in NBA history, and the 10 greatest NBA conspiracy theories. Each list contains thoughtful explanations. Some rankings are serious and some are ridiculous so depending on what mood you’re in, choose your own.
8. The originality: Serrano writes over five pages discussing the following question: “If 1997 Karl Malone and a bear swapped places for season who would be more successful?” I did not think I’d like this chapter. I loved this chapter. You’ll have to read it and post your response in the comments section.
7. Use of statistics: Writers must use statistics to persuade readers. In answering the book’s biggest questions, Serrano utilizes advanced stats, but he uses stats (new verb alert) in a digestible way for readers. For readers who don’t enjoy the numbers, it’s still seamless to engage in the qualitative aspects of the book. For more quantitatively-inclined readers, Serrano’s statistical breakdowns enrich his arguments.
6. The footnotes: This is an exhaustively researched project and there are hundreds of footnotes throughout the book. The footnotes provide nuggets of information pertaining to quirky pop culture references and also highlight obscure events in NBA history. For fans, the footnotes open up a great tome of memories from their tenure as hoops lovers.
5. The deep cuts: The NBA is a star’s league. However, without the role players, the league’s drama and fun fall off a precipice. Serrano devotes plenty of words to the NBA’s stars, but also commits entire chapters to less-decorated players. One chapter is about players who are remembered for the wrong reasons. He highlights a handful of guys and their bad moments, including one current Warriors player, and then explains why the label is unfair. It’s an excellent chapter as it illuminates the humanity of athletes. Nobody, even incredibly gifted basketball players, should be defined by their worst moments.
4. Never stick to sports: Movies, music, and pop culture are an essential component to Serrano’s wheelhouse. Throughout the book he never shies away from his passions. He even dreams up a fictional basketball player draft (think Lola Bunny). It’s refreshing to read a sports book with tidbits about how the game intersects with other exciting parts of life. For example, I now hate myself for never having watched White Men Can’t Jump.
3. Fun to read out loud: Serrano’s prose is conversational and funny. The night I received my first copy of the book, I opened it to Chapter 27 entitled, “Am I allowed to _______during pickup basketball?” I read the whole chapter out loud to my partner who has never played pickup basketball in her life. In five minutes, we were both in tears from laughing so hard. Read this book to infants, teenagers, partners, dogs, I don’t care. It will make you love your listener more and make you feel like you are the one making them laugh. It’s a great trick.
2. The magic of basketball: Serrano is wonderful at portraying NBA players as a fraternity of Zeus-like superheroes. He simultaneously depicts players as normal guys with diverse personalities, interests, triumphs, and problems like us. One of my favorite chapters asks, “Which NBA player’s group are you joining if the purge begins tonight?” It’s a hilarious chapter, but also emphasizes the range of player personalities. When fans are provided with opportunities to imagine players in real circumstances, these dudes who jump 80 feet in the air with an orange ball somehow feel more real. For me, that’s magical.
1. Support an author who walks the walk:
I can infer Serrano is a nice guy. He uses his status as a writer to help others. Whether it’s staying up all night to help stranded Houstonians find relief or encourage aspiring writers and Twitter followers, his small actions on a daily basis empower others feel better about themselves, their interests, and their communities. The man just published the most creative sports book I’ve ever read. I suggest you support him by buying the book, sharing your favorite part of the book on this page or on social media, and highlighting other writers out there who are contributing in similar ways.