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By / 10.28.08

What follows is somewhere between a literary review and a book discussion.  Sorry about the headline being a complete lie.  But let’s be realistic: people aren’t going to click a headline with the word “book” in it.

It was almost two years ago that the collection of basketball philosophers at FreeDarko introduced the Competitive Style Guide, a series of sketches on graph paper that illustrated perfectly what the website’s authors had been trying to communicate for years with thousands of slippery words.

Two NBA seasons later, Bloomsbury USA is publishing FreeDarko’s The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac, a field guide to the lens of style through which FreeDarko views the NBA.  And while the en vogue book in the blog world right now is Drew Magary’s excellent and hilarious Men With Balls [Ed. Note: Drew will handle posting duties on With Leather tomorrow to promote the book], I found FreeDarko’s move from blog to book the more rewarding of the two.

This is not to say that The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac (henceforth MPBA) is a superior book to Men With Balls, for the two have little in common save enjoyment for the reader.  But the process of making a book is more suited to the eggheads of FreeDarko than it is to Magary’s expert self-deprecation and sharp satire.  To elaborate, the team of lawyers and editors working on Men With Balls (necessarily) reign in much of Magary’s madness, trimming four-letter words here and there while eliminating delightful accusations of homosexuality.  While casual book-buyers may find Magary’s book edgy and profane, die-hard fans may detect a duller edge on Drew’s chainsaw of swear words.

Conversely, individual FreeDarko posts — coming on the heels of NBA games I usually don’t see, and commented on by readers with a zeal for stretching metaphors — often feel like a Philosophy 301 discussion section in which I haven’t done the reading.  The MPBA, a hardcover devoid of dustcover and filled with colorful graphs and charts, is an accessible textbook for NBA Philosophy 101.

The MPBA succeeds at every level: its essays on the league’s most stylistically interesting (and confounding) stars paints the players as the complex, often tragic characters they are, illuminating them in ways that no mainstream columnist can; the imaginative illustrations capture the spirit of the players, and an impressive amalgam of stats are interpreted in a way (Tim Duncan’s numbers as the Fibonacci sequence? You better believe it) that could only be described by the site’s titular adjective “FreeDarko.”

I may not be much of a basketball fan, but The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac at least has me excited for the start of the season.

[Buy the FreeDarko book here; buy Men WIth Balls here]


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