Can I Keep My Jersey?- Book Review

October 18th, 2016

Can I Keep My Jersey? is more like a good free throw than a slam dunk.

The story focuses on it’s author, Paul Shirley who goes through many hoops just to get onto a professional basketball team. Shirley didn’t hold back on the raw details of the behind the scenes of the NBA. He gave personal recollections of his attitudes towards players, salaries, and the stereotypes associated with the most famous basketball players. He also addresses the odds of even making it on any team world wide through plenty of his own real-life examples.

He explains the setbacks of just being a “tall white guy” from the Midwest, along with the setbacks of injuries and not being a stereotypical He spent a lot time on the bench and never really broke out to be a huge star. NBA.com calls this his “Road Ramblings”.

Paul Shirley documented his life as an Iowa State Cyclone to being a basketball pro through a witty, journal-like style.  Shirley grew up in a small town in Kansas and got recruited to play college ball at Iowa State in the late 90s. After college he tried to pursue a professional career. Throughout the early 2000s, Shirley was pretty much team hopping each season between Greece, America, and the Spanish League.

He later became a writer for ESPN. It’s a common thing for retired athletes to go into the media world, especially sports broadcasting, after they retire. Shirley ended up getting a lot of criticism when he made some controversial remarks about Haiti that ended up getting him fired. Shirley wrote a blog shortly after the earthquake in Haiti, where he shamed them for needing so much help with disaster relief efforts.

Shirley wanted to let people know how hard it is to be in such a competitive environment with the world’s most elite basketball players. He wanted to share what his view was like from the sidelines. Since so many athletes get cut from the big leagues, this story can relate to many athletes in similar situations.

His story could also be viewed as empowering with the “when one door closes, another one opens” technique. This could be viewed as journey of the difficulties of finding yourself. Taking risks and working hard are the qualities that Shirley seemed to highlight.

He is witty, yet candid with his story-telling techniques. Shirley was definitely not afraid to share his opinions on the game, players, coaches and agents. This sense of realism and honesty can also be a way for other athletes to connect with his story. One could also interpret this story as a nontraditional under dog story.

I wouldn’t necessarily claim that Shirley is ranting, but this book could have been a way for him to express his frustrations and maybe even life a load of his shoulders. This also could have been an attempt at bringing awareness to how unfair and even cruel the professional sports world can be.

He writes this memoir of his basketball experiences through participating in the action and observing his peers’ behaviors. Since he is clearly putting his own input into his writing, he is not objective. This is not just another news story; it’s more like a testimony.

This book reminded me of The Diary of Anne Frank because of the the different dates at the beginning of each entry. In a way, he did keep a diary because while he was with the Suns he had an online blog.

Shirley’s journey as a professional athlete is certainly unique. The attention grabber for me is the fact that Shirley seems embarrassed to write down “Basketball Player” as his occupation, and he expresses that he rarely enjoys playing it. With his roots in Kansas, I could pick up on his Midwest values through the descriptions of himself as being a hard worker and being responsible. That is one of the few things that I could connect with in this book.

At the beginning of the story, I was automatically rooting for him to succeed. With each failure, he was able to bounce back and find a new opportunity. As the story went on, I began to realize that Paul Shirley is not the stereotypical underdog or superman I’m use to in sports stories. It was a refreshing twist; however, a disappointing one.

Putting aside the grim situation, my favorite part of Shirley’s journal entries was when he was kneed in his side and ended up in the hospital with a lacerated spleen and fractured left kidney. In the is section Shirley was able to vividly recreate his hospital experiences with descriptions that made me literally cringe.

The stories of countless interactions with multiple players and travels start to blur together. Because of the fact that he was on so many different teams through out his career, it can be challenging to keep everything straight. As someone who is not familiar with the NBA, I couldn’t make any connections with teams, players, or coaches. It was Shirley’s informal yet humorous voice that kept me reading. Towards the middle of the book, it did seem to get repetitive and boring. That doesn’t stop me from recommending this book though, especially to basketball fanatics or people who have served as bench warmers.

Overall, this book shouldn’t necessarily “foul-out” of your reading list. On a five-star scale, I give it 3 stars.


One Response to “Can I Keep My Jersey?- Book Review”

  1. fuglsang on October 30, 2016 2:59 pm

    Very nice first line. It’s your opinion, and it’s tied to the content of the text. You do explain in one graf at the end why it isn’t a slam dunk. Maybe a bit more of the negative.

    The Paul Shirley background and history (4th graf) would fit better before the plot summary. Who he is, then what he has to say. Overall you’re answering all of assignment’s questions. The best piece here is analysis of what he was trying to achieve.

    Proofread. I think auto-correct is messing you up. Use transitions to bridge the sections.

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