Can I Keep My Jersey chronicles the life of Paul Shirley, a self-proclaimed Basketball vagabond. Shirley’s career started out playing for the Iowa State Cyclones where he evolved from starting as a walk-on, to later when he joined the starting lineup. After playing at the college level for four years, he declared for the 2001 NBA draft. Unfortunately for him at the end of the draft, he wasn’t selected by a team and went undrafted.
That doesn’t mean there wasn’t some interest around Shirley. Shortly after the draft, the Los Angeles Lakers were one of the few teams that reached out to him. He went to the tryouts with the goal to give it his all as he knew his options were dwindling. Shirley failed to impress the coaching staff and decided to go a different direction that didn’t involve the Iowa State alum.
He then spends the next seven years bouncing around from team to team. While he does play for three NBA teams Atlanta, Chicago, and Phoenix. He has little impact on the team and never stayed on one for more than a year. He does see more success overseas on teams like the Greek professional basketball club, and later in Beijing.
Paul Shirley has always had a passion for Basketball playing in the town of Meriden, Kansas. He describes how he had to work hard and improve both in the classroom and on the court. He is certainly qualified to write this book because I would consider it a very personal memoir. While I feel some events like the interaction with Kobe Bryant to be hard to believe, they still seem to be mostly true. You wouldn’t know it from the way this book is written but it seems like Shirly has two different personalities. While in the memoir he is certainly sarcastic, but always seemed like the outsider on the team.
The way the memoir is set up is like looking into the personal diary of Shirley’s. Recalling dates and times of specific events. One of my favorite examples of this is January 21st on page 64. This captures the uncertainty of not knowing what is going to happen during contract negotiations. Shirley’s ten-day contract with the Atlanta Hawks hung in the balance depending on the severity of another player’s injury. When the coaching staff found out it was mild knee inflammation, they declined to offer Shirley a contact.
I feel that Paul Shirley has a legitimate reason for writing a memoir. Very few NBA players have had the journey that he has had. In fact, I can’t think of any athlete who would have a similar situation to Shirley. The fact that he kept a record of all the crazy events that happened is impressive. I found it motivational at times throughout the book. One day he is a part of an NBA franchise the next he’s working in the mall food court. Regardless of his situation he perseveres and doesn’t give up. I don’t know if I would do the same if I was in his position. It can’t feel good to be rejected by so many teams. I would have a hard time with it because it would be so demoralizing.
I’m certain he thought it wouldn’t hurt either to capitalize on these experiences either. Can I Keep My Jersey? Released when he was employed as a writer for ESPN. Much like he uses offensive terminally in the book, he also was controversial with ESPN. After saying Haiti didn’t deserve any help after the 2010 earthquakes. That is certainly not the only controversial thing that he has said. But that was the straw that broke the camel’s back as he was fired from ESPN following the Haiti comments.
The beginning of the book starts with an introduction by Shirley. Right off the bat, he establishes the sarcastic and comedic tone. He dreads going to the doctor because of filling out the employer information box. The memoir is then split into three years. Throughout the book, Shirley has cleaver observations at times pointing out the little details. Shirley is incredibly witty when he describes his teammates. Particularly towards the end of the book when he is playing with the Russian league.
I enjoyed how the book was broken up. Instead of it being large chapters, it feels like every date is significant for one reason or another. Another touch that I like is the headings like on page 278. I don’t remember any of the game lines being particularly good, But Shirly including this one when he was against the Los Angeles Clippers almost seems like he is making fun of himself.
Of course, another method is participation. He has experience playing in these games and living through the experience of a professional athlete. I think the exchanges with Shaq while he was just trying out are great. The reader knows that Shirley is terrified of meeting him at first, but it turns out to be a good experience. Shaq welcomed him to the team when he very well could have ignored him. He is certainly emotionally involved as the memoir covers very personal details. He lays it all out for the reader to interpret.
As a fan of Basketball particularly the NBA, I was excited to read this book. Prior to reading the book, I knew Paul Shirley played basketball at Iowa State but had no idea he entered the draft or played for a few teams.
I really had a hard time putting this book down. It drew me in right from the introduction. I would keep telling myself to read one more day and that that would be the last one. While I am not a prolific reader, I enjoyed Can I Keep My Jersey immensely. I do have to question what Shirley exaggerated as I do have a hard time taking everything at face value.