In the early years of the NBA, league games sometimes had to be canceled because of fog.
No, the league did not schedule games on playgrounds. For the 1950s, the arenas were hardly state-of-the-art.
Actually, the NBA was once fogged out because of the work of arena maintenance crews. Because the league wasn’t considered a big draw, crews would not even remove the ice that hockey was played on.
In some arenas, crews would place the hardwood floor surface on top of the ice. Fans today would hardly recognize the NBA back in its inaugural years, but, to appreciate the game of today, it is necessary to acknowledge what the game once was.
Tall Tales: The Glory Years of the NBA was written by Terry Pluto, arguably one of the most unknown but undeniably brilliant basketball writers. In a unique way, Pluto approaches the history of the league all the way up to the Bill Russell/Wilt Chamberlain era. Instead of writing a narrative and leaving all responsibilities of story telling in the hands of one – albeit, one capable author – he thought the best way to tell the story of a league that featured franchises in Fort Wayne and Syracuse was to let it be told by the people who were there.
The book’s style is risky, since the early days of the league are not well known. It could be assumed that most readers will not know the book’s narrators. So the reader is forced to do one of two things: either accept that they do not know these basketball aficionados and read on, or spend some extra time constantly flipping from page to page looking for a character roll call.
Narrators like George Yardley, a seven-year league vet, and Larry Siegfried, most notably of Boston’s franchise, will undoubtedly confuse readers. But they will also bring readers into a world of early pro basketball for the very first time. The reader’s confusion is far outweighed by the flow and pulse found on each page. At worst, the individual stories read like a transcript from an episode of ESPN’s Sports Century. At best, the reader is placed into a real-life conversation with the storytellers, at the complete mercy of the narratives and their intimate feel.
And where does Pluto fit into all this? Again with the Sports Century comparison, Pluto comes off as the omniscient narrator who provides the reader with vital information when necessary. But for the most part, Pluto lets the stories tell themselves, which is why the book works so well.
Once the confusion of reading a book unlike any other subsides, Tall Tales offers a vibrant description of a time when pro basketball was not as big a draw as its collegiate counterpart. Through a clever recounting of the NBA’s earliest era, Pluto is able to pull the reader into these delightful anecdotes. This is an essential read for anyone who claims to be a basketball fan.