Review of Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball

Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball
by Jen Bryant; illus. by Frank Morrison
Primary, Intermediate    Abrams    40 pp.    g
10/20   978-1-4197-4108-1    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-64700-161-2    $15.54

“Things can change in time.” For NBA great Elgin Baylor, named for his father’s favorite wristwatch, the segregated parks, playgrounds, schools, and colleges of his Washington, D.C., home would eventually be open to all. But in 1945, such was not the case. When Elgin was a teen, he had a neighborhood court to play on, but, for a long time, no basketball. His skill, though, always seemed to be there (“it’s spontaneous”), and at his segregated high school he was a star. From there he headed west to play college basketball, and in 1958 joined the Minneapolis Lakers in the NBA and was voted Rookie of the Year. He faced racism and discrimination in hotels and restaurants, and famously sat out an important game — leading to an anti-discrimination rule change by the NBA. With lively verse and elegant oil paintings, Bryant and Morrison masterfully place Baylor’s midair “slashing, crashing, gliding” basketball heroics in the context of his times, with Rosa Parks’s protest in Alabama (including a luminous portrait by Morrison); Black students integrating a school in Arkansas; and lunch counter sit-ins in Kansas. In light of current protests in sports — Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling, the NBA and WNBA playoff boycotts, and NASCAR drivers supporting Bubba Wallace’s stand against racism — time on Mr. Baylor’s watch moves slowly indeed. Back matter includes an informative author’s note, a bibliography, and a timeline.

From the November/December 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Dean Schneider

Dean Schneider teaches eighth grade English at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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