Who's running the Asylum?

By Wilt Chamberlain


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Ever wonder what it's like to sit with an old man in the barber shop and hear his views on everything? That's just about what this book was like. There are good points and there are a lot of misinformed statements as well.

The main point Chamberlain drives home, and it is a very important point, is that the older players didn't have their every game recorded on tv, radio, ESPN, etc. No one speaks up for them and their accomplishments. Most fans today make judgements on the pre-1980 basketball based on ignorant falsehoods. For instance, they assume Chamberlain played against a lot of bad centers (when the truth is, he went up against hall of famers nearly ever other game). They think today's game is so much better without ever studying the facts. Chamberlain speaks up for the older players, and this is an important message -- unfortuately, it often falls on deaf ears.

He points out how the NBA and the media spend excessive time promoting and hyping the games because the games can't sell themselves based on their quality. What is really sad is that they will run down the older players to promote the newer ones. He even provides examples, the most condemning being NBC commentator Matt Guokas claiming Shaquille O'Neal was a better free throw shooter than Chamberlain, but when confronted, justified himself by saying that O'Neal is sensitive about his shooting, so he lied to help O'Neal.

Chamberlain also speaks his opinion about what's wrong with today's game and the athletes and ownership and provides suggestions, albeit, sometimes too simple of suggestions. He also comments on other sports and spends his fair share of time promoting amateur and women's athletics.

However, he has quite a bit of misinformation in the book as well. For instance, while lamenting on overweight players who don't care, he singles out Brian Williams. As he tells of Williams (who isn't particularly overweight) career, I realize, he's talking about John Williams from LSU. He says that Chris Mullin was injured half the games every season, and this just isn't true. Mullin was an extremely durable player until the 1993-94 season. He said the Knicks were happy with Pat Riley and wanted him back -- not true. He makes suggestion about todays game to "Commissioner Larry O'Brien" (the commissioner is David Stern) Many years, numbers, and names are incorrect as well. A lot of it has a "as I remember it" feel, but in this case, when writing a book of opinions, those memories need to be refreshed with a knowledgable editor. Otherwise, the opinions lose crediblity, and many opinions in this book are important and need to be told. Instead, he comes across as the old man at the barber shop, who forms strong opinions without studying the facts, and that is sad. Furthermore, he comes across as speaking out both sides of his mouth. For instance, he both promotes and belittles Jordan time and time again. I think his idea is that Jordan is a fantastic player, but he has been coddled by the league and officials and he isn't the greatest player in history. But since the thoughts about Jordan are not in one section, it comes across as incoherant dis/hype/dis/hype. This is true for guys like Dennis Rodman, Shaquille O'Neal, and Magic Johnson, among others.

To his credit, just like his 1991 book A View from Above, he writes the book without a ghost writer (but the editor really goofed, as I caught at least 2 typos and 1 grammer error). As far as a book about Wilt and his opinions, I think A View from above is far better and his autobiography, Wilt: Just like any other black millionaire who lives next door are far better books.

Introspection:  3
Insight:  3
History:  1957-1996
Readability:  4

Who's running the Asylum? Inside the insane world of sports today. Wilt Chamberlain. ProMotion. 1997

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