Writer/Artist: Gene Luen Yang
Colorist: Lark Pien
Art Assists: Rianne Meyers & Kolbe Yang
Publisher: 01 First Second
From the minute I held this book in my hand, I just knew it was gonna be special. From the texture of the cover, which mimics that of an actual basketball, to flipping through it and seeing the characters hoop. This was a book that couldn't have come to me at a more perfect time. Well actually I've had it for a couple months but just didn't get around to reading it, then the Kobe Bryant tragedy happened. Since that tragic Sunday, I have immersed myself in my love for basketball again and it seemed as if this book was calling out to me to read it. I had no idea what to expect only that it was about basketball. Not to mention that its done by the critically acclaimed Gen Luen Yang.
While Yang has written many award winning graphic novels and also some work over at DC, I haven't really read much of his stuff. But after reading this book I see what a mistake that has been. It's clear to me now why his work is so beloved. What he chronicles in this book perfectly encapsulates what makes basketball so special, not to mention he captures the spirit of teamwork and the love each player has for the game.
Gene opens the book up by giving telling us how he never really got sports as a kid and that he had long since lost any interest in basketball. But now at the O'Dowd High School, where he now teaches, basketball seems like all anyone can talk about. The book takes place during the 2015 season of the Men's Varsity Basketball team, The Dragons, and their chase for their first ever State Title. They're having a record setting year and it seems like everything is lining up for them to succeed. Intrigued, and looking for a new idea for his next book, Gene decides to write about the Dragons. But as he meets these young players he soon discovers that their story is just as captivating as anything he's ever read in a comic.
Throughout the book we see Gene begin to fall in love with the game. He gets sucked into their world and follows them all the way to the end. Along the way we get to meet each of the players on the team and learn their motivations and desires for being on the team. As a reader it adds to the experience on a way that has you rooting for these young men and hoping they succeed. Coach Lou is also a great character to latch onto as you see him trying to elevate these kids to a place he was never able to reach when he was playing. It transcends basketball and really teaches them how to be accountable and responsible.
We also get chapters focused on the history of basketball and how it came to be, which are really informative, especially if you have no prior knowledge of the sport. It touches on everything fro the beginning all the way to the formation of the first professional leagues. Detailing the trials and tribulation those players had back then with racism, etc. And how it grew into the NBA we all know today.
But, even though this book mostly focuses on the team, we can't forget about Gene. This story focuses a lot on his own desires and dreams. During this period of his life is when he first started working for DC comics. We see the struggle that can cone when fllowing your dream but also having to juggle a fulltime job, family time, and working on his own personal projects. That's enough to make anyone wanna give up, but instead Gene pushes through. It's as if his time following the Dragons and working on this book motivated him to keep pushing to pursue his dreams/goals.
This book is not only entertaining as a fan of the sport of basketball, but it inspires you to never give up. No matter what you want to do in life, hard work and perseverance will get you there. It's a powerful message, seeing what a profound affect those young basketball players had on Gene's life and how we ourselves can draw inspiration from it as well.