Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball

Abrams. Oct. 2020. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781419741081.
K-Gr 4–Bryant and Morrison team up to honor 11-time NBA All-Star and Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor (b. 1934). This captivating account chronicles Baylor’s rise to basketball stardom in spite of the obstacles he faced in the segregated cities of his childhood and throughout his career. The poetic narrative captures Baylor’s unique style of play in the early days of the NBA: “The way he played was so different that people stopped what they were doing and watched.” This observation not only reflects those who witnessed Baylor’s seemingly effortless and gravity-defying moves on the court, but it is used to describe those who stopped to watch the historic acts of courage of Rosa Parks and Ruby Bridges. Neither Baylor’s influence nor Bryant’s story is limited to the world of basketball. After Baylor staged his own peaceful protest against segregation during an NBA game in 1959, the league took its first steps toward recognizing and rectifying the discrimination that Black players faced as they traveled the country. Morrison’s vibrant oil paintings fill the pages with personality, energy, and movement. His signature elongated figures are perfectly suited to depict the 6’5” baller. An author’s note, suggested reading, notes, and an extensive time line enhance the value of this book.
VERDICT This inspirational and timely portrait of a lesser-known hero of the sports world and the civil rights movement belongs in every school library.

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