"Hoops" is a book for young adults that was first published in 1981. It is about 200 pages long and is the story of a young basketball player living in a Harlem ghetto. However, the story is skilfully crafted so that the game of basketball symbolizes the game of life. Although at one level the story is an action-packed sports tale, on another level it is a moral tale about integrity and the choices people make in life.
The main character in the story is a 17-year-old African American named Lonnie Jackson. His life revolves around playing basketball and he is captain of the high school team. He has loads of talent but lacks guidance in life. He is a typical teenager who likes to hang out with his friends, has a part-time job, a girlfriend and argues with his mother. His dream is to play professional basketball, but he has no motivation to make it happen.
Cal is a former professional basketball player who had problems with gambling and alcohol and had to quit playing. Those problems haven't gone away. He becomes a coach to Lonnie's team and tries hard to keep himself together and show them the right way of doing things. He recognizes Lonnie's talent and does not want to see him make the same mistakes he did. He teaches Lonnie to focus on his talent and not give in to pressures.
Cal coaches Lonnie's team for a city-wide basketball Tournament of Champions. Winning this game could take Lonnie out of the ghetto and give him a chance at professional basketball, which is his dream. Lonnie has to face challenges with his team and coach, practice hard and put in lots of effort. They work through the tournaments and make it to the final, but Cal sits Lonnie on the bench. He is still immersed in the world of big gambling and is under pressure for the team he coaches to lose.
Without too many spoilers, at the end Lonnie does play and the team wins but the rest is very sad. Cal does the right thing and does not let Lonnie blow the chance of a lifetime, but he does so at enormous cost. "Hoops" leaves the reader with a feeling of how it is to grow up in a tough neighborhood, but also that you stick to your friends no matter what happens and you should follow your dreams.
- Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images