The Basketball Diaries: The Classic About Growing Up Hip on New York’s Mean Streets

The urban classic coming-of-age story about sex, drugs, and basketball

Jim Carroll grew up to become a renowned poet and punk rocker. But in this memoir of the mid-1960s, set during his coming-of-age from 12 to 15, he was a rebellious teenager making a place and a name for himself on the unforgiving streets of New York City. During these years, he chronicled his experiences, and the result is a diary of unparalleled candor that conveys his alternately hilarious and terrifying teenage existence. Here is Carroll prowling New York City–playing basketball, hustling, stealing, getting high, getting hooked, and searching for something pure. The Basketball Diaries was the basis for the film of the same name starring Leonardo DiCaprio.“I met him in 1970, and already he was pretty much universally recognized as the best poet of his generation. . . . The work was sophisticated and elegant. He had beauty.” — Patti Smith

Community Review 

  • Whether you believe any of these stories actually occurred is really not the point of a contemporary reading of this classic Kerouac/Ginsberg era troupe through New York City’s emerging drug sub-culture. Jim Carroll, in all of his hip early `60s rap and rhetorical escapades, delivers a stunningly irreverent but amazingly still relevant tome about maturation in the blighted streets and overwhelmingly potent drug society of the early 1960s New York counter-culture era. In this profound “diary,” we watch as a pre-eminently street-smart 13 year old weed-smoking, LSD popping and occasional Heroin seeking basketball hero deteriorates into a 16 year old junkie, resorting to whatever means possible to get money for his next fix.
    The obvious and pre-eminent contemporary reason for taking this short work on is to compare it with the 1995 blockbuster film of the same name starring Leonardo DeCaprio. The comparable titles is where the similarities end however…the book and the film are completely different. And in this reviewer’s opinion, and as is almost always the case, this book far exceeds the movie.
    Starting in the Fall of 1963, we’re immediately thrown into Carroll’s world of mid-town Manhattan as he romps with a variety of like-minded youth and city scum. With a constant theme of drug searching overwhelming each entry, Carrol extols in very clear and contemporarily charming 1960’s hip New York language his escapades getting high, having sex, getting into small but growing criminal activity and becoming a general nuisance. The basketball entries are very cool also… at one point he’s at a youth tournament where they’ve ousted “Lewie” Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabber) for being too good; also Carroll hangs with Earl Manigault (The famous “Goat” from Harlem) and other “Spades who can leap so high they can take a quarter off the top of the backboard and leave change.” But as his drug use grows, his basketball skills diminish to the point where it’s hardly mentioned by the end of the book.
    If there is any criticism, I’d say that the aura that this book has exuded over time as being great literature is definitely a farce…this isn’t great writing at all (although Carroll does go on to publish books of poetry and novels which I haven’t read), it’s draw is the stark reality of its subject and background. The total irreverency and sensibility of being lost and downcast are so prevalent here and so pronounced that they literally turn the pages for you. Be aware though of the explicit manner in which Carroll describes his desperate longings for “the nod,” especially toward the end of the work…it is absolutely true that the strung out addict will do anything to get that fix. Carroll pulls no punches in performing these acts nor telling about them.
    Taken in the correct context, this is an amazing work full of meaning and emotion while fully symbolizing a time and place that’s become culturally historic. Whether hippie, sociologist, historian or someone looking for an off-beat but still mesmerizing read, “The Basketball Diaries” is the for you.
  • How much do you know about basketball? Whether you’re just now getting into playing the game or you’re a seasoned veteran, you can always learn some new techniques. Maybe you’d like to learn fancy tricks, or perhaps you want to play better defense. This article is going to guide you with a few helpful tips during your quest.Really practice the types of shots that you’d get in a typical game experience. Yes, it’s fun to play HORSE and try crazy shots, but that’s not prepping you for actual game play. You want to get the types of shots you usually see down cold. Practice them over and over.One of the most important things to understand is when to make the shot. Taking a dangerous shot can result in the ball being overturned. If you do not feel comfortable making the shot, pass it to a teammate and either let them make the shot or get into a better position to make the shot.When shooting a free throw, keep your knees slightly bent and relaxed for best results. This stance allows you to jump vertically without shifting from right to left; thus, helping you maintain an even, accurate shot. Release the ball at the top of your jump for added momentum to the shot.Practice your free throws as often as you can. Free throws in basketball can turn the tide of a game. They are your opportunity to score points with clear views of the basket. You should aim to land at least 80% of the free throws you take. Great free throw shooters can top 90%.Practice as many different shots as you can. You never know when you will need one during a game. If you only practice bank shots, then you will feel less comfortable making a 3-point shot or a lay-up. Practice them all and you will see improvements in all of your shots.Never adopt the attitude that the shoes make the player. The latest and supposedly greatest basketball shoes on the market are probably overrated and not truly tested. They also are likely made in the same factory as cheaper shoes that aren’t name brand. Just focus on a decent pair of shoes and the concentrate on your skills.So are you ready to get out there and show people what you’ve got? If this article has motivated you, just remember there is always plenty more to learn about basketball. It’s a widely-popular sport, and is so much fun. As you continue learning, you might find out that you enjoy it even more!

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