Stumped For A Gift? Coach Says Buy The Book

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Looking for the perfect last-minute Christmas gift for the sports nut in your life?

If so, I'd recommend "Values of the Game" by Bill Bradley.

For the younger set who might not remember Bradley, he was a three-time All-American basketball player at Princeton, Olympic gold medalist, member of the New York Knicks from 1967 to 1977 and a two-time NBA champion. He was elected to the basketball Hall of Fame in 1982.

Bradley is also an intellect. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Princeton and currently is associated with Stanford, Notre Dame and the University of Maryland.

He has viewed the world through the political eyeglass having served as a United States senator from New Jersey from 1979 to 1997. Some are projecting him as a future presidential candidate.

"Values of the Game" is not your normal sports text. Rather it is a close look at the lessons learned by playing the game.

The $30 book could be about wrestling, football or another sport. But it centers on basketball because the game is Bradley's passion.

Bradley says he can learn more about a man in a 15-minute three-on-three pick up game than he can in weeks of interviews.

If he's elected president, will his political selections have to play him in order to be appointed?

In 10 essays, the author explores topics that include passion, discipline, respect, courage, leadership and resilience among others.

Readers will not be exposed to the usual escapades of an overpaid superstar looking to enhance his reputation and pocketbook.

Instead, the author focuses on the intrinsic values of playing the sport. He writes of the memories that accrue and the human emotions shared.

One of my favorites and probably any other coach's can be found in the essay on resilience.

Bradley writes, "I've made it through more than a few tough moments in my life by drawing on the resources of my basketball years.

"Resilience is what allows us to struggle hard and long with tragedy or loss or misfortune or change and still manage to dig deep and find our second wind.

"It is a kind of toughness. Each life blow no longer shatters us like a hammer hitting a brick, rather, it makes us stronger.

"Imagine the comfort in knowing that by never giving up, by accepting the bad breaks and going on, you will have lived life to the fullest. Such peace of mind is often reward enough."

In the essay on responsibility, he writes "It seems elementary, but abiding by the team rules is a responsibility. Kids who grow up in a chaotic environment often have little sense of time, so arriving at practice at a scheduled hour becomes a major task. The coach who gets across the importance of punctuality introduces order into many a young life."

Under courage, Bradley writes of the importance of continuing to compete and never quitting despite any mental or any physical pain that may be occurring.

He calls upon a reply from English runner David Moorcraft to reinforce his contentions. When Moorcraft was asked by a reporter why he had never dropped out of a race even in the worst of circumstances, he replied "I think that once you do (quit), you've given yourself an option for the future."

There's little doubt the professional world of basketball has changed since Bradley was a star.

It now has its share of greed, violence, misspent values and other distractions that have resulted in inflated salaries and an NBA strike/lock out.

In today's society, the very institution of professional basketball is being questioned.

But, Bradley says, the game remains pure on the lower levels where it is still "full of joy and the old values flow through it."

He best sums up the sport writing, "Each time a father takes his son or daughter to the playground to shoot baskets for the first time, a new world opens -- one full of values that can shape a lifetime."

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