"The players today are much better than we were.... But there is
one thing that we could do better. We could pass the ball better
than they can now. Man, we used to pass that basketball around like
it was a hot potato."--Sam "Buck" Covington, former member of the
n a nation distinguished by a great black athletic heritage,
there is perhaps no sport that has felt the impact of African
American culture more than basketball. Most people assume that the
rise of black basketball was a fortuitous accident of the
inner-city playgrounds. In "Hot Potato, " Bob Kuska shows that it
was in fact a consciously organized movement with very specific
When Edwin Henderson introduced the game to Washington, D.C., in
1907, he envisioned basketball not as an end in itself but as a
public-health and civil-rights tool. Henderson believed that, by
organizing black athletics, including basketball, it would be
possible to send more outstanding black student athletes to excel
at northern white colleges and debunk negative stereotypes of the
race. He reasoned that in sports, unlike politics and business, the
black race would get a fair chance to succeed. Henderson chose
basketball as his marquee sport, and he soon found that the game
was a big hit on Washington's segregated U Street. Almost
simultaneously, black basketball was catching on quickly in New
York, and the book establishes that these two cities served as the
birthplace of the black game.
"Hot Potato" chronicles the many successes and failures of the
early years of black amateur basketball. It also recounts the
emergence of black college basketball in America, documenting the
origins of the Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association, or
CIAA, which would become the Big Ten of black collegiate
The book also details for the first time the rise of black
professional basketball in America, with a particular emphasis on
the New York Renaissance, a team considered by experts to be as
important in the development of black basketball as the Harlem
Globetrotters. Kuska recounts the Renaissance's first victory over
the white world champion Original Celtics in 1925, and he evaluates
the significance of this win in advancing equality in American
sports. By the late 1920s, the Renaissance became one of the
sport's top draws in white and black America alike, setting the
stage for the team's undisputed world championship in 1939. As
Edwin Henderson had hoped--and as any fan of the modern-day game
can tell you--the triumphs certainly did not end there.
University of Virginia Press
|Country of origin:
||221 x 145 x 15mm (L x W x T)
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