The Greatest Basketball Player I Ever Saw by Dr. Len Bergantino is a touching mix of sports biography and autobiography. It is likely the most unique biography you’ll ever have the pleasure of reading. Doctor Bergantino is an eccentric writer who has already written on various subjects. However, with this book, he has turned his hand to writing a sports biography. The strange part is he has chosen to write it about a sportsman you will never have heard of who died at the tender age of 18.
The book is a biography of Billy Finn, Bergantino’s high school best friend who died in a car crash before he ever had a chance to become famous. Bergantino spends much of the book explaining why he thinks Finn was the best basketball player of all time. Finn’s abilities are described as almost supernatural. This part of the book will likely appeal to anyone interested in basketball or amateur sports.
The book isn’t just about Billy Finn, the sportsman, however. Instead, it is a monument to Finn, Bergantino’s friend. I think this is the part of the book that will really appeal to most readers. Bergantino shares with us, the reader, touching anecdotes of what he and Finn got up to as young men. His love for his childhood friend, even 50 years after his passing, is evident and touching.
Bergantino’s affection for Finn is almost infectious. The book is written in such a way that the reader finds themselves caring about a young man they had never heard of before. Finn’s personality is described as warts and all. The two young men don’t always see eye to eye, and Bergantino doesn’t shy away from this. Even the best of friends annoy each other from time to time.
The book is a short, easy read. Bergantino’s writing is energetic if a bit frantic at times. He is a fan of hyperbole, and some of his claims about Finn may have to be taken with a pinch of salt. The eccentric style is enjoyable for most of the book, but the final chapter, in which he talks about how Finn has been reincarnated, may leave some readers, myself included, feeling a little cold. It feels like this last chapter goes off on a little bit of a tangent.
All in all, The Greatest Basketball Player I Ever Saw is a touching biography of a young man you more than likely have never heard of. But, whether you’re a sports fan or not, the book is mostly a beautiful monument to a man whose best friend still bitterly misses him.
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