Heaven Is a Playground by Rick Telander

Heaven Is a Playground

In 1974 Rick Telander intended to spend a few days doing a magazine piece on the court wizards of Brooklyn’s Foster Park. He ended up staying the entire summer, becoming part of the players’ lives, and eventually the coach of a loose aggregation known as the Subway Stars. Telander tells of everything he saw: the on-court flash, the off-court jargon, the late-night graffiti raids, the tireless efforts of one promoter-hustler-benefactor to ge...

Details Heaven Is a Playground

TitleHeaven Is a Playground
Release DateMar 1st, 2004
PublisherBison Books
GenreSports and Games, Sports, Basketball, Nonfiction

Reviews Heaven Is a Playground

  • Mattmiller
    This book is a classic for a reason. Telander masterfully unfolds how the culture of basketball functions on and around the courts of Brooklyn during the early 1970s. We meet kids who dream of getting out of the inner-city via basketball scholarships. We meet kids who have left to play in college and simply can't function and so they return. We learn about one of the biggest stars of the street ball scene (Fly Williams) and how self-destructive h...
  • Rebecca McNutt
    I was rather reluctant to read this book. Let's just say that sports and I aren't exactly the best of friends, not since the forced gym classes of my junior high school days. I know nothing at all about basketball aside from the horror of them being used as potential weapons by bullying kids. But Heaven is a Playground isn't just about sports. It's about history, it's about the kids who grew up in that history, it's about Seventies nostalgia, and...
  • Matt
    An Eye-Opening inside Look: Heaven is a Playground5 out of 5 stars Imagine yourself in a basketball game, or whatever sport you love; that rush of adrenaline, the excitement of competition and the amazing feeling you get when you make a good play. Although it may be hard to believe, those who play basketball in the inner-city feel the same way. Heaven is a Playground gives a never-before-seen inside look at the purity of basketball, even in one o...
  • Jose
    Afros, tubesocks, Pro Keds, finger rolls, stuff shots, the ABA, and Kool and the Gang are all the rage among the basketball youths of the inner-city in Heaven is a Playground. Set in Brooklyn during the summer of 1974, Rick Telander spends a tumultuous off-season logging the stories of the project playgrounds. In particular, the book revolves around self-styled basketball agent Rodney Parker, troubled superstar "Fly" Williams, middle-school pheno...
  • Peter Nolan
    Rick Telander, a writer for Sports Illustrated, hoped to spend a few days in New York in order to write a piece on inner-city basketball. He stayed a whole summer. He became so drawn to the people and the ideals, he kept wanting more. Observant and intrigued, his motives for staying bleed through the ink, and as a result enhance the substance and value in the book. Telander implores a very unique style. While he remains just a fly on the wall jus...
  • Emma
    If heaven is a playground then basketball is God: immortal, omnipotent, indifferent. Players come and go, but the playground remains, and in many ways that is the gift of this book. The victory of those high priests rewarded for their devotion with college places and accolades, and the tragedy of those who succumb to limited options, to the ghetto, to lack of skill, who never get a chance to blow, are really all parts of the same tapestry and the...
  • Myles
    In his 1974 classic, “Heaven is a Playground,” sports writer Rick Telander leaves a lot of important questions unanswered. For example, if a ghetto playground in Brooklyn is heaven for a basketball aficionado, how much of the playground is heaven and how much is hell for the black youth who seem trapped by its relative safety?Outside of the playground? Broken glass. Graffiti. Heroine addicts. Deadly street gangs and drug dealers. Profiling co...
  • Tommy meeker
    (Plot) A guy name Rick Telander spends his whole summer in a ghetto styled community. He meets a group of kids that play street ball at Brooklyn Fosters park and he ends up spending his time teaching them how to play basketball. He eventually became their coach and taut them the true ways of how to be a team. He taut them to play for yourself and the team and they would win. He went through everything to get them to know that if they played as a ...
  • Andrew Dunn
    A great book about pickup ball in Brooklyn. I loved it at first, it mentions my old AAU coach, Lester Roberts, as the business owner that printed the shirts for the Subway Stars. He later started an AAU program in my hometown of Baton Rouge. What I didn't like about the book was the inevitable messiah complex of a 20 year old white 'coach'. I can't imagine sitting through that many games at that age without playing. The epilogue follows up mainly...
  • Brenna
    The writing is over the top trying, but the pictures are cool.
  • Josh Schneier
    In May of 1974, Rick Telander, a sports journalist, traveled to the heart of Brooklyn, New York, for a whole summer. Rick wanted to write a book about inner city basketball and life in these conditions. Not only did he get the information he wanted for his book, but he also made many friends and relationships with the black adults and youths of the Flatbush, he even created and coached a basketball team, named the Subway Stars. One of the first p...
  • Elijah
    By Elijah OkagbareThe book that I just finished reading is called Heaven Is A Playground by Rick Telander . This is a nonfiction book, as Rick Telander gathered this information by spending four months on the dangerous streets of Harlem while doing an article on the lives of several young aspiring basketball players. One of these players in particular is very special. His name is Albert King and he’s the main character in this book. Albert is a...
  • Jake Graziano
    Jake GrazianoMs. PryleEnglish II H7 March 20145 out of 5From Worst to FirstIn May of 1974, Rick Telander, a sports journalist, traveled to the heart of Brooklyn, New York, for a whole summer. Rick wanted to write a book about inner city basketball and life in these conditions. Not only did he get the information he wanted for his book, but he also made many friends and relationships with the people of the Flatbush. He even created and coached a b...
  • Schuyler
    In the summer of 1974, Telander, a writer for Sports Illustrated, spent his time in and around Foster's Park, the notorious training ground for street ballers, befriending the rotating cast of neighborhood characters.Probably the best thing about this book is Telander's remarkable ability to evoke a sense of time and place. Flatbush, New York, concrete jungle, hot hot summer, city playgrounds, deteriorating basketball courts, drinking cold beer i...
  • Dave
    A bit dated ... What was ground-breaking in the mid-'70's - not so much anymore. But, it was still a fascinating read by a white guy who spent a summer sleeping on the floor of somebody's sparsely-furnished apartment in a Brooklyn ghetto, spending his days at the local park.One of my favorite excerpts:"Shortly after the rain lets up the awards ceremony for the age-group basketball league is held at Foster Park. A small platform has been erected, ...
  • Bill Talley
    This is a great book about life that also happens to be about basketball. Like "The Basketball Diaries", the backdrop of this book is about real people who have some real problems. In my opinion the book shows how little it really takes to give people in some really depressed situations hope about themselves and their future. It also shows how little it takes to derail any hopes that some people have. It is obvious from this book that several of ...
  • Jemille Edwards
    Jemille Edwards05/21/2015Heaven is a playground was a great book I recommend it to everyone because it is very inspiring and motivative. It basically talks about how Rodney a great basketball coach that helps players get scholarships and get into college that are from the streets. But he did way more than that with his team he took them to travel to play other basketball teams, which made them so better. Also they Rodney trained the whole team to...
  • Adam
    This book is cool, if only to know what it's like for the guys who DON'T make it to the NBA. This book tells the story of one guy named Fly Williams who had all the talent to go to the pros, but got caught up in a bunch of shit and instead became just another dude who coulda/shoulda been. The best part is, it was written by this guy who went down to write a 2 or 3 page piece on a Bed-Stuy court in the '70s, and ended up staying, playing, and even...
  • Mrlunch
    Nice non-fiction documentary capturing a time in New York history where the city was almost bankrupt, crime was out of control, and heroin use was growing. Telander takes us deep into the Brooklyn ghetto and introduces us to a dozen young African-American men whose only hope of getting ahead is by playing ball. A bit of a "slow-burner," this book starts off feeling a little rambling and dated, but by its half-way point, Telander weaves together t...
  • Lauren
    Originally when this book was recommended I was concerned that the sports theme would cause this book to be boring, but that wasn't the case at all. Although Telander does use technical as well as slang basketball terms throughout, this book is much more about life than basketball, or more specifically how basketball can greatly influence life. The real-life characters in Telander's account of life in Brooklyn during the summer of 1974 are not at...
  • Tom
    This book leaves the reader with some melancholy. Some of the young players the author encounters go on to great success like Bernard King but also other players who have slipped into the perils of poverty and crime. The book presents some interesting adult characters too, such as a promoter who helps talk up players to prep schools and colleges. For another look at street basketball, this current article is pretty good too, covering its internat...
  • Kobe Mandell
    I'm reading Heaven is a Playground by Rick Telander. It is a really good book. It explains how people live in bad neighborhoods. This one takes place in New York, at Foster Park. Foster Park is a place where people play basketball all day long. One day they can hope that they can escape their neighborhood and make it far in basketball. This book explains the lifestyle and how hard theses people have to work to get to the top. This city is not saf...
  • Justin
    Telander's account of inner-city basketball, and life, in New York in the mid 70's is a riveting account of how basketball and life can be intertwined. Being a fan of basketball, streetball, and New York City life this book should have made it to the top of my priority list sooner, but the wait was well worth it. Telander recounts a summer well spent amongst the hoopers and dreamers of inner city New York and the account is eye-opening and inform...
  • Matt Moran
    SI's top 100 seems to overrate their own writers.This is a good piece of journalism documenting the basketball scene in a specific section of Brooklyn, one summer in 1971. Telander is a good writer and a he has a distinct voice as he describes the scene.It isn't a book that made me love basketball or think "heaven is a playground." For the author, it seems like he was young, he loved the game, and he he didn't have to stay. As the reader, I was d...
  • Masaaki Shima
    Very good reading. One of the best nonfictional books I have ever read and now I know why it is referred to as a classic. If you want to know what's behind that NBA final that just happened, this is the book for you. This go me thinking about a lot of things. But first and foremost, how the kids live in the back of the city got to me (I knew but to know in general is one thing but to face concrete cases is another. Ignorance is indeed bliss).
  • Kelly
    i'm a sucker for most nonfiction books about the inner-city and this was no exception. one character is particularly interesting...a great one for discussion and a major reason why i read this book, as my friend wanted to talk about him with someone else. worth the read and what's more it's super short and reads very fast.
  • Russell
    Normally non-fiction puts me to sleep with the quickness, but this was an interesting look at ghetto life in the 70s as well as a cool bit of background into how the NBA (and basketball in general) got from where it was to where it is now. Despite that, the best part of the book was the photo montage. I've never seen so many dudes playing sports in skin-tight jean-shorts. Sexy.