With limited entertainment value from my wife’s US Magazine and not caring what Sports Illustrated has to say about baseball, the long Memorial Day weekend afforded me an opportunity for some good, mindless reading when I devoured a surprisingly smart book by Paul Shirley, aptly named Can I Keep My Jersey? Paul, you see, is a contemporary of mine. The former 6-foot-10-inch
Paul does an excellent job describing the “other road” by sharing his experiences with imbecile teammates, crazy coaches and a smattering of breakthrough professional moments. He accurately describes the trek of playing professional basketball as a borderline professional basketball player. The book is about four years of his life as a basketball vagabond. Thank you, Paul, for showing me in a weekend what life could have looked like. I can now go to bed without the requisite what-ifs that all former college athletes go though. In fact, it is a relief for me. Paul did (and I suppose still does) have a helluva good time as he wades back and forth between the NBA good-life and the outposts of civilization of Central Russia, Eastern Europe and
I like Paul Shirley. He has insight into someone grappling with a life of almost being an NBA player. As best I can tell, Paul is an atheist and a pessimist who is witty, clever, and obviously getting better at the game of basketball all the time. He seems genuinely miserable, using his writing skills to cope with a transient existence around the globe. Even his coveted 10-day NBA contracts are filled with angst and self-deprecation, waiting for the general manager of whatever team to fire him from his “services”. The book is funny, and I can totally relate to Paul’s life – a life that seems pretty accurate from my limited experience playing professionally.
If you are a 6-foot-10-inch white guy who has a few hours to kill while considering a career in basketball, I strongly recommend Paul’s book. If not for Paul, I might have future questions about how my life would have ended up. Did I pick the right school? Should I have pursued professional basketball? The answer for me—which Shirley helped bring closure—is a resounding “no”. The glamour, according to Paul, is overrated and shallow. If you have a few hours to kill, pick a copy up. It could change your life.