In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • Historical Dictionary of Basketball
  • Murry Nelson
Grasso, John. Historical Dictionary of Basketball. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2011. Pp. 495. Foreword, preface, acronyms and abbreviations, chronology, appendices, and bibliography. $80 hb.

This is not a book that one reads from start to finish, but rather one that has many interesting parts that can be digested in small or larger segments. The book consists of two sections that can and should be read completely. First is a twenty-page chronology of basketball from its invention in 1891 through various highlights at the college, professional, international and individual levels, ending in 2010 with John Wooden’s death, Lebron James’s signing with Miami, and both the men’s and women’s FIBA World Championships, played in Turkey and the Czech Republic, respectively.

The second vital section is the Introduction, which parallels the chronology by providing a narrative of basketball history in twenty-four pages. This section reads well, highlights appropriate teams, games, and leagues and connects much of basketball history with social history of the times.

Following these sections, comes the body of the dictionary, 362 pages of entries, beginning with “Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem,” who merits more than a page, to “Zollner, Fred,” who warrants nearly an entire page as creator-owner of the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons from 1941 to 1974. The team played in the National Basketball League, the Basketball Association of America, and the National Basketball Association, and Zollner relocated them to Detroit in 1957.

Entries include players, teams, countries, organizations, leagues, schools and terms/concepts (such as steal), internationally and nationally, all of which are part of basketball’s nomenclature and history. The entries are concise but sufficient and provide useful and interesting anecdotal and specific factual data.

Following the body of entries there are twelve excellent appendices. These include Naismith’s Original 13 Rules; Major Professional League Champions from 1898–2010, for both men and women; NCAA champions for men; NCAA champions for women; NIT champions for men; Olympic results by country and year for men; Olympic results by country and year for women; FIBA World championship results for men; FIBA World Championship results for women; Naismith Hall of Fame inductees; FIBA Hall of Fame inductees; Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductees. Despite an entry for the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), there is no listing of the AIAW champions from 1973–1982 (after which the NCAA absorbed the AIAW) in the Appendix.

Grasso includes a thirty-eight-page bibliography organized by topics. Although it is hardly all-inclusive, it is very comprehensive and useful in both its organization and initial anecdotal commentary.

Most all of the entries are excellent, indicating good research and useful summarization. There are a few inclusions that need clarification such as noting that the Original Celtics left the ABL in 1928 but not clearly stating that they won league titles in both the 1926–1927 and 1927–1928 seasons, but this is nit-picking. One comment that I will [End Page 172] NOT make regards what entries are or are not included in the volume. Obviously, with limited space, editorial decisions determine the inclusion of entries that might be omitted by someone else and vice versa. That will always be the case and is not worth arguing about.

Overall, this is a sound reference book for libraries and a very handy source for those individuals who research basketball history. Thus, the price ($80) is not so prohibitive, considering the usefulness of the material.

Murry Nelson
The Pennsylvania State University


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 172-173
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.