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Book Reviews

Hoopla!: Inside the Toronto Raptors’ First Season

by Jack Batten

In order to provide readers with a better understanding of professional sports, writers often focus on the exploits of a single team for only one season. In the context of basketball, this snapshot approach has been adopted successfully by such authors as Cameron Stauth and David Halberstam. Stauth tagged along with the Detroit Pistons during their NBA championship season of 1988-89 to write The Franchise (1990), while Halberstam’s The Breaks of the Game (1981) chronicled the not-so-successful adventures of the Portland Trail Blazers in 1979-80.
The tradition of the “life in the year of an NBA franchise” book has now been greatly enhanced by Hoopla!: Inside the Toronto Raptors’ First Season by the well-known Toronto writer, film reviewer, and longtime basketball fan Jack Batten. This is a first-rate piece of sports writing that will occupy a place alongside the works of Stauth and Halberstam.
While these earlier writers concentrated on two established professional teams, Hoopla! examines the life of a fledgling organization. Batten begins at the point when an NBA presence in Toronto (and Canada) was just the dream of a few city businessmen. He delves into the high-stakes world of basketball as big business, an environment that includes the initial bid for franchise approval from league officials, player signings, stadium contracts, and team logo merchandising. In addition to the full-contact action that takes place in the boardrooms, Batten describes the on-court antics of the rookie Raptors in a concise, fast-paced, poetic style ideal for describing the game of pro basketball.
In Hoopla!, Batten details the thoughts, opinions, and operating strategies of just about everyone involved in creating the Raptors’ “total entertainment package” – from front-office figures like team President John Bitove and VP/General Manager Isiah Thomas, to all the key players, the stadium PA announcer, media personnel who cover the team, and yes, even the guy in the dinosaur suit.
Basketball fans will devour every page of Hoopla!, and even the most casual sports fan or armchair point guard will be captivated by Batten’s careful and enthusiastic examination of a Canadian city’s entry into the world of the NBA.