Monday, April 1, 2019

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: NO SLAM DUNK by Mike Lupica

NO SLAM DUNK by Mike Lupica

What It's About (from Goodreads): 
Wes' father always told him that there was only one ball in basketball. That you had to know when to take it yourself and when to give it up, that finding the right balance was key. So at every practice and game, Wes tries his best to be a good basketball player and, above all, a good teammate.

As the season kicks off, Wes finds that not everyone on his team has the same idea. All-star player and the Hawks' point guard, Danilo "Dinero" Rey seems determined to hold the spotlight and the ball, even if it means costing his team the game. If Wes is to lead the Hawks to the playoffs, he'll need to find new ways to dish out an assist--even if it means his most important one comes off the court.

Opening Lines:
Everybody always says there's only one ball in basketball.
Now one had just hit Wes in the side of the face, making him feel like somebody had slapped him.

What I Liked About It:
I like novels about sports, even those I never had a clue about when I was a schoolboy in England many moons ago. (Basketball has since become a world-wide sport, so I would have no excuse nowadays.)

There's no doubting that Mike Lupica knows what he's doing when it comes to sports. The guy was a celebrated broadcaster for many years, and his descriptions of the game are spot on. But what makes a sports book top-notch is when the plot goes beyond the sport itself. In this novel, Wes is dealing with a father with whom he was once close, a father who was a basketball mentor for him. But his father has seen horrors in war, and has come back from active duty battling demons (including alcohol.)

This is deftly handled, and one feels for Wes as he tries to succeed both on the basketball court, as well as dealing with the way his family has been fractured. Lupica's secondary characters are well-rounded (Wes' best friend, Emmanuel, and his mentor, Mr. Correa.) There is also a great rivalry going on with Dinero Rey. Dinero is a bit of a show boat, and has his own issues. Can he be part of a team, with a player like Wes, who is equally as good, or will Dinero give in to ball-hoggery and bring the team down?

My 12-year-old is an extraordinary basketball player, and we read this novel aloud together, Here's what he thought: No Slam Dunk doesn't just tell you about what's on the court, it also tells you about what's happening off it. It really makes you see these characters in another way. I like the story and the conflicts and the way they solve it. I would give No Slam Dunk a 9 out of 10.
(Editor's note: The 12-year-old wrote the above paragraph himself, and changed his bio from 'great' to 'extraordinary.' He's as humble as his old man!)

About the Author (from Amazon):
Mike Lupica began his newspaper career covering the New York Knicks for the New York Post at age 23. He became the youngest columnist ever at a New York paper with the New York Daily News, which he joined in 1977. For more than 30 years, Lupica has added magazines, novels, sports biographies, other non-fiction books on sports, as well as television to his professional resume. For the past fifteen years, he has been a TV anchor for ESPN's The Sports Reporters. His previous young adult novels, Travel Team, Heat, Miracle on 49th Street, and Summer Ball, have been New York Times bestsellers. Lupica is also what he describes as a "serial Little League coach," a youth basketball coach, and a soccer coach for his four children, three sons and a daughter. He and his family live in Connecticut.


  1. I always enjoy Mike Lupica's novels. This one is quite timely and will find a copy for a young friend who found his passion this past year from being on a basketball team.

  2. My grandsons would have loved these books in their teens -- they were athletic and played recruited for college sports. My granddaughter played basketball and would have enjoyed this novel. Will have to keep in mind for our new crop of the great grandsons as they age. I also like how Lupita really gets family issues right and weaves them into his sport stories.

  3. I haven't read a Mike Lupica book in quite awhile. I'm not much of a basketball fan, but I do like Lupica's writing. Hmmmm. Maybe. Thanks for your thoughts.

  4. I'm not a basketball fan either, but I like the personal relationships and issues in this story. Glad your son and you enjoyed it.

  5. I'm not a sports fan (usually) but am a big fan of good sportswriting. go figure. So, will be looking for this one.

  6. I remember reading a Mike Lupica book at the (now late, lamented) bookstore! I believe it was a baseball book but I could be wrong. I'm not much into sports reading but he certainly made it interesting. And we had him at the store for a signing, which was very popular among the kids (or rather, their parents, ha ha!). I got a kick out your 12-year-old changing "great" to "extraordinary" in his bio. Thank you for making me laugh today!


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