The Common Good

Climbing Into Their Skin

Have you ever read a book you wish you'd written? I'm reading one now. It's The Last Shot: City Streets, Basketball Dreams by Darcy Frey. 

© Mark Herreid / Shutterstock
Photo: Silhouette of teen shooting a basketball, © Mark Herreid / Shutterstock.com

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Basketball is and always has been my favorite sport. When I was a kid, I spent the last hours of sunlight each day shooting free throws at the trusty iron rim Dad put up for me in our back yard. 

The best games in the history of the sport were won or lost in the final seconds with me at the charity stripe, my heart pounding harder than the sound of the dribble of the ball on concrete. I was the point guard for the North Carolina Tarheels or the Philadelphia 76ers and I could hear the cheers from Chapel Hill and Philly and the jeers from Durham and Boston as the ball left my fingertips. I shoot free throws still. The best games I played in were games on the courts of the Clarksdale Housing Projects in Louisville, Ky., a place where I lived and served. I think of those games still.

In The Last Shot, Frey has written a compassionate book. It is truly a compass that guides us into the sneakers and the hearts of children growing up in the housing projects of Coney Island, New York — inner-city kids defying the law of nature by growing in a tough place like flowers growing through concrete. It is truly passionate about basketball and life, basketball as it is loved by children, coaches, and communities ... life as it is felt through the hearts of people who know human beings are human beings and not commodities.

"There's something I'd like to ask. If you'll do it, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds. You see, you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view," says Atticus to Scout, Jem, and Dill in To Kill A Mockingbird. "Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." 

This book helps you do just that ... climb into the sneakers and skins of inner-city children and play the game of basketball and feel the struggle and triumph of life.

Trevor Scott Barton is an elementary school teacher in Greenville, S.C. He is a blogger for the Teaching Tolerance project of the Southern Poverty Law CenterPhoto:

Silhouette of teen shooting a basketball,  © Mark Herreid | View Portfolio / Shutterstock.com

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