It’s no secret that New Zealand basketball doesn’t get the coverage it deserves. For a sport with such high participation and interest, most coverage of the sport revolves around the success (or otherwise) of the New Zealand Breakers in the Australian NBL, as well as Steven Adams’ exploits in the NBA. The national teams are often an afterthought in our sports coverage.
That’s why Huw Beynon’s debut book is a breath of fresh air. It’s a well researched summary of the careers of the eleven (at time of printing) players to have played over 100 tests for the Tall Blacks. That number in itself is shockingly low, harking back to a time where the international side would often embark on tours that didn’t include many test matches. As a result, all eleven are from a relatively modern era, with each of the eleven debuting in 1993 or later. Each chapter focuses on an individual player, charting their journey through their basketball careers, with entertaining recollections of particular events woven into each story. Given the overlapping nature of these players’ careers, such tales help avoid repetition and place a unique spin on each chapter.
Well known as a sports broadcaster from his time with TV3, The Crowd Goes Wild and Sky Sports, there was a touch of the unknown about Beynon’s writing. Rest assured though, the trademark wit shines through, producing some genuine laugh out loud moments, without detracting from the main purpose of the book. To help achieve this, Beynon uses a footnote system reminiscent of the now defunct ‘Grantland’ website. It enables him to intertwine jokes (many of them self-deprecating), extend gags throughout the book and include additional statistics and information to support his storytelling.
The jokes themselves help showcase why Beynon was the ideal man to write this book. He’s well connected in New Zealand basketball circles, through not only his time as a broadcaster covering the game, but also in helping the operations of the NZ NBL and his role as current Tall Blacks team manager. There are few others who could have confidently included the gags about Dillon Boucher’s hair or Casey Frank’s nudity, but Beynon’s standing within New Zealand basketball allows him to do just that and the strength of his relationships with many of these players is apparent.
A common theme amongst the book is just how well regarded New Zealand’s basketballers are overseas, but such recognition has often been lacking within New Zealand. You could probably write another book on that topic itself, but for now I’d recommend reading Ballin’ in Black. It’s entertaining, informative and finally shines a light on some true legends of not only basketball, but New Zealand sport.
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