Benoît Labis presented his book The Great History of the NBA

Where does your passion for basketball come from?
During my university studies, I developed a strong interest in the English language and American culture, exploring a little of all subjects. In 2010, I discovered “30 for 30”, a series of documentaries produced by the sports channel ESPN, some episodes were shown on French channels in a subtitled version. Some of them have a basketball theme. Upon further research, I realized how exciting this sport is; everything I saw or read about the NBA after that only made me more fascinated.

Can you introduce us to your book The Great History of the NBA?
The great history of the NBA goes back in detail to each of the seasons of the NBA – the North American basketball championship – from its beginning to the present. Each season is produced in the form of a short story, containing photographs, but unpublished anecdotes taken from documentaries, books and articles published by expert American journalists. The particularity of this book is that it is intended for connoisseurs as well as for the general public: the functioning of the NBA, certain terms, the highlights, the reasons for the success of certain players; everything is explained there. I wanted to approach things in the most entertaining way possible, avoiding being too off-putting with a barrage of names, results and statistics that wouldn’t make sense to the uninformed reader.

Why did you want to do a book on the NBA and how has it evolved over the decades?
In the course of my research, I realized that a large amount of information that I read or saw on the United States side was ignored in France. Here I want to bring them together in one book. But I also want to give an objective view of the history of the NBA, based on concrete facts and taking into account all the changes that have occurred over time. Often, the way in which players are perceived by spectators or the media does not correspond to reality; some are unfairly belittled, and others are praised for the wrong reasons. The same is true for some teams. Regarding the evolution of the NBA, I think we can say that it has come a long way in its seventy-five years of existence. Consider that in the beginning, players are not professionals; they had a second job in the off-season because the salaries were a mockery and the administration was more than rudimentary, not to mention the constraints associated with travel or military service. Today, even the lowest rated players earn millions a year, and the NBA provides everyone with the best possible working conditions.

Although the beginnings were difficult, what was the trigger for the championship to become a global democracy?
The trigger on the global level was probably the adventure of the “Dream Team” in the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992. That’s when the world really discovered what the NBA is. The level of American basketball players was exceptional: they were several years ahead, and the general interest in the American league only increased from that moment. Many young Europeans have been inspired by the “Dream Team”; Tony Parker, torn between football and basketball in his youth, said he chose basketball after watching the United States play in 1992. Twenty years after the Barcelona Games, seventy-eight foreign players were present in the NBA, while there were never more than a handful before. And then, of course, we can’t ignore the impact of Michael Jordan. His performances and his charisma made him an international icon. Everyone admired him and wanted to follow his exploits, even across the Atlantic.

How did you document yourself to write your book?
As I said before, I am mostly inspired by books and articles written by prominent American journalists. I have taken care to thank most of them in my book. Apart from that, I went to draw information from documentaries, magazines and some biographies of players and actors in the NBA world.

Were there any players who stood out in particular during the championship?
Many players have marked the NBA in their own way. There are too many to name them all, but if I were to mention a few, I would name Bill Russell, the greatest winner in NBA history and a role model for all African-American basketball players; Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, who almost saved the NBA when things were so bad, and especially Michael Jordan, who needs no introduction. And of course, you can’t miss LeBron James, who is probably the best basketball player of the twenty-first century.

How have NBA rules changed over time?
The most important rule was the establishment of the rule of twenty-four seconds of ball possession, in the mid-1950s. I also devoted a whole chapter to it in my book. Without this rule, the NBA would be unusable because the game would be tasteless. Then there were several important developments; the league has always been smart enough to adapt to the times and is not afraid to change. This limited the impact of larger and stronger players to prevent excessive dominance on their part; he added a three-point line to value backs; in the 2000s, when the pace slowed too much and defenses came before attacks, he changed the rules to allow players to attack the basket and get the ball back more quickly. Today, players are more skilled in shooting and the matches end with higher and higher scores; it may be time to return to stricter defensive rules. have…

Do you have a favorite NBA team?
I have a soft spot for the Boston Celtics because of their game philosophy and their history. But to be honest, I’m pretty neutral. I want the best team to win.

In your opinion, what influence does the NBA have on basketball (supporters or players) in our regions?
French basketball has a very good quality, like European basketball. But in sport, everyone wants to see the best at work. And the NBA level is higher than other championships. For any young basketball player in the making, the NBA represents excellence, the ultimate dream. Inevitably, all basketball fans in Europe or elsewhere end up having an interest in it and talk about it.

Can you tell us an anecdote about the championship?
There are so many incredible anecdotes about the championship that it’s impossible for me to pick one in particular! I have collected most of them in my book. I still want to give you a quote whose source I forget, but which sums up well what people thought of Michael Jordan at the time when he was crushing the NBA: “The problem with Michael Jordan is that he was better play basketball better than anyone else. in the world. »

Are signings planned at bookstores or fairs?
There is no plan for this moment but everything is possible.

Would you like to tell us a few words about your NBA Book blog?
I created the blog in 2016, to provide the French public with information from articles, books and documentaries in English language dedicated to the NBA. This blog inspired me to write my book. The time I’ve spent on the latter has prevented me from doing any recent updates, but I’ll no doubt come back to it when I find new topics to cover.

What do you want to say to finish?
I would like to thank Éditions Solar for agreeing to publish my book. I had no particular ambitions while writing this, and I was really happy that they appreciated my work! If you want to start any writing project, don’t hesitate to try, even if it takes time, patience and a lot of hard work.

Thanks to Benoît Labis for answering our interview!

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