Off the Shelf: Crazy Basketball by Charley Rosen

Rosen Read from Chapter 1, "Portrait of the Hooper as a Young Man" from Crazy Basketball: A Life In and Out of Bounds by Charley Rosen, Foreword by Phil Jackson:

"My first formal game was in a ninth-grade tournament at Junior High School No. 44, where my class (of intellectually gifted students) was trounced by class 9-14, a low-IQ team of unruly young men who’d been left back several times and who shaved every day. My main memories of playing in the cold, windy schoolyard were of wearing my long pants with my shirttails flapping, of getting razzed for being so clumsy as to stumble over a foul line, and later getting beaten by my father for tearing my pants.

Even so, I was recruited to play with my classmates in a local community center league. And whenever we dared to defeat the Jabones, another team of tough guys and troublemakers, we had to fast-break all the way home.

After long, lonesome sessions in the playground I ultimately developed an awkward, but adequate, corkscrew jumper to complement a hook shot. At the tender age of fifteen I was a senior at Theodore Roosevelt High School, and having grown to six foot six and 210 pounds, I tried out for, and made, the varsity team as a third-string center.

The coach was a math teacher named Howard McManus, who was smart enough to let our All-City guard, Jackie Thompson, run the team. Coach McManus’s only advice for the rest of us was this: “Bend your knees, boys. Bend your knees.”

It was early in the season and we had just finished routing Grace Dodge Vocational High School in an afternoon home game. I already understood that winning was better than losing, but I was absolutely ecstatic because I had come off the bench to score my first varsity points. Five of them—on a put-back lay-up, an elbow jumper, and a free throw.


I was so happy that, instead of taking the Third Avenue Elevated train for the four stops from Fordham Road to the 174th Street station, I decided to undertake the two-mile journey by foot. Merrily I skipped through Little Italy and across Tremont Avenue. five points! I aimed to cut about fifteen minutes off my travel time by taking a shortcut through the wide construction site that obliterated 177th through 175th streets in preparation for the Cross-Bronx Expressway.

It was dark and the dug-up landscape was beyond the reach of the bordering streetlights, but my neighborhood buddies and I had easily scampered across the same route during the daylight hours on weekends on our way to the movie theaters on Tremont. And besides, I was floating in my own delirious reverie.


I literally came back to earth when I tumbled into a freshly dug ditch. Fortunately, the ditch was only four feet deep, and I escaped with only a deep cut just over my left eyebrow. With blood gushing over my face, I managed to transverse the construction site with no further injury, whereupon I ran the ensuing ten blocks to the emergency room at Bronx Hospital."

Charley Rosen is an NBA analyst for and the author of more than a dozen books including The Pivotal Season, The Wizard of Odds, and Players and Pretenders (available in a Bison Books edition).

To read a longer excerpt or to purchase Crazy Basketball, visit,674770.aspx


One thought on “Off the Shelf: Crazy Basketball by Charley Rosen

  1. I remember you. I played at Roosevelt in 1953-1954.It was on Howard MacManus first teams.I bent knees like he said.I played with Sid Zirlin,Whitey Mazer,Alan Reich,Billy Mcandrews and Jim Dohrety.
    I think you lived on Fairmont Place.i lived on Marmion Ave and 175th St when I wasn’t in the school yard.Great days.i am sure you played in the PS67th night center too.I just reread Wizard of Odds. didn’t know Jack but I knew Julie. I enjoyed the book.I plan to read some other things you wrote.
    My best to you

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