Back when (the now defunct) Grantland announced they were giving Jalen Rose a podcast, I knew I was going to do whatever it took to check it out. Hearing that he would have his own platform excited me, because he was always one of the more quotable players in the NBA.
From the very first podcast he has not disappointed. His co-host David Jacoby can be a little much sometimes, but on balance, the podcast was on point. Jalen has a unique insight to being both a professional athlete in the NBA, but also to be member of the media. His honesty and perspective have provided a refreshing listen to some of the other options out there in the sports talk world.
His first book, recently put out last year, “Got to Give the People What They Want”is a continuation of this refreshing insight. This is the stuff he can’t talk about on air, in an effort to “not get fired.”
The foreword, written by Bill Simmons, is one of the goofier ones written by and for someone. It sort of reads like one of his old columns on his old website (with even the obligatory Shawshank Redemption reference–by the way can we all agree that the short story is way better than the movie?) talking about a famous friend he met while in Hollywood. Nevertheless Simmons gets his point across about Rose, which is that Jalen is super famous because of his ability to always have a foot in different social circles, and being comfortable in all of them.
This is one of the easier autobiographies you’ll ever read. The stories while not hilarious, are interesting. I feel like this is the PG-13 version of anything he would put out, simply because he doesn’t want to burn any bridges. I imagine he has some really good stories “off the record” that will never see the light of day.
If you are reading this to find some NBA gossip about groupies, and late night parties, then you will be disappointed. It is a book good for family consumption. Don’t get me wrong, Jalen keeps it real, but it’s not a juicy tell all about NBA life.
It is more like an exploration of the road he has taken to succeed, and an homage to all the people along the way who helped make success a reality. Now that he has successfully become an NBA player and a person with a media platform, he is trying to help others–especially those from his native Detroit. Rose talks about the charter school he started, after many public schools in his old neighborhood have failed, or been shut down (they just had their first class graduation last spring). I get the feeling that he is more proud of that than anything he ever did on the court.
All that being said, the book is still about basketball. There is a brief history on the many players to come out of the state of Michigan, and specifically the Detroit area. Rose throws names like George Gervin, Magic Johnson, and Anderson Hunt at you, but it is also crazy to think that he played high school ball with Voshon Leonard, and Howard Eisley (No wonder they won back to back state titles).
Rose also gives some strong opinions on the hypocrisy of the NCAA, as well as his feelings about childhood friend Chris Webber. Growing up a Chris Webber fan, it saddens to hear some of the questionable behavior noted by Jalen Rose. It will be hard to look at Webber the same after reading this.
All in all, it is a good read. The whole book reads like a long podcast conversation with Jalen, and it is hard to put down once you’ve begun reading it. Rose allows you to take the journey with him from neighborhood slacker, to stud athlete having a good time, to a professional, to now a productive member of his community, and role model to many. This isn’t a book just for the hardcore hoop nerds, I think anyone can read this and enjoy it. Much like Rose himself, this book appeals to many people from all walks of life.