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Book Review: “Open Your Heart With Basketball”

When I received a copy of “Open Your Heart With Basketball” in the mail to review I shuddered when I saw a basketball with a heart around it on the cover. Who wants to read a book about basketball with a huge heart on the cover? Not this kid. My immediate reaction was dismay that I’d have to read through 100 pages of fluff because I figured that if I wanted a sappy recount of someone’s experience with basketball I could just sit in front of my television for a couple hours and watch “Love & Basketball” instead.

However, once I opened up the book and actually began to read through it I was quickly won over because of the passion Christopher Bibey has for the game despite all of the adversity he has faced in his playing career.

The biggest road block that Bibey faced during his playing career was being diagnosed with cancer during his freshman year of college. Most young men will throw up their hands in frustration and quit when life throws them an obstacle like this but instead Bibey used the life skills that basketball had been teaching him to beat cancer and he used this tough situation to build persistence, determination and devotion in his life. Bibey did a great job of informing readers about the countless road blocks that coaches and life threw at him during his playing career and how instead of getting bitter or quitting he used these events to toughen his resolve and make him a stronger player and a better person.

Throughout this book Bibey did a great job of showing how attributes like persistence, determination and devotion that are learned on the hardwood can transfer to other areas of your life like dealing with getting dumped by the hot girl you’ve been dating, not getting the promotion you want at work or any of the countless hurdles that life can throw your way.

Another reason why I was fan of this book was because Bibey did a great job of addressing the mental aspect of basketball. When I was at university one of my favourite course was Sport Psychology so I was stoked to see that Bibey addressed this topic in a chapter called “Mind and Body.” Far too often fans think that the best athletes make the NBA but they fail to realize that the mental aspect of the game is just as important. In this chapter Bibey did a great job of breaking down some ways that he overcame a lack of physical ability to have a success playing career because of his mental preparation prior to games, he explains the important role visualization had in his training and preparation for games and he did a great job of explaining to readers the struggles he faced getting his body to reawaken following his cancer treatments. I could relate to him being a player that overcame physical limitations so he became symbolic to me of a “basketball underdog” and as I read through his book I couldn’t help but root for him.

Something else I enjoyed while reading reading this book were the quotes from college coaches about what they look for in recruits and their perspective on how the game of basketball has changed their lives. Arizona Wildcats head coach Lute Olson provided the forward for the book and throughout the book there quotes from other college coaches like Bill Lilly from West Virginia Wesleyan, Ron Slaymaker from Emporia State University, Scott Lang from La Roche college and Paul Hogan from New Hampshire Tech. Bibey was able to collect some great insight into how basketball has changed these coaches lives, what they enjoy most about basketball and how they motivate their players.

Besides being a heart warming story because he was able to beat cancer and play NCAA basketball following his fight with cancer, this story is a must read for any teen that loves the game of basketball because it shows that road blocks can be a hidden blessing because they can help you grow as a player and a person if you approach adversity with the right perspective.

Ryan McNeill
Ryan McNeill has appeared on ESPN Radio, MTV Canada, SiriusXM, The Fan 590 and other radio programs and TV shows. He has covered the NBA with media credentials since the 2007-08 season.
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