From Hang Time to Prime Time: Business, Entertainment, and the Birth of the Modern-Day NBA
by Pete Croatto
Published by Atria Books on December 7, 2020
NBA // Non-Fiction // Pop Culture
There’s a reason why when you go see like a Marvel movie, there’s 10 minutes of credits, right?
Because there’s a lot of people who made that movie, though we tend to focus on or (only) talk about Robert Downey Jr or Kevin Fiege: maybe a handful of stars in front of the camera. Yet without those 10 minutes of credits a Marvel movie is not possible.
We do the same thing in the NBA. We debate teams and players, analyze trades and bemoan new coaching hires. Yet the NBA is more than just the 12 or 15 players on the court or on one team.
During his My Summer Lair (Chapter 182) visit Pete Croatto said: “The goal for anything I write is to get to the person behind the job or behind the public façade. I might be able to get there for a little bit, and if I can get there and I can show readers that side to me I’ve done a decent job.”
He’s done more than a decent job; he’s done an incredible job. From Hang Time to Prime Time: Business, Entertainment, and the Birth of the Modern-Day NBA is delicious: I consumed it whole like a python.
From Hang Time to Prime Time is like a high school yearbook for The National Basketball Association. It focuses on the NBA’s (pop) cultural transformation and growth especially in the 70s and 80s (from 1975 to 1989 really) though thankfully unlike a yearbook there isn’t that many bad hair photos.
(I’m not sure how we should classify Commissioner David Stern’s gaudy mustache.)
This book deftly documents the corporate rise of the NBA: a league that wasn’t popular much less cool compared to the NFL and MLB. Like how did we get here? The NBA is celebrating its 75th Anniversary.
Typically most NBA books are written about players or teams such as Lakers, Bulls or Celtics…while Kobe, Jordan, Shaq those are the paper products we typically see. But this is a odd book: it’s about the NBA not necessarily about either teams or players.
The metaphor for this basketball book is Happy Days. From the late 70s and even into the 80s the NBA (especially before the merger with the ABA) was Richie Cunningham. Other sports like baseball (MLB) and football (NFL) were Fonzie cool. So Pete’s first book From Hang Time to Prime Time is truly about how the NBA got cool: it’s no longer Richie Cunningham.
When you marry someone you marry them for who they are while you also marry them for who they’ll become. The NBA is 75 years old…many fans such as myself have been married to the association for decades.
In the past couple of years we’ve lost Kobe and David Stern. We almost lost a whole season due to a pandemic and it only resumed when the NBA created a bubble. Seriously…an NBA Bubble.
The basketball game that James Naismith invented in the 1800s has obviously evolved when it was first introduced. There was no dribbling, it was all passing. Players didn’t really have nets they had peach baskets somebody had to go up a ladder to fetch the ball until they clued in to cut out the bottom of the baskets and let the ball drop.
Even the traditional positions point guard shooting guard small forward power forward center have evolved into point forward or wings. The only constant is change.
So with From Hang Time to Prime Time we look back so we can look ahead.
Sammy Younan is the affable host of My Summer Lair: think NPR’s Fresh Air meets Kevin Smith: interviews & impressions on Pop Culture.
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