The Basketball Diaries
On my 17th birthday my mom gave me a present, the present was a book. My mom thought the subject was typically something for me. That book was the basketball diaries by Jim Carroll. And my mom was right the subject was definitely something I’m interested in, the book is about a young Jim Carroll, who was a big basketball talent. But beside basketball he also was a junkie, he took whatever drug he could get. I wondered how it is possible to play ball at a high level and at the same time use drugs. In the beginning I thought is was all about basketball, but after a few pages I figured out it was more than a sports book, actually it isn’t a sports book at all.
The book is more about growing up in New York as a young kid. A young kid that doesn’t have a lot of money, doesn’t have a easy life but he is a talented ball player. Carroll describes his life during the early ‘60’s, and he had a very heavy life during that time. He went to different schools and he was always on the streets. When he was 13 he became a heroin addict, for me that’s something I really don’t understand. It’s a pity that it went that way with Carroll, because I really believe he could have became a really good ball player. But instead of fully go for basketball he choose to do drugs.
I play basketball myself, also at a high level in the Netherlands. And all the boys I play with or against are very serious on playing ball. That’s why I couldn’t believe the fact that Carroll started with drugs, because when you play at a high level and you’re very talented you should be very serious. But on the other hand I do understand it. He didn’t have an easy life, struggling with school, loosing a good friend, he didn’t go to school to often and lots of his friends used drugs. He choose for the drugs to get him out of his daily struggles, but he could have chosen the way of basketball, because I believe basketball could have get him away from his neighborhood and bad friends.
In 1995 the film The Basketball Diaries came out, with Leonardo DiCaprio as Jim Carroll, I read the book and I saw the movie. Both were dark, nothing to cheer about and both were heavy. The movie and the book are very different in my opinion, but they both have the same atmosphere, which is very dark and violently. The movie was very good, but the book was even better. It is a book you read in one time, easy language nothing difficult but very good. Good little stories.
When you read the book you actually reading the diary of Carroll, that’s why I like it, it’s very raw and right at you. While reading the book you get to know Carroll, he’s the tuff kid, but at the same time he’s very smart and he wants to change his life. But he can’t he’s addicted to drugs and he can’t get away from his neighborhood. At one point in the book he goes to a clinic were he quitted drugs but when he came out he went right back to using heroin and all kinds of other stuff.
You can call that bad influence of bad friends or making the wrong choices. But I think it’s because Carroll grew up in a poor neighborhood with no exits, he couldn’t get away from it. Basketball was his only escape, but he had the wrong coaches, wrong teammates, etc. So the story of Carroll is a very sad one. But it didn’t end that bad, he was a heroin addict all his life, but he became a good writer and musician.
The thing I really like about this book are the passages were he writes what he thinks about life and other stuff. There is one passage that I like especially, when he talks about being seen and being the point of attention. On the basketball court and off it, he thinks that you need to do anything to make yourself seen, but when you don’t do anything you shouldn’t be seen at all. He think there are two types, the cheetah and the chimp. The cheetah is cool, he does everything in a smooth way, he make it look easy. Then you have the chimp, the chimp is loud and rag and he gets his attention that way.
I think Carroll is the cheetah, smooth, easy and very good. The book is a must read. I really liked it and it opened my eyes about making the most of every opportunity I get.
Jim Carroll died on September 11th 2009 in New York.