Games of Decep­tion: The True Sto­ry of the First US Olympic Bas­ket­ball Team at the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Germany

  • Review
By – September 7, 2020

Games of Decep­tion by Andrew Maraniss is a meld of writ­ing styles, mix­ing poet­ry and prose, and cov­ers a large swath of his­to­ry, begin­ning in the inter-war peri­od and going through the Nazi regime; the sto­ry focus­es on the his­to­ry of bas­ket­ball and its role in the 1936 Olympics, held in Berlin. The book is well-researched, delv­ing into social issues and cul­tur­al con­cerns of the time; it includes the inspir­ing sto­ry of the incep­tion of bas­ket­ball and its devel­op­ment, from peach bas­kets on ten foot poles in a YMCA in Spring­field, Mass­a­chu­setts, to its role in the 1936 Olympics. The book’s focus is very spe­cif­ic, giv­ing a behind-the-scenes view of bas­ket­ball and its play­ers, both before and after the Olympics, as well as the two faces Berlin exhib­it­ed dur­ing the games.

Maraniss depicts in detail the cha­rade of the host city toward its inter­na­tion­al vis­i­tors, and its treat­ment of the Olympiads as the coun­try geared up for wide-scale dis­crim­i­na­tion and war. The hypocrisy is described as as sub­tle as a pea­cock.” The text includes many exam­ples of the lives of every­day Amer­i­cans as they pre­pared for the Olympics, per­formed dur­ing the Olympics, and after the games were over. The lives of Jews and Jew­ish ath­letes dur­ing this time, and the effect of the rise of Hitler is also high­light­ed and devel­oped. The pre­sen­ta­tion includes numer­ous quotes and photographs.

Geared to young adult read­ers, Games of Decep­tion deserves a spot on the shelves. It will inspire bas­ket­ball enthu­si­asts to vis­it the Bas­ket­ball Hall of Fame” in Spring­field, Mass­a­chu­setts. This is a well-researched and well-doc­u­ment­ed his­tor­i­cal text, and with fac­tu­al mate­ri­als includ­ed in the back of the book to illus­trate time­lines and list­ings of the All-Time Olympic Bas­ket­ball Results which graph­i­cal­ly sup­port the story.

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