Study Guide

The Basketball Diaries

by Jim Carroll

The Basketball Diaries Characters

Characters

Bobby Blake
Bobby Blake is one of Carroll’s junkie friends who gets high and performs ridiculous, illegal acts.

Mr. Bluster
Mr. Bluster is the principal at the Catholic private school Carroll attends on scholarship. Bluster gets Carroll released early from Riker’s juvenile prison.

Brian Browning
Brian Browning is one of Carroll’s junkie friends and is one of two men who rent the apartment that serves as Headquarters—the local junkie hangout. When Carroll is strung out and needing a heroin fix, Browning goes to get it for him while Jim waits with his older lover. Browning notes that junkies curl up into fetal positions because they are trying to get back to the womb.

Jim Carroll
Carroll is the author and narrator of The Basketball Diaries, an autobiographical account of Carroll’s coming of age on New York’s tough streets. In the first entries, Carroll is a thirteen-year-old who has had limited experience with sex, drugs, and crime. Carroll is also a novice basketball player in his first organized league. All of these aspects of his life change rapidly. He becomes a star basketball player, winning a scholarship to a rich private school. He has many heterosexual experiences and starts using increasingly harder drugs. His heroin addiction starts out small, and he lies to himself about being able to control it. However, as his addiction grows, it changes the quality of every other aspect of his life. He starts committing more crimes, including stealing cars, in order to finance his drug habit. In addition, he makes money by selling his body to homosexuals and older women. As his use of heroin and other drugs grows to include cough syrup, various kinds of pills, methadone, cocaine, and LSD, drugs become the central focus of his life, replacing even his love of basketball. In fact, his massive drug use destroys his dream of playing professional basketball and eventually lands him in juvenile prison. At the end of the diaries, Carroll surfaces from a four-day heroin high and laments about how low he has sunk in life. He says that he only wants to be pure.

Over the course of the diaries, Carroll is exposed to several cultural and political issues. He makes scathing attacks on hypocrisy. He condemns the U.S. use of the communist scare as a justification for building more nuclear weapons...

(The entire section is 978 words.)