Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 568
In Hoops , Myers makes the game of basketball symbolize the game of life. Basketball was one of Myers’s passions; it was an escape from the frustrations of school, a time to bond with other kids his age, and just plain fun. He depicts the basketball scenes in his books...
(The entire section contains 568 words.)
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In Hoops, Myers makes the game of basketball symbolize the game of life. Basketball was one of Myers’s passions; it was an escape from the frustrations of school, a time to bond with other kids his age, and just plain fun. He depicts the basketball scenes in his books with astounding clarity and from an insider’s perspective. Hoops seems at first to be an action-packed sports novel but is soon revealed as a moral tale about choices and integrity.
The main character in Hoops is seventeen-year-old Lonnie Jackson, who clings to a dream that he will become a professional basketball player. He is a senior in high school and is feeling tense about what his next steps in life will be. Basketball could be a way out of Harlem, a way to accrue status in the world, and a way to have some self-esteem. Lonnie is one of the best players in Harlem. He believes that there is a real chance that his dream could come true.
Lonnie rarely stays at home with his mother. He has an arrangement with the manager of a hotel called The Grant where he does some cleaning in exchange for a place to sleep. One of the first incidents in the book is a robbery at a liquor store across the street from the hotel. While the criminals are herding staff and customers into the back, Lonnie grabs a case of scotch to sell. This incident paints a picture of Lonnie’s environment and of his own cunning adaptation to that environment.
Myers often uses the first-person viewpoint to engage his young-adult readers. Lonnie’s thoughts and feelings are skillfully articulated, exposing conflicts and concerns about love, sex, money, family, and honor. Specifically, Lonnie’s conflicts in Hoops revolve around basketball, his mother, his girlfriend, and Cal.
Cal, a former pro player who was ousted from the league for gambling, coaches Lonnie’s team. Cal is now a semi-homeless alcoholic but with enough caring to warn Lonnie about the ugly side of the game. Lonnie starts to look up to Cal, whom he at first considered a useless wino. As Lonnie grows closer to Cal, he sees a broken man with a broken past who still manages to instill trust in the team members. As the story builds to its climax, the team is playing in a tournament with big gambling money riding on the outcome.
Toward the end of the book, Cal is ordered by mob leaders to keep Lonnie out of the game, which would result in the team’s loss. Cal tells Lonnie that basketball is like life: “Everybody plays the game with what they got.” At first, Cal does sit Lonnie down, but as the tournament game progresses, he suddenly calls for Lonnie, and the team wins the game. However, this spells doom for Cal, who is viciously stabbed in the team locker room.
Hoops takes place in a terrifying world where gangs roam the streets in malicious packs and Lonnie’s girlfriend is injected with heroin because she learns about a mobster’s involvement in the tournament fix. The reader follows Lonnie’s growth from a tough, self-centered kid who cares about nothing except basketball to a more mature young man who sees that even a person as fallen as Cal can overcome his weakness and become a moral force in the midst of corruption.