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Second Wind Analysis

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Although written for an adult audience, Second Wind, which followed Russell’s Go up for Glory (1968), will appeal to young adults for a number of reasons. First, Russell is a celebrity and his career, which included playing in the 1956 Olympics and winning eleven National Basketball Association (NBA) championships with the Boston Celtics, is of great interest to young sports enthusiasts. The early parts of the book, however, address other issues that are of importance to young adults. Russell paints a picture of himself as an awkward teenager who could not get a date and who was the worst player on his basketball team. In addition, he was deeply troubled by the death of his mother. He then shows how he overcame his own sense of inadequacy and grew into a champion.

In addition, Russell explores other topics relevant to young readers. He discusses the impact of racial prejudice on his life and the growth of his own social conscience, which was shaped by people such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. One of the strengths of the book is its depiction of Russell’s own experiences with prejudice. He describes how his family moved to California because of an alterca-tion between his father and a gas station attendant, the embarrassment of being stopped by the police merely because he is an African-American man driving an expensive car, and his own decision to oppose his induction into the Hall of Fame, which he believed to have racist origins.

Russell also manages to convey a sense of the hard work involved in playing professional sports, as well as the distractions and corruption that come with gaining celebrity. Long sections of chapter 4, entitled “Champions,” explain his philosophy toward playing basketball, which entails moving past the need to score many points and occasionally accepting a limited role on a team. He also recognizes the important role that coaches have played in his life, particularly Red Auerbach of the Boston Celtics. This role is something that Russell highlights when he discusses his own stint as a coach for the Seattle Supersonics. At the same time, he writes of what he has learned from other players, such as California All-Star Bill Treu, whose moves he once tried to imitate.

In general, Russell seems to be a very...

(The entire section is 579 words.)