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The Hustle
Cover of The Hustle
The Hustle
One Team and Ten Lives in Black and White
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The experiment was dreamed up by two fathers, one white, one black. What would happen, they wondered, if they mixed white players from an elite Seattle private school - famous for alums such as Microsoft's Bill Gates - and black kids from the inner city on a basketball team? Wouldn't exposure to privilege give the black kids a chance at better opportunities? Wouldn't it open the eyes of the white kids to a different side of life? The 1986 season would be the laboratory. Out in the real world, hip-hop was going mainstream, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson ruled the NBA, and Ronald Reagan was president. In Seattle, the team's season unfolded like a perfectly scripted sports movie: the ragtag group of boys became friends and gelled together to win the league championship. The experiment was deemed a success. But was it? How did crossing lines of class, race, and wealth affect the lives of these ten boys? Two decades later, Doug Merlino, who played on the team, returned to find his teammates. His search ranges from a prison cell to a hedge fund office, street corners to a shack in rural Oregon, a Pentecostal church to the records of a brutal murder. The result is a complex, gripping, and, at times, unsettling story. An instant classic in the vein of Michael Apted's Up series, The Hustle tells the stories of ten teammates set before a background of sweeping social and economic change, capturing the ways race, money, and opportunity shape our lives. A tale both personal and public, The Hustle is the story a disparate group of men finding - or not finding - a place in America. Doug Merlino is a veteran journalist who has written for Wired, Men's Journal, Legal Affairs, and many other publciations. He previously lived in Budapest after leaving Seattle. He now lives in New York with his wife.

The experiment was dreamed up by two fathers, one white, one black. What would happen, they wondered, if they mixed white players from an elite Seattle private school - famous for alums such as Microsoft's Bill Gates - and black kids from the inner city on a basketball team? Wouldn't exposure to privilege give the black kids a chance at better opportunities? Wouldn't it open the eyes of the white kids to a different side of life? The 1986 season would be the laboratory. Out in the real world, hip-hop was going mainstream, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson ruled the NBA, and Ronald Reagan was president. In Seattle, the team's season unfolded like a perfectly scripted sports movie: the ragtag group of boys became friends and gelled together to win the league championship. The experiment was deemed a success. But was it? How did crossing lines of class, race, and wealth affect the lives of these ten boys? Two decades later, Doug Merlino, who played on the team, returned to find his teammates. His search ranges from a prison cell to a hedge fund office, street corners to a shack in rural Oregon, a Pentecostal church to the records of a brutal murder. The result is a complex, gripping, and, at times, unsettling story. An instant classic in the vein of Michael Apted's Up series, The Hustle tells the stories of ten teammates set before a background of sweeping social and economic change, capturing the ways race, money, and opportunity shape our lives. A tale both personal and public, The Hustle is the story a disparate group of men finding - or not finding - a place in America. Doug Merlino is a veteran journalist who has written for Wired, Men's Journal, Legal Affairs, and many other publciations. He previously lived in Budapest after leaving Seattle. He now lives in New York with his wife.

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About the Author-
  • Doug Merlino is a veteran journalist who has written for Wired, Men's Journal, Legal Affairs, and many other publications. He previously lived in Budapest after leaving Seattle. He now lives in New York with his wife.
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    October 1, 2010

    In his debut, journalist Merlino traces the lives of his integrated junior-high basketball team and what happened to the players when the games stopped.

    In 1986, Coach Willie McClain brought his basketball players, all black, from Seattle's inner city to the affluent suburbs to form a team with a group of white players. For a single season, these young boys—who couldn't have been more different—shared an initially wary then ebullient camaraderie that transcended race and class. But what happened after the season, asks the author, as these players made the transition from boys to men? Merlino returned to Seattle to find his old teammates and tell their stories. In one way or another, the white players all made their way; for the black players, however, the story was mixed. Through connections developed as a result of the team, all had the chance to attend quality private schools. Some adjusted, some didn't. At 19, Tyrell was murdered; 20 years on, JT still hustled on the street; Myran was in prison. All were lured by the seemingly easy money of drug dealing as crack devastated their Seattle neighborhood in the late '80s. Yet there were successes. Damian became a teacher and a preacher, Eric an auditor for the city with a solid middle-class life. None of the black players, however, lived without struggles in a class and racially divided Seattle. Merlino skillfully weaves the personal biographies with the biography of a city that relegated blacks to neighborhoods that were segregated and poor, to the margins of economic life, to public schools that were overcrowded and underfunded. He tells the story of the dispersal of Central Seattle's black population, as Microsoft and Starbucks made it ripe for gentrification. But the heart of Merlino's story is his teammates, black and white. He misses their youth and promise and loves and respects them all.

    The book's precise focus enables troubling considerations of the role of race and class in America.

    (COPYRIGHT (2010) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • Library Journal

    November 1, 2010

    In 1986 Seattle, the lives of ten kids, inner-city black and elite-schooled white, came together by means of one basketball team. Journalist Merlino was on the team, and now he seeks out his fellow players.

    Copyright 2010 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal Expecting a conventional basketball book? Look elsewhere... This book, both memoir and social analysis, is an essential read as a recent social history and personal story of America.
  • Seattle Times Gripping ... poignant, and memorable.
  • Robert L. Bernstein, founder, Human Rights Watch Anyone concerned with improving the U.S. educational system must read this book, which brilliantly highlights the problems and possibilities facing schools and students. ... The Hustle is a wonderful reading experience.
  • former president, Random House Part history text, part sociological study, part memoir, The Hustle is more than just a book about basketball. ... It's a book that you have to read.
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    Bloomsbury Publishing
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