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Can I Keep My Jersey? [Paperback]

Paul and Klosterman Shirley
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

25 Mar 2008
He’s been called a journeyman. Even Paul wouldn’t dispute that classification. Regardless, Bill Simmons, ESPN.com’s “The Sports Guy,” has said of Paul Shirley, “We could finally have an answer to the question ‘What would it be like if one of our friends was an NBA player?”

There’s no denying that Paul Shirley is the closest thing pro basketball’s got to Odysseus. In Homeric fashion, he has logged time practically everywhere in the roundball universe, from six NBA cities to pro leagues in Spain and Greece to North America’s pro ball Siberia, the minor leagues. Hell, he’s even played in the real Siberia. And in Can I Keep My Jersey?, Shirley finally puts down roots long enough to deliver one of the great locker-room chronicles of the modern age.

With sharp elbows and an even sharper wit, Shirley–whose writings have been described as “wildly entertaining” by The Wall Street Journal–drops hilarious commentary, revealing which teams have the best cheerleaders (he’s spent many a time-out watching them ply their trade), why Christ is rapidly becoming every team’s “sixth man,” and even the best ways to get bloodstains out of your game uniform, using only an ordinary bar of soap and a hotel bathroom sink.

From sharing the court with Kobe and Shaq to perusing the food court at some mall in a bush-league burg; from taking pregame layups to getting laid out by a stray knee from an NBA power forward; from hopping a limo to the team’s charter jet to dashing to catch the van home from a B-league game in Tijuana, Shirley dishes on what it’s like to try to make it as a professional athlete. Can I Keep My Jersey? is a rollicking, thoughtful, even thought-provoking insider’s look at a pro baller’s life on the fringe. Like Jim Bouton’s Ball Four or John Feinstein’s A Season on the Brink, Shirley’s odyssey deserves to find a home on every sports fan’s bookshelf.

From the Hardcover edition.

Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Villard Books; Reprint edition (25 Mar 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345495705
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345495709
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 591,547 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars One for the benchwarmers 22 Mar 2008
I bought this book within days of it coming out, read it within days of it getting here, and it's presently making the rounds across my team...everyone seems to have a slightly different reaction to it:
People who sit towards the end of the bench (or have any experience playing in America) generally find it hilarious and on-point; starters and (local-league) superstars and coaches-maybe not so much.

Whilst I love this book because of the self-defacation from the author, the constant sarcastic tone and the random stories that Mr. Shirley tells-you've got to understand that he was an outsider looking in, his involvement with the team in question was next to nothing...so if you're buying this book for NBA insight, you won't get as much as you'd hoped (other than the peculiar habits of superstars...but hey, just look at any pro sports team/press and you'll see it on a daily basis).

Paul Shirley is undoubtedly funny, and an excellent writer, and I couldn't put the book down, and for that alone I give this book 5 stars, but please don't buy the book expecting a mammoth insight into an NBA club-you'll be disappointed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read It!!!!!!!! 17 July 2007
A humerous, honest insight into the life of a pro-player who did not atomatically get drafted into the NBA but has struggled in his career since leaving college. Definetly a recommended read - very entertaining and intelligent throughout.
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5.0 out of 5 stars quality 16 April 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A change of pace from the normal 'season with' type of book - written by a relatively normal person with a detached view of events surrounding him - a must for anyone who likes to get inside any pro team.
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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  63 reviews
24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great potential, poor execution 24 Dec 2007
By Vallejo Reader - Published on Amazon.com
A reasonably intelligent young man gets paid a more than decent wage to play a game he sometimes loves. Along the way he travels the world, deals with uncertainty and illness, and lives and works with people from profoundly different backgrounds than his own. In the hands of someone with an open mind, a curious nature and a willingness to learn, the result might have been an insightful and fascinating book. Bill Bradley's Life on the Run, or Ken Dryden's The Game are two classic examples of how a sports memoir can be about much more than a game.

Paul Shirley had the chance for such a book, especially given his position of the far edge of his profession, where he had to fight hard to keep his professional career alive. Instead, what emerged was a book that, while periodically clever, grows increasingly tiresome as the pages turn.

Almost everyone Shirley meets is, for him, somehow lacking. Yet when Paul Shirley makes so few friends on so many teams in so many countries, the obvious question is whether it might just be the author who is at fault.
A subtitle for the book might have been "My deep contempt for just about everyone I ever met and most countries, too." Contempt isn't witty and it isn't smart. It's just boring, isolating and, in the end, a little sad.

The basic plot repeats with each chapter: A) anxiety about getting a job, B) getting a job, C) how the new job proved boring/stupid/unworthy, D) how the location of the job proved dreadful, E) how the people with whom the author worked proved too dumb or too religious to be worth the author's time, conversation or interest and F) how it all fell apart, causing him to return to A) above.

Shirley can be funny and, almost despite himself he does impart some information about what it's like on the margins of professional sports. For that I award the book two stars, but when I think of what the book might have been, I'm tempted to drop it back down to one.

This is a young man of talent, but his insecurity and ego keep him from learning much, and that's a tragedy. My hope is that the book is colored by the author's relative youth and that, in later years, he might prove more reflective about his experience and its lessons. This first effort, however, just seems both shallow and self-absorbed when it could have been so much more.

Here's hoping Shirley someday finds a way consistently to live up to his potential as both a basketball player and an author. I honestly wish him well.
31 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Paul surely writes well 17 May 2007
By Josh Hummert - Published on Amazon.com
As a Jayhawk, I would never in a million years have thought that I'd be writing in praise of Paul Shirley when he played for Iowa State. However, starting with his blogs as a member of the Phoenix Suns, I really came to appreciate Shirley's talent as a writer and the insight he gives into the world of professional basketball. Shirley looks at the world of basketball through the eyes of somebody who has grown up loving the game (he is, after all, from Kansas) and who happened to have the ability to play (or sit on the bench) professionally.

While Shirley's humor sometimes misses its mark, the writing is engaging and much more interesting than your typical basketball player's memoir. The effort and dedication required to become even an average division I basketball player results in a lot of sentences in basketball memoirs like, "on Tuesday I went to the gym and shot 10 thousand three pointers." Not exactly the ideal grist to create a memorable book, but Shirley has succeeded in writing a book that addresses the reality of a life in basketball while maintaining a refreshing sense of humor about it.
16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Paul Shirley 10 Aug 2007
By T. Snyder - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Chances are the readers of "Can I Keep My Jersey?" are one of two types:

1) People who are basketball fans in general and have never read Paul Shirley before.

2) Readers who got hooked on Paul Shirley via his NBA Blog, or via Bill Simmons' columns on ESPN's Page 2. If you found this book by way of either of these methods, I'm sure you'll love it.

If you're in group 1 and you have a smart-a&#, sarcastic, dry, witty, smart sense of humor, I think you'll like Paul's writing.

I loved hearing about his experiences in foreign countries most of all. Paul gives you a look at being a complete fish out of water in places most tourists never go. If you've traveled outside the US, you'll definitely relate to some of his uncomfortable, awkward stories.

You also get a first-hand tour of the dredges of professional basketball in the USA - the CBA and the ABA. Personally, having been to the wonderful world of Yakima, Washington, I found his CBA stories about his time there to be particularly entertaining.

Again, this book isn't so much about the NBA or famous basketball players, it's about Paul's travels across the world while doing his job. I get the idea that while Paul loves playing basketball, he may not enjoy the rigmarole of playing in 3rd-world countries; it sort of seems like a paycheck for him in some points. Also, after making it into the NBA, he really brought an everyman-view to the NBA lifestyle too.

I breezed through this book. If you're in his target demographic (I am) and would enjoy reading things like blogs, I would recommend it. If you're not though, I'm not so sure...
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wrote himself out of the the NBA 15 Jun 2009
By Amazonie - Published on Amazon.com
I'm pretty sure Paul Shirley will never play in the NBA again. This has nothing to do with his basketball skill, but more of his no-holds barred recap throughout the book of his experiences in the league. It's obvious no team or management will want their choices second-guessed or laughed at in any other future book Shirley might have. This insight is the most interesting factor about this book. You get these tales and a sneak peak behind the scenes of the NBA. That's kinda neat.

However, Shirley's view on traveling, fans, and anything foreign (i.e. not from his hometown of 600 people in Kansas) is just aggravating. A little appreciation of his life and experiences could have really made this an exciting story to read, instead it's a woe-is-me view that is frustrating to a well-read or well-traveled reader.

The writing has it's moments. The quality is there, and as another reviewer noted - the editor could have gone a long way to curb some of the unnecessary banter. Shirley's second and third-guessing of his own phrasing, writing, and stories are distracting and drags interesting stories into self-indulgent and unnecessary debates (that he has with himself.) As a fan of Shirley's blog and articles, I found myself disappointed with this book.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars FIFTY- FIFTY 22 Oct 2008
By Bobby Butler - Published on Amazon.com
I have to admit through the first 100 pages I loved the book, thought Paul was funny though a bit cynical, and actually cared about his journey in basketball and life. However, that changed as I got deeper into his story and like many of the reviewers here got sick of his whinning. Perhaps this is the true reality of professional sports for individuals with talent or size but in most cases not enough skill or athleticism. You just grow bitter and have trouble finding your niche. I have no doubt that Paul's intelligence level made his experience even more difficult and so I can find some empathy for the guy. What I struggle with was his attitude especially in light of the financial rewards he was reaping and the experiences he was being afforded. Paul could have stopped playing and chosen another line of work.
What I liked about the book was reading about international basketball and the different cultures and places that Paul experienced. I also enjoyed the stories about the NBA teammates Paul shared his playing days with.
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