Big Game, Small World
Menu home jacket-flap copy web exclusive: the movie readers react about the author readings & appearances contact info
Praise & Reviews
Advance Praise:

“This is one of the great sports books of all time, and one of the finest travelogues. Wolff is at once a beautiful writer, basketball savant, and intrepid traveler. You will believe by book’s end that Earth is but a basketball spinning madly on God’s index finger.”

Steve Rushin, author of Road Swing

“Alex Wolff has always had a great feel for the game of basketball, but more important he has a feel for the people who play and love the game. I enjoyed this trip around the world immensely—especially since I never had to set foot in an airport to take part.”

John Feinstein, author of Season on the Brink and The Last Amateurs

“Way more than a basketball book. Alexander Wolff takes his readers on an enlightening global journey, smoothly weaving together stories of cultures, people, and a shared passion for athletic achievement. He connects each far-flung destination with first-rate writing.”

Larry Colton, author of Counting Coup and Goat Brothers

“Alex Wolff is an erudite and soulful guide who shows how the game of basketball bridges so many divergent cultures. Along the way, he also proves that the true meaning of the game lies beyond the NBA glitz and glitter. Big Game, Small World is a wonderful achievement that should be required reading for anybody who has ever tossed a ball through a hoop in a schoolyard, a Y, or a driveway.”

Charley Rosen, author of Have Jump Shot, Will Travel and The House of Moses All-Stars

“What a great and important book this is. To me, the best part of basketball has always been the team aspect. Alexander Wolff shows how the entire world is on the same team, and invites us to join that team and get on the bus. As the premier basketball writer of our generation recounts the incredible moments he experienced and characters he met, he reminds all of us who play and love the game how we’re bound together.”

Bill Walton, basketball Hall of Famer and broadcaster

“Wolff is a hoops pilgrim crawling toward enlightenment via the perfect slama jama. And Dr. Naismith blesses him.”

Rick Telander, author of Heaven is a Playground

“Alexander Wolff has looked at a confusing world and found the seams with which we can make it spin, straight and true. Many voices, but one melody—pure string music.”

Charles P. Pierce, NPR commentator and
author of Sports Guy

Reviews of Big Game, Small World:

John Paul Newport, New York Times Book Review: “Memorable cultural insights . . . [Wolff’s] reporting is terrific. The most entertaining chapters focus on people torn between their love of the game and conflicting, often incongruous forces.” To read this review in its entirety, click here.

The editors of the Times Book Review included Big Game, Small World in their “And Bear in Mind” list of books of particular interest, and in their June 6 Summer Reading Issue as a non-fiction choice. And in their December 8 Holiday Books issue, they cite Big Game as one of 2002’s Notable Books.

Robert Lipsyte,
New York Times: Sports Illustrated writer Alexander Wolff takes us through 16 countries, from Bhutan to Poland, and dozens of states in search of a community of hoops. What he finds may be just too quirky and entertaining to win the Nobel Peace Prize, but the pieces are prizewinners.”
: “Alexander Wolff simply (and convincingly) explores basketball’s reach as a driving force and saving grace. . . . The book is thoughtfully prepared, the interviews engaging, and Wolff a sure-handed writer.” To read this review in its entirety, click here. “Part scrapbook, part basketball scripture, this work covers the four corners of the globe, dispensing nuggets of basketball wisdom that would make Confucius smile.” To read this review in its entirety, click here.

Publishers Weekly: “[Wolff is] a stylish reporter . . . He proves that the game’s essence transcends national boundaries, and he turns up dozens of dedicated, delightful, even tragic basketball stories and characters.”

Jake Wilson, “The entire book is a fascinating read . . .” To read this review in its entirety, click here.

Ryan Ori, Peoria Journal-Star: “Part sociology textbook, part travelogue, part basketball encyclopedia, and 100 percent labor of love.”

Mark Woods, (U.K.): “What makes Big Game so special is that it is not just a book about basketball, nor a travelogue—more an exploration of how hoops interweaves . . . every part of the globe . . .. Wolff joyously grasps this sentiment and runs coast to coast at full tilt. And in the process he has crafted both a superlative sporting journal and a delicious literary treat. [Rating: 10/10]” To read this review in its entirety, click here. To read’s Q&A with the author, click here.

Jack Wilkinson, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The splendid SI writer takes us on a round-the-world hoop odyssey, everywhere from Philadelphia to Poland, Lawrence, Kans., to Japan.” To read this review in its entirety, click here.

Eric Neel, “The latest addition to my hoop book pantheon was a lock for membership after I’d read about 25 pages . . . every piece could be a book or movie in itself—poignant and wacky and, like playing on the road, both familiar and new. They’re tied together by Wolff’s search for the soul of hoops, in himself and in the lives of the peoples and cultures he meets, and by the happy fact that basketball seems to be infecting folks all over the world like a healthy virus . . .. This book’s a keeper.” To read this review in its entirety, click here.

In his year-end wrapup of sports culture, Neel lists Big Game as one of his four top books of 2002: “Hoop life—and I mean that literally; life through ball, ball through life—in every corner of the globe. Reading it makes you want to play.”

Wes Lukowsky, Booklist (starred review): “Wolff first burst on the scene two decades ago as the coauthor of The In-Your-Face Basketball Book . . . [His] passion for the game burns as feverishly as it did 20 years ago, when he was looking for pickup games. This is a wonderful book, certainly the best on basketball this season.” To read this review in its entirety, click here.

Will Hepfer, Library Journal: “This enlightening sports travelog . . . [is] highly recommended for public and academic libraries.” To read this review in its entirety, click here.

Bill Littlefield, NPR’s Only A Game: “May lead the league in ambitiousness of scope . . . . Most instructive and great fun.” To listen to archived audio, click here.

Grant Wahl, “It’s probably impossible not to sound biased, but anybody who loves hoops should check out my SI colleague Alexander Wolff’s new book Big Game, Small World. I’m not exaggerating when I call it the best basketball book I’ve ever read.”

Tom LeClair, Book magazine: “Wolff always personalizes the large theme he pursues, revealing how the game brings different races, cultures, ethnic groups and eccentric individuals together . . .. One of the richest, most varied basketball books out there.” To read this review in its entirety, click here.

Charles Hirschberg, Sports Illustrated: “Wolff . . . seems to have had so much fun writing this book that it would be a crime for him to make money off it—were his book not so much fun to read as well. . . . While French farmers, Chinese students and British environmentalists ‘have all rioted against McDonald’s,’ Wolff notes, ‘it’s hard to imagine anyone rioting against the NBA.’ This thesis might not impress the international relations faculty at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, but even those highbrows will get a kick out of Wolff’s descriptions of foreign hoopheads expressing their culture through their passion for basketball.”

Slam magazine:
“We don’t usually have much love for scribes at the ‘established’ sports media outlets, but Alex Wolff is a definite exception. The long time SI-affiliate and author of Raw Recruits (among other must-have hoop tomes) knows the game as well as anyone in the biz. He’s got it on lock once again with Big Game, Small World, a first-hand, ’round the-globe account of the game and those who love it, from Bhutan to Brazil and everywhere in between. If you need some words to hold you over until the next Slam hits your mailbox, definitely cop this.”

Chuck Timlin, The Hartford Courant: “An important book . . . in the tradition of Paul Theroux’s best work. Wolff proves to have a sharp eye for observing how each country’s strengths and weaknesses, virtues and vices, seem to be reflected by how basketball is conducted.”

Princeton Alumni Weekly, Pawplus Website: “Baseball and boxing have been king when it comes to writers waxing poetic . . . but Big Game, Small World puts basketball on the same playing field.” To read this review in its entirety, click here.

Bill Reynolds, Providence Journal: “Great stuff . . .Remarkable . . . The book brings us to parts of the world we probably aren’t going to see ourselves, and Wolff is a wonderful tour guide. . . . Must reading for anyone who wants to know not only where the game is going, but also where it’s been.” To read this review in its entirety, click here.

Gene Wojciechowski, ESPN The Magazine: “The best basketball book since Season On the Brink and Playing For Keeps . . .. Elegant writing, extraordinary material.”

Roberto Gotta, American Superbasket (Italy): “A book of great value . . .. Wolff, the exquisite writer at Sports Illustrated, expresses his unbounded love for basketball on every page.”

John Akers, Basketball Times: “Wonderful . . .. The basketball goings-on outside North America [seem] a new frontier worth considering . . .. Big Game, Small World confirmed my instincts and helped define my thoughts.”

MaxiBasket (France): “A hymn to Planet Basketball.”

Scott Hastings, “A fun ride worth taking . . .. Interesting stories for those non-basketball fan as well as those hardcore fans who go to sleep every night in their Michael Jordan p.j.s.” To read this review in its entirety, click here.

Pat Forde, Louisville Courier-Journal: “Alexander Wolff literally wrote the book on global basketball: Big Game, Small World, which chronicles his 1998-99 odyssey in search of hoop.”

Mark Satin, Radical Middle Newsletter: “[Basketball] has developed a cosmopolitan aura, virtually an ideology, brilliantly captured by senior Sports Illustrated writer Alexander Wolff in his book Big Game, Small World. . . . [His] deepest theme is that pursuit or appreciation of excellence is the universal language that can lead us to a borderless world.” To read this review in its entirety, click here.

Harvey Frommer
, “Every once in a while a book like this comes along. One that you read and place on a prominent place on your bookshelf. . . . A keeper, especially for basketball fans. Part travelogue, part cultural guide, all entrancing sportswriting.” To read this review in its
entirety, click here.

Brian Heard, The Gazette of Maryland: “Wolff goes. What he finds is the world’s fastest-growing, second-most popular sport, in all its manifestations. This is really good stuff. These are really good stories. We found out just why the sport at the highest level (the NBA) has such a cosmopolitan flavor.” To read this review in its entirety, click here.

Budd Bailey, “Wonderful writing, original viewpoints . . .. Definitely worth the trip if you’re a fan of basketball or skillful writing.”

James K. Yu, The Oregonian: “Wolff makes a strong case for roundball as the dominant world sport . . .. Chapters swirl at a dizzying clip. . . . Global marketing campaigns have helped to spread the game worldwide, but for Wolff, basketball remains in its purest form a vehicle of possibility, perhaps the most American and most attractive of its attributes.”

Stan Brennan, Charlotte Observer: “Entertaining . . . each chapter can stand alone.”

Don Bowman, Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “Something to remember . . . a hard-to-turn-the-light-off read . . . the ultimate book on basketball.”

Dave Hein, Basketball Das Magazin (Germany): “Fashioned in a wonderful storytelling style . . .. The only frustration about this Lonely Planet for basketball fans is that it’s only available in English.”

You can purchase Big Game, Small World from the following on-line retailers:

In the U.S. or Canada:

In the U.K.:

In Italy:

In France:

In Germany:

In Japan:

In Spain:

In Switzerland:

In Australia:

home latest news jacket-flap copy contents web exclusive: the movie buy the book praise & reviews readers react readings & appearances contact info