Ron Morris

Morris: Five books to place under your Christmas tree

I will make things easy for you this Christmas season. Following are five books worth purchasing for the sports fan on your gift list:

"Light Blue Reign: How a City Slicker, a Quiet Kansan, and a Mountain Man Built College Basketball's Longest-Lasting Dynasty."

By Art Chansky; St. Martin's Press, 355 pages, $26.99

The book traces the coaching lineage at North Carolina from Frank McGuire to Dean Smith to Roy Williams. South Carolina basketball fans especially will enjoy the first third of the book, which features the fascinating tale of McGuire.

Naturally, the focus is on McGuire's run in Chapel Hill, which included a national championship in 1957. But there is enough about McGuire and his personality for USC fans to appreciate.

Mostly, USC fans will learn how McGuire established an "us against the world" mentality for his UNC program that also marked his days with the Gamecocks.

As with all of Chansky's books, this one is well-researched and highly anecdotal. Chansky knows UNC basketball as well as anyone, and his storytelling brings the characters in his books to life.

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"Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend"

By Larry Tye; Random House, 392 pages, $26

The legend of Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Leroy "Satchel" Paige has endured long after his death in 1982. Unfortunately, there remains as much myth and mystery about Paige as fact and fancy.

Tye does a masterful job of sorting out the details, weeding out the fiction and presenting a compelling story of an extraordinary man. From his early days in reform school to his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Paige fought long odds to become one of the game's greatest pitchers.

We learn along the way that Paige believed he - not Jackie Robinson - should have been the one to break baseball's color barrier. We also learn that baseball's integration was not such a grand occasion for Paige and those who played in the Negro Leagues.

Paige made his fame on barnstorming tours and in the Negro Leagues. Although he eventually played in the major leagues, Paige was long past his prime. Unfortunately, white America never got to fully appreciate his baseball talents.

Where Tye succeeds is culling information from a time when precious little was recorded. As a result, Tye tells a compelling tale about a compelling man.

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"Shooting Stars"

By Lebron James and Buzz Bissinger; The Penguin Press, 258 pages, $26.95

This is a worthy read about NBA superstar LeBron James and his youth basketball team in Akron, Ohio. As much as this is a story of the success of the high school and AAU teams James and his best friends played on, it is a story about how high school athletics has changed.

James' teams travel throughout the country showcasing their talents in pursuit of a national AAU championship. While friendships are formed and difficulties overcome through basketball, the reader is left wondering if this is what youth sports is supposed to be about.

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"Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains With the Smith Center Redmen"

Times Books; By Joe Drape, 269 pages, $25

Any number of cities across the country could tell the same story of a community bonding around its high school football team. Drape chose middle America in Smith Center, Kan.

His story is well told with a much more wholesome aspect to the program than the one told by Buzz Bissinger in his best-selling "Friday Night Lights."

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"Until it Hurts: America's Obsession With Youth Sports and How it Harms Our Kids"

By Mark Hyman; Beacon Press, 146 pages, $23.95

A must-read for parents of youth participating in sports. Hyman reveals the dark side of youth sports, how we seem to have lost our way, and offers long-term solutions to giving the games back to the children.

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