Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Review: Got to Give the People What They Want (2015)

By Jalen Rose

Every school kid in America ought to send Jalen Rose a thank-you note. It's not for the fact that Rose played on one of the most famous college basketball teams in history, or that he was a solid NBA player for more than a decade, or that he's now an analyst on ESPN.

We're talkin' about shorts.

When Rose and the rest of the "Fab Five" got to Michigan, coach Steve Fisher ordered the sporting goods company that supplied the team's uniforms to add a few inches to the shorts. As soon as the Wolverines took the court, everyone instantly knew that the look was a huge improvement over the dorky short shorts that were the standard in schools across the country. We moved on, and haven't looked back.

Thanks for that, Jalen and Company.

Rose has gone through a lot at a young age - he's 42 as of this writing - and he's gotten some of his experiences down on paper. "Got to Give the People What They Want" is an honest look at his life and career.

First, let's explain the title. Rose writes (and there's no sign of a ghostwriter, at least in the advance proof I received) that the phrase means "Be honest, unfiltered, unbiased. Raw, refreshing, real. Give people the kind of insight and understanding they don't get anywhere else." Rose tries his best here to do that.

The first half of the book is the better portion of it. Rose grew up in Detroit in the 1980s, when the city was clearly headed downhill. He didn't even know who his father was for part of his childhood, and didn't really care. Jalen - the name was made up by his mother, and has caught on a bit - made do as best he could with the help of his family and friends. He gravitated toward basketball, and discovered he was good at it. Stardom in high school ball came rather easily.

And that led him on a path to Michigan. He and four other top recruits, such as Chris Webber and Juwan Howard, all arrived at Ann Arbor at the same time. This wasn't a basketball team, it was a rock and roll band - and a popular one. The games were like concerts, the players were celebrities. The all freshman starting five led Michigan to the NCAA Championship game, which lost to Duke in 1993. The next year was another trip to the final, and a heart-breaking loss to North Carolina. By the way, Rose credits a hip-hop group's lyric for the nickname of "Fab Five"; I always thought it was a take-off by some old sportswriter of the Beatles "Fab Four" nickname. Whatever. It's quite obvious how much Rose enjoyed those days.

Rose had a rather odd NBA career. As he correctly points out, fate/chance can have a greater role in how a player does at that level than many think. He did average more than 18 points per game in five different seasons, and played on some good Indiana teams that were good but not good enough to win a title. It did make one trip to the Finals. Rose started his career in Detroit, thrived in Indiana, and then went through Chicago, Toronto, New York and Phoenix.

One of theme of Rose's personal journey deals with his father, who happened to be Jimmy Walker - the first overall pick in the 1967 NBA draft. Walker apparently left a string of children behind as he traveled through life, not taking responsibility for any of his actions. Rose did talk to him on the phone once, but Walker died before any sort of relationship could develop.

Rose isn't really bitter about that, but he does blast a few targets here. The list starts with the NCAA, not surprisingly. If you saw how much money others were making off the "Fab Five," you'd be a little angry too. Rose also tees off on Larry Brown, who coached him twice in the pros and according to the player wasn't completely honest with him.

Rose also outlines his relationship with Webber, which turned complicated. The NCAA went after the Wolverines of the Fab Five days because of an improper relationship with a booster, if that's the right word, and the wins of that era were erased from the record book. Webber has separated himself from any contact with his college teammates, and Rose seems genuine in writing that he'd like to patch that up. Webber will have to give his side of the story some time. Rose has stayed close with the other three members of the band, er, team. In an odd twist, he actually spent a couple of days in jail with one of them when Rose served a short sentence for a drunk driving conviction.

Rose has grown up quite a bit over the years, starting a school in the city of Detroit to help give kids a better chance to climb out of poverty. It's an ambitious project, and he deserves a lot of credit for it.

"Got to Give the People What They Want" is a quick read, even if you don't get some of the hip-hop references. The obvious climax of the story comes with the Fab Five moments, which is roughly halfway through. The story could have used a few more dramatics after that, but that's not Rose's fault. That's the way life played out.

Even so, Rose comes across as an interesting personality here. Readers probably will pay more attention to him the next time he pops up on television.

Three stars

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