Mr. Montville takes us through all seven games in a pastiche of newspaper stories, radio accounts and his own reminiscences. It is all remarkably engaging, considering that the series took place more than 50 years ago, but it is a 10-page examination of a 6-second play in Game 4, at Boston Garden, that gives the book the feel of a classic ... It is true that Tall Men, Short Shorts has a Boston orientation. But Mr. Montville makes brave tries at balance.
The story lines he had to work with — Celtics vs. Lakers, all-time champion Bill Russell vs. one-of-a-kind Wilt Chamberlain, Red Auerbach’s sneaky savvy vs. Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke’s open checkbook, the Athens of America vs. Hollywood — will still enthrall fans of the game, more than a half-century later ... Montville follows multiple threads. He describes his own arrival as a sportswriter, contrasting the old school of gameday reporters, '[p]erfunctory and dull,' against the 'new journalism' of his generation ... The casual racism of the era rears its ugly head more than once. Some of the older writers referred to the game they were covering as 'African handball.' Today’s Montville makes clear that he wishes he’d done more to call out those writers.
... a wonderful bit of autobiographical writing, a reflection on the beginnings of a storied career. Those moments of memory and memoir are what elevate this book from what would be a perfectly adequate work of sports history into something more, a wry look back from someone who understands that the person he once was had a lot to learn ... Montville’s memories of those games are as enthralling a snapshot as anything you’ll find in the most meticulously researched work of sports history ... Those two things – basketball and the act of writing about basketball – come together beautifully throughout the book. It’s a clever and compelling marriage, with the basketball action blending with the journalistic realities and becoming a story that is somehow both and neither ... a killer basketball book.
Montville refers to himself throughout his account as 'the bright young man' (or TBYM). Whether that’s tongue-in-cheek or self-aggrandizing is for the reader to decide; I choose to go with the former ... The more interesting half consists of his recollections of those days, admittedly not always accurate as some details have grown hazy over time. That candidness and wistfulness add to the book’s charm ... Once again he shows his unique talent and lighthearted approach to his subject.
Montville’s book...brings into focus the dynamics of Celtics teammates John Havlicek and Sam Jones and Lakers legends Jerry West and Elgin Baylor—four players who set personal records. There are fast-paced chapters devoted to the cast of characters and to each of the hard-fought games. One could just take a glance at the record book to learn the winner of 1969 title, but Montville’s revealing anecdotes and suspenseful writing build the tension ... Over 50 years after he first covered these games, Montville gives basketball fans a book they won’t want to put down.
Sportswriter Montville...masterfully combines memoir and sports history in this thrilling deep dive into a legendary NBA championship battle ... In vividly evoking the ups and downs that led to this monumental match-up, Montville paints a humanizing portrait of the game. This is another success for a gifted writer.
Montville’s deep dive into the storied series is much more than the usual color commentary ... His writing has the verve of the new journalism, but the author also looks hard at the business of basketball ... readers will learn all sorts of fun sports trivia—e.g., why the Celtics wore black sneakers—and Montville is a master of context ... Montville’s book makes an excellent companion to Ron Brownstein’s Rock Me on the Water as a portrait of a fast-receding time. A thrillingly good blend of sportswriting, pop culture, and history and a must-read for roundball fans.