For players, coaches, writers, and fans, basketball is a science and an art, a religious sacrament, a source of entertainment, and a way of interacting with the world. Thomas Beller entwines these threads with his lifetime's experience as a player and journalist, roaming NBA locker rooms and city parks as a basketball flaneur in search of the meaning of the modern game.
Because the essays appear together after being written separately, some cameo themes and people inevitably repeat ... There are also some notable absences, including the women’s game, which perhaps falls outside Beller’s experience but nonetheless would offer a ripe setting for his strong storytelling and insight. In what may be the book’s most moving chapter, Beller encounters his former coach at Vassar College.
[Beller] evokes the hold basketball has on roundball obsessives with the kind of affection, enthusiasm, and inside knowledge that gym rats of all ages should find impossible to resist ... The book is a many-angled collection, and fans of the N.B.A. and big-time college programs will find much of interest in its pages ... Lost in the Game amounts to a kind of poem, as Tom writes, to 'basketball’s mystical, spiritual allure—basketball as a drug, as a safe space, as a unique experience of time.'
NBA fanatics, along with casual fans, will find much to learn and appreciate about hoops in Thomas Beller’s Lost in the Game ... If there is a weakness in Lost in the Game, it is Beller’s sidestepping (Eurostepping in contemporary hoop parlance) around color, around race ... But in his book he usually keeps silent about the white elephant in the room—his relationships with the mostly Black guys he plays with and against ... Serious fans of the NBA will find Lost in the Game is rich with reportage ... Fans also want emotion, and Lost in the Game has that ... [Beller] mostly avoids the curse of nostalgia ... [Beller's] play, his prose, is consistently skilled, in the moment and moving you on, interesting you in the action to come.