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.
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.