By Ken Reed

Andrew Maraniss’ first book, Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South , was an in-depth, impactful look at the trials and tribulations of the first African-American basketball player in the SEC.

His second book, released in November, tells the tale of the first American basketball team to compete in the Olympics. The initial Olympic basketball tournament took place in Berlin, Germany, under the watchful eye of Adolph Hitler. The book is called Games of Deception: The True Story of the First U.S. Olympic Basketball Team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics in Hitler’s Germany. It’s a powerful story that both adults and young readers will enjoy.

The 1936 Games are best known for Jesse Owens’ historic wins amidst the Hitler-driven racist and antisemetic atmosphere in Germany at the time. But the story of the first-ever Olympic basketball tournament — with basketball’s founder James Naismith in attendance — is also a compelling narrative about the rise and influence of Nazism during this time period.

Interestingly, the 1936 Olympic basketball tournament took place on outdoor courts, and the final was played in the rain, making mud an unlikely factor in the gold medal game. But ultimately, this is a story about much more than basketball. It’s a tale about how Hitler and his minions used the Olympic games as a public relations tool to spread Nazi propaganda. Maraniss raises the question of whether or not the Americans in general, and the basketball team in particular, should’ve even been participating in these Olympics, given the horrors that were already taking place in Germany at the time of the Games. It was a “sinister facade,” as Maraniss describes the scene in Berlin during the two weeks of the Olympics.

“In Adolph Hitler’s Berlin, all was not as it seemed,” writes Maraniss.

True indeed.

Games of Deception is an excellent sports book, but it’s also an important book about racism, antisemitism and the power of Nazi propaganda.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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