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One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season

"Reminds us why sports matter...One hell of a good story, and Ballard has written one hell of a good book." -- Jonathan Eig, Chicago Tribune

“No one who reads Chris Ballard's "One Shot at Forever” will soon forget it. --Bloomberg Businessweek

"One Shot at Forever is tender, fun, bittersweet, with a great narrative that just motors. It also features the funkiest coach not just in the history of baseball but the history of sport--an unforgettable character in a beautiful and unforgettable book." --Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights


"[A] nonfiction gem about an underdog team that made good. This is the kind of baseball book that has long arms: YA readers, avid baseball fans, sports readers, and narrative nonfiction readers who like to be firmly set in a particular time and place should all find it joyful."   - Library Journal


Winner of the 2012 Alex Award and developed for film by Legendary Pictures


In 1971, a small-town high school baseball team from rural Illinois, playing with hand-me-down uniforms and peace signs on their hats, defied convention and the odds. Led by an English teacher with no coaching experience, the Macon Ironmen emerged from a field of 370 teams to represent the smallest school in Illinois history to make the state final, a distinction that still stands. There the Ironmen would play against a Chicago powerhouse in a dramatic game that would change their lives forever.


In this gripping, cinematic narrative, Chris Ballard tells the story of the team and its coach, Lynn Sweet: a hippie, dreamer, and intellectual who arrived in Macon in 1966, bringing progressive ideas to a town stuck in the Eisenhower era. Beloved by students but not administration, Sweet reluctantly took over the ragtag team, intent on teaching the boys as much about life as baseball. Together they embarked on an improbable postseason run that buoyed a small town in desperate need of something to celebrate.

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The Art of a Beautiful Game: The Thinking Fan's Tour of the NBA


“Admirably reaches for timelessness.”—The New York Times Book Review

“This is a basketball book for people who actually care about basketball.” —Chuck Klosterman

"Reminiscent of Michael Lewis or Malcolm Gladwell . . . Surprises and insights fill the pages of this concise, insightful look at the NBA. —The Christian Science Monitor

“The titular thinking fans will find their admiration confirmed; casual fans will see the light and find themselves converted. Hallelujah!” —Booklist (starred review)

"This book is a great read, and for hardcore NBA fans, almost certainly a must-read. "-


Chris Ballard sits down with the NBA’s most passionate, cerebral players to discover their tricks of the trade and to learn what drives them. He reveals the roots of Kobe Bryant’s limitless competitiveness; shadows LeBron James to figure out how he deploys his prodigious talent; and challenges Steve Kerr to a three-point shootout to analyze the mind-set of a pure shooter. Ballard tracks down renowned dunkers to explore the slam’s impact on today’s game, follows Shane Battier during his extensive pregame preparations, gets pointers from a free-throw shooting guru who once hit 2,750 in a row, and attends an elite NBA training camp to experience the pain that turns a prospect into a pro.

Packed with fascinating characters and startling anecdotes, and grounded in the superb writing and the reportage that is the hallmark of Sports Illustrated, The Art of a Beautiful Game is an often witty, always insightful look at the men like Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, and Dirk Nowitzki who devote themselves to this elegant and complicated sport. It’s an inside read on the game that will surprise even diehard fans.


Hoops Nation: A Guide to America's Best Pickup Basketball

"A travelogue worthy of frequent rereading and a guidebook no hoopaholic should leave home without."—Philadelphia Inquire

"A loving tribute to a unique part of contemporary sports culture."—Booklist

"Engaging and informative, funny as Muggsy dunking on Shaq. . . . Chris Ballard got game."—Vibe

“A handy and entertaining guide to blacktops and backboards from sea to shining sea. Even if you don’t dare venture beyond your backyard, Mr. Ballard’s book will make you wish you could.” - Washington Times

One of Booklist's "Top 10 Sports Books" of the year

Featured on NPR's "All Things Considered" and ABC News with Dick Schaap

A guided tour of the country's best pickup basketball courts, from the blacktops of Brooklyn to the asphalt of Anchorage to the gyms of Jackson, Mississippi. It's all inside: where the pros play, the most scenic runs in the land, and a ranking of the top five courts.
Chris Ballard and three other former college players piled into a used Chevy van and traveled thirty-one thousand miles in seven months, playing at over a thousand courts in 166 cities in forty-eight states. This is the story of their roundball road trip and a guide to the places, people, and communities they encountered.
More than a travel guide, Hoops Nation is "a celebration of the game of basketball as it is played in America." It includes guides to streetball fashion, the lingo of the courts, the etiquette of the pickup world, the tricks of old-guy basketball, and tips for the dunking impaired. Also included are profiles of playground legends and dispatches from the legions of basketball lifers who populate the country's courts.

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The Butterfly Hunter: Adventures of People Who Found Their True Calling Way Off the Beaten Path

With wit and style, Sports Illustrated staffer Ballard (Hoops Nation) profiles 10 people who found their life's work in highly unusual jobs.

Don LaFontaine, considered the master of voiceovers, has recorded trailers for over 3,500 films. Penny Halvorson, a 45-year-old grandmother, was the first woman to participate in lumberjack competitions; she has won four world championships. Doug Blevins has cerebral palsy and has never walked, yet he has become an outstanding football coach, working with the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets. Wisely, in Blevins's story, Ballard finds not sentimental inspiration but passion in pursuing a dream "because it is the one thing that can give... life meaning."

The strength of this exploration lies in its offering not generalities or formulas for success but specific truths behind individual choices. And in a funny introduction, Ballard describes his own failure to become a vacuum cleaner salesman. -Publisher's Weekly

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