In "The Jump," author Ian O'Connor capitalizes on tremendous access and takes his reader everywhere Coney Island basketball star Sebastian Telfair goes: to a series of high school showcase tournaments; to an Adidas endorsement meeting; to an NBA draft-night gathering to which even Telfair's parents weren't invited.
There's one place, though, to which O'Connor never gained entry -- Telfair's head. And that omission leaves the book seriously lacking in personality.
Too bad, because "The Jump" is rich with details and superb reporting. O'Connor reveals just about everything that happened to Telfair in the year preceding his selection as the 13th pick, to the Portland Trail Blazers, in the 2004 NBA draft.
He details a $250,000 bribe a Georgia Tech fan allegedly offered Telfair. He explores the fractured relationship between Telfair and his cousin, Stephon Marbury.
O'Connor also paints vivid portraits of the people who rely on Telfair -- or, perhaps more accurately, the people who hope to rely on the money Telfair will make.
Telfair's coaches, cousins, friends and even his parents come across as greedy and money-hungry. They're desperate to ride the talented Telfair to a life outside of the projects, and they try to influence every decision the basketball star must make.
Everybody treats Telfair like a basketball prodigy, not a person, and O'Connor makes the same mistake. In 307 pages, the reader rarely learns anything about how Telfair feels.
The author includes terrific details about Telfair's crossover dribble, his marketability and his growing fame, but there's rarely a hint at what Telfair is thinking.
"The Jump" illuminates much about the business of high school basketball, and it shows a game rampant with corruption. But O'Connor never asks -- or answers -- how Telfair feels about that corruption, which leaves the reader equally unsure.
-- Eli Saslow