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March 28 , 2008

Can I Keep My Jersey?

11 Teams, 5 Countries, and 4 Years in My Life as a Basketball Vagabond


He’s been called a journeyman. Even Paul wouldn’t dispute that classification. Regardless, Bill Simmons,’s “The Sports Guy,” has said of Paul Shirley, “We could finally have an answer to the question ‘What would it be like if one of our friends was an NBA player?”
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There’s no denying that Paul Shirley is the closest thing pro basketball’s got to Odysseus. In Homeric fashion, he has logged time practically everywhere in the roundball universe, from six NBA cities to pro leagues in Spain and Greece to North America’s pro ball Siberia, the minor leagues. Hell, he’s even played in the real Siberia. And in Can I Keep My Jersey?, Shirley finally puts down roots long enough to deliver one of the great locker-room chronicles of the modern age.

With sharp elbows and an even sharper wit, Shirley–whose writings have been described as “wildly entertaining” by The Wall Street Journal–drops hilarious commentary, revealing which teams have the best cheerleaders (he’s spent many a time-out watching them ply their trade), why Christ is rapidly becoming every team’s “sixth man,” and even the best ways to get bloodstains out of your game uniform, using only an ordinary bar of soap and a hotel bathroom sink.

From sharing the court with Kobe and Shaq to perusing the food court at some mall in a bush-league burg; from taking pregame layups to getting laid out by a stray knee from an NBA power forward; from hopping a limo to the team’s charter jet to dashing to catch the van home from a B-league game in Tijuana, Shirley dishes on what it’s like to try to make it as a professional athlete. Can I Keep My Jersey? is a rollicking, thoughtful, even thought-provoking insider’s look at a pro baller’s life on the fringe. Like Jim Bouton’s Ball Four or John Feinstein’s A Season on the Brink, Shirley’s odyssey deserves to find a home on every sports fan’s bookshelf.

From the Hardcover edition.
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