Pickup Artists

Pickup Artists:Street Basketball in America

  • Paperback

A historiography of basketball.

The history of blacktop basketball in fast-paced words and pictures. A New York street hustler. A lonely man in a Maryland prison. A confused Native American on a reservation in Idaho. What do they all have in common? They are among the best pickup basketball players in the country. In Pickup Artists, Lars Anderson and Chad Millman tell the complete story of the street game from its mythical past to its glorious present. Using original reporting to examine the evolution of playground basketball, Anderson and Millman are the first journalists to unravel the thickly woven tapestry of the sport’s subculture. Today’s super-hyped, corporate-sponsored tournaments weren’t always the norm. The foundation of the game was laid with sweat in the 1920s and it has grown from a rudimentary sport to a sophisticated exhibition. Basketball is more than macho melodramas acted out in America’s inner cities. It’s a town meeting in the heart of Indiana and symbol of freedom for prisoners in jail. Anderson and Millman tap into the essence of pickup basketball, examining its importance everywhere the game is played. They profile not just legends like Earl Marigault and Joe Hammond, but players like Fred “Spook” Stegman, the man who carries the legacy of being the first to connect the playgrounds with colleges, and Gregory Vaughn, whose tragic death in the 1980s exposed the underground world of drugs in basketball. Forget about the NBA and showtime. Pickup basketball is about basketball on the blacktops, at its most basic level. It’s about the unusual lives of some of the nation’s best players you’ve never heard of. Until now.


  • A passionately but conscientiously assembled book. Riveting profiles give life to figures both forgotten and never heard of, while a long overdue history of basketball's most elemental version is a valuable contribution to the game's historiography.

    Alexander WolffSports Illustrated
  • Pickup Artists is an unusually well-written and astute picture of the ways that basketball has evolved in this country ... An exemplary piece of reporting and writing, transcending sports to give us a somber view of America's crumbling cities.

    Kirkus Reviews
  • The book's real strength lies in its characterization of the numerous figures, both tragic and comic, who have played out roles on the nation's asphalt stages ... A meticulously researched, richly written look at a vital part of American popular culture.