Jeff Pearlman

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Missing Isaiah

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My nephew Isaiah left today after a week with us in California.

He’s 13, and one of the gems of my life. I have two kids and two nephews, but the wife and I consider them all to be our children. Which might sound weird, because two were created by us, and those same two live here in California. But it matters not. There’s family, and there’s close family, and there’s even closer family. My nephews are as close as close as close can be.

Isaiah is a quiet kid. Soft-spoken, gentle, rarely has a complaint or bad word or gripe. A few days ago I took him and my kids to Six Flags Magic Mountain, which has some of the roughest coasters you’ll ever see. There’s one in particular—Full Throttle—that features ridiculous speeds and a terrifying enormous loop that you travel through twice. According to Six Flags it’s the world’s tallest and fastest looping coaster, and I can’t overstate the nightmarish ridiculousness of the ride. Beforehand my palms were sweaty, my eyeballs were bulged. Then I looked at Isaiah …

“You scared?” I said.

“No.”

“Wait,” I said. “Not at all?”

“Nope.”

And he wasn’t. We sat side by side, and while I was screaming and shouting and (yes) cursing, he just had a big smile across his grill.

Yesterday morning I took Isaiah to watch “The Fate of the Furious.” It was everything you’d expect—short shorts, muscle shirts, chases, crashes, inane one-liners. I didn’t hate it, but by the end I felt as if I’d eaten 8,000 Skittles. I fully expected Isaiah to rave about the film. But when I asked what he thought, he offered a preposterously nuanced and analytical take on the movie’s mediocrity. It was near-genius.

I’m babbling. Isaiah left a few minutes ago, and I had tears in my eyes. I’m not the dad, just the uncle, but I feel as if my son just departed for college.

Sigh.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life