(When Kevin Durant switched agents, joining Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and bidding adieu to Rob Pelinka and Landmark Sports, author Brad Graham lost a lifeline for the traditional publication of his 250-page book on Kevin Durant: “The Backpack Baller: The Fantastical Basketball Voyage of Kevin Durant.” Undeterred, Graham, 32, is crowd-funding his book through a Kickstarter campaign that ends Dec. 31. You can show your support by clicking through to the Kickstarter page, or you can simply read on and enjoy. Everyone needs a little boost now and then, and there are three days left for you, my loyal readers, to help Mr. Graham’s project become a success. Good luck, Brad.-CS)
It’s fair to say that I enjoyed a pretty standard NBA drenched childhood.
Baptized in the holy broadcast waters that were blessed by Michael Jordan, I later considered my bright red ‘Nique jersey (with the word “Atlanta” in place of the name “Wilkins”) to be my Sunday best — my friends, who often wore their purple and gold tinted glasses, often disagreed.
So while homework tried to play zone defense on my life, my formative years were defined by my ability to ruin VHS tapes (purchased legally and recorded without the expressed written consent of the NBA) as often as I wore out my shoes (due to countless hours spent on a homemade court).
Without realizing it at the time, my high school experience was a non-stop basketball clinic. The teacher’s words became noise as I received my education from trading cards and traded players; from video games and video-taped re-runs; from sneakers and sneaking in an extra game; from snapbacks and snapped ankles; from monthly magazines and a month’s wait for new merchandise.
But this post isn’t about what has been, it’s about what’s to come, specifically, my most recent project: Kevin Durant’s first 25 years (1988 – 2013) in 250 lavishly designed pages.
Entitled “The Backpack Baller: The Fantastical Basketball Voyage of Kevin Durant,” my first book — after eight years producing NBA magazines — takes both a forensic and satellite view of KD’s on-court conquests as well as his off-court challenges. Exploring his devotion to the game, the brilliance of his rise, and his current cultural standing, The Backpack Baller is neatly broken up into a series of essays, magazine-style features, and interviews.
Earlier this year, a number of literary agents had a hard time understanding their role, given the book was more in need of a distribution deal than development. With almost 10 years publishing industry experience, producing a world-class coffee-table book wasn’t the problem, but securing the funding to finish, print, bind and distribute the book would be, hence the KickStarter campaign.
Thus crowd-funding became the quickest and simplest method to help make the project a reality. And that’s what the book’s editor, Brian Duff — a talented writer/editorial surgeon — and I are attempting to achieve with The Backpack Baller: a rethink of the modern athlete biography, in outcome and process.
In case you’re wondering, yes, Kevin Durant knows all about the book — he has for some time.
Also in the know: senior people at NIKE, folks at NBA headquarters, staff at the Thunder… Okay, so the story is: over the years I had been working with the team at Goodwin Sports Management before Kevin left their representation and signed with Rob Pelinka’s Landmark Sports agency.
After building a relationship with the people near Rob, KD forgot to consider the still unfinished book deal when he jumped over to Jay Z’s RocNation Sports. It was there I ran into a major roadblock as RocNation were, somewhat unsurprisingly, unresponsive to my many attempts to conduct conversations about the project.
Luckily, the NBA and the Thunder’s Communications staff, respectively, have been nothing but receptive in helping me gain access to Kevin. This may be an unofficial biography, but KD has read the raw manuscript and has since seen the nearly completed book — and he’s been supportive of the project. So rather than wait for a publishing house to give me the green light (or RocNation to return my calls), I’ve opted for crowd-funding.
As far as the process behind writing the book goes, I’ve spoken with KD’s childhood friends (eg: Michael Beasley, Ty Lawson), his biggest rivals (LeBron James), legends of the game (Dominique Wilkins) and both current (Russell Westbrook) and former teammates (Jeff Green).
Additionally, people from NIKE and USA Basketball have also given me insight to be able to paint a rich and full picture. I’ve also had conversations with journalists, bloggers, international media members and those who cover the Thunder on a daily basis. I’ve spent years reading just about every print and online article ever published about the man… but most importantly, I’ve had numerous chats with Kevin — on the phone, via email and in person — since 2006 (when I saw KD play in person at the 2006 Coaches vs. Cancer 2K Classic inside Madison Square Garden).
As anyone who has ever attempted to write a book knows, the medium, above all else, requires time. Time for research, time for editing and time for history to help with context.
Yet time is what I’m running out of as the KickStarter clock counts down to midnight of Dec. 31. But before we get into how you can help, the most common questions I’ve been asked about The Backpack Baller is: Why K.D, and why now?
The (very) short answer to the first question is simple enough: Because he has been able to do what no other hooper in history has (the book will obviously explain this in great detail)… while the second part is based on how approachable KD has been — from the time he arrived at the University of Texas until now.
That coupled with my influences (Scoop Jackson, the FreeDarko collective, ESPN’s TrueHoop troop, Bill Simmons and the Grantland group, silver screen Auteurs like Wes Anderson and Darren Aronofsky, select Hip Hop artists and countless other publication and graphic designers, to name a few) and publishing industry experience, I knew I could deliver an outcome that was both fresh and timely.
Now for the salesperson’s pitch…
The book, which is 90 percent complete, needs backers to help bring it to life. The best part? Electing to go the KickStarter route has meant every backer gets to choose their own reward tier while becoming part of the project. For instance, $35 will secure you a hardcover, First Edition copy of the book. This also includes you getting your name plus hometown printed in the book as one of “Kevin’s Army.”
Besides Luc Longley’s “Runnin’ With The Bulls”, no Australian has ever produced an NBA based book before, so this could be literary history in the making.
Growing up on the other side of the planet, I never imagined that I’d ever have the opportunity to meet, let alone interview or produce work centered on the biggest names in the NBA. In many regards, this Kevin Durant book is proof that the sports media world is flat and the NBA is a global currency.
And if you’re still not convinced, there’s the Ben Osborne edited excerpt in SLAM 174 (Paul George cover) which can be enjoyed here, or the Baller Mind Frame Chapter 16 excerpt which can be viewed here:
Lastly, I’ve been following Chris Sheridan’s site ever since he broke away from ESPN (but not because he broke away from ESPN), so to be given this opportunity, after I reached out to Chris, is a huge honor for me — as both an aspiring author and as someone who respects Chris’ thinking and writing. Thanks to Chris and to you, his readers, and huge thanks for taking the time to find out a little about my 250-page Kevin Durant book.
Any support you can provide would be greatly appreciated.