There’s Always This Year

MacArthur fellow and National Book Award finalist Hanif Abdurraqib is a prolific poet and author, writing across genres of poetry, essay and cultural criticism to great acclaim. Abdurraqib turns his sensitive lens towards basketball in his newest work, There’s Always This Year: On Basketball and Ascension. With carefully constructed and imaginative prose, he immerses us in the basketball culture of his native East Columbus, Ohio, telling stories of hoop dreams, both deferred and fully realized.

Abdurriqib pays tribute to myriad figures, both ballers and civilians, who were part of the richly portrayed social web of East Columbus and the larger Black Ohio that it is situated in. We learn about East Columbus players who dominated courts in high school and college, leaving indelible marks on their community even though they didn’t thrive on the biggest stages. We also get to intimately witness the ascension and cultural impact of LeBron James, a hooper from nearby Akron who became one of basketball’s most recognizable, successful and yet polarizing figures.

Abdurraqib’s examination of basketball culture is, in and of itself, captivating. However, the book transcends the particulars of the sport to become a powerful meditation on place and community. The author paints a complex but loving portrait of East Columbus as its members navigate moments of love, grief, hope, fellowship and conflict. He generously and seamlessly weaves in his own story, offering it up as a conduit for the reader’s self-reflection.

Abdurraqib’s writing on basketball is among the best of our time, and it centers the sport’s relevance in local communities, a grossly underexplored element. At the same time, There’s Always This Year offers beautiful reflections on personal and communal journeys that have the power to transform anyone willing to step on the court.

Read our interview with Hanif Abdurraqib, author of ‘There’s Always This Year.’

Literature

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