Seven Seconds or Less


Jack McCallum




Date Reviewed:

June 3, 2008

he complete title for Jack McCallum's book is Seven Seconds or Less, My Season with the Runnin' and Gunnin' Phoenix Suns. However, almost the entire book is about the Post-Season, there is a chapter for every playoff game that the Suns play, but regular season games only appear as background material, there is hardly any discussion about those first 82 games.

McCallum was allowed to spend the entire season with Suns, a very generous position - he pretty much had unrestricted access to all the Suns practices and games. He traveled with the team. He sat behind the bench. He interviewed all the players and coaches. McCallum returns the favor by writing about everyone in such a manner that most seem like self-absorbed jerks. The owner of the team, Robert Sarver, comes across as a fool (as does Mark Cuban, owner of the Mavericks.)

Shawn Marion's reputation is pummelled in this book - Shawn is portrayed as having the sensitive ego of a five year. McCallum describes Marion's wonderous physical skills - and then gives us another paragraph or two about Marion's petulant personality. For example, after a dramatic Suns victory in the playoffs over the Lakers, everyone is talking about the play of Steve Nash and the three point shot that Tim Thomas made to send the game into overtime. But rather joining in with his joyful teammates to celebrate their victory, Marion is bummed that he won't getting any headlines for grabbing the offensive rebound and making the pass to Tim Thomas. Marion pouts, rather than celebrates. McCallum tells us that Shawn Marion notices that the Suns have set up two giant bobblehead dolls in the team store - one of Steve Nash, one of Amare Stoudamire, and Marion feels slighted that the Suns don't have a giant bobblehead of him. (I couldn't help but notice that Steve Nash appears in four of the interior photographs of the book, while Shawn Marion appears in only three pictures - and I am sure the Shawn Marion noticed also! Indeed, Kobe Bryant of the Lakers has better face time in the interior photo pages than Marion, and Bryant plays for the much-loathed Lakers!)

I was disappointed that the players don't really seem to like each other. They are all self-absorbed individuals - I suppose this is true for most pro-athletes, but my impression just from watching their games, I thought the Suns to be a different set of characters - a team of players that shared the ball that beautifully surely must like each other, no? Apparently not. Though Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa apparently are good friends.

At one point in the book, the Suns are in a film session studying the previous game, and Lakers coach Phil Jackson appears on the screen, moving slowly because he is hobbled by hip injuries suffered back in his playing days - eventually, Phil Jackson would get hip replacement surgery on both hips - and one of the Suns shouts: "Here comes the penguin!" and all the Suns make funny penguin noises to mock Phil Jackson. It made me wonder if they mock people with other injuries. This doesn't make the Suns seem like a bunch of fun loving guys, it makes them sound like callous, unsympathetic individuals. I think McCallum would have done the Suns a favor by leaving material like that out of his book.

Steve Nash gets the best coverage in the book. McCallum describes his many charity works, his dedication to the rigorous pro-basketball training regime, his patience with the sports writer and his drive to succeed. Steve Nash sounds like a genuinely nice guy. Unfortunately, Nash still can't play any defense. McCallum tries to address this issue by claiming Nash is a better defender than he appear to be, he simply gets beat too often because he is cheating off of his man trying to help out. It is not a convincing argument - I read this book in 2008, after the Suns lost in the first round of the playoffs, and the guy Nash was supposed to be guarding - Tony Parker - repeatedly burned the Suns for easy scores.

The Suns are reputed to be a "soft" team, they are always worried about not being tough. Only Raja Bell is acknowledged to be a tough guy, and a lot of this reputation stems from his clothesline tackle of Kobe Bryant in the playoffs. Bell whines later than something Phil Jackson had said made him so angry he felt he had to tackle Kobe. To Bell's credit, he promises that it won't happen again, and as of 2008, when I read this book, I am not aware of any cheap shot by Raja Bell on any other players. Also to Bell's credit, he suffers a torn calf muscle in his leg in the series versus the Mavericks, yet comes back from the injury to get back on the court after missing only a game.

McCallum shows too many instances of Suns complaining about referees or other players. He makes the Suns sound like a bunch of whiners. All teams berates the refs, but since the book is about the Suns, we read so much about their constant complaints with the refs, and it doesn't sound good. Quit yapping, and play ball!

I don't think any fan of the Phoenix Suns will enjoy this book. Better to imagine that your heroes are indeed fun and joyful, rather than read this book and find out that they are just selfish, whiny athletes. Hard to imagine Jack McCullum getting unrestricted access to any more locker rooms after this was published.