Heaven Is a Playground

Rick Telander

Heaven Is a Playground



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When journalist Rick Telander first set foot in Foster Park, New York, in 1973, he had no idea it would be the beginning of a journey that would lead him to write one of the most celebrated sports books of all time. Heaven is a Playground is Telander’s account of the summer he spent in a Brooklyn ghetto, where basketball is a way of life. This is the story of Rodney Parker, ‘Fly’ Williams, and Albert King.

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Analysis and key concepts


Heaven is a Playground is a tale about the wonderful sport of basketball and how it influences society as a whole


Rodney Parker’s story typifies the desire for respect in the suburbs


Rick Telander describes the early careers of two incredible athletes from poor backgrounds


Many kids grew up in the ghetto without a father figure, and this void was often filled by people who had been somehow elevated to hero status


James Fly Williams and Albert King represented the two sides of the ghetto


Telling the stories of the places where sports are played helps us make sense of life




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Many useful tips to:

  • Gain insight into what life was like in the American ghettos of the 1970s. 
  • Learn about the backgrounds of several incredible basketball players, including James ‘Fly’ Williams.
  • Discover how sports journalists report stories court side. 
  • Learn how to become a coach to a youth sports team.

Rick Telander is an American sports journalist, who worked as a columnist for Sports Illustrated and then for the Chicago Sun-Times. As well as having been a professional American football player, he is widely regarded as one of America’s top sportswriters, and has written eight books, including Like a Rose, about his football-playing days, The Hundred-Yard Lie, on the excessive use of steroids in sports, and the well-known Heaven is a Playground, which talks about street basketball and has been ranked as one of the best sports books of all time. It was also the basis for the 1991 film of the same name.

Publishing house:

Sports Pub