Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball

by Jen Bryant (Author) Frank Morrison (Illustrator)

Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Winner of 2021 Orbis Pictus Award!

The story of Elgin Baylor, basketball icon and civil rights advocate, from an all-star team Hall-of-famer Elgin Baylor was one of basketball's all-time-greatest players--an innovative athlete, team player, and quiet force for change. One of the first professional African-American players, he inspired others on and off the court. But when traveling for away games, many hotels and restaurants turned Elgin away because he was black. One night, Elgin had enough and staged a one-man protest that captured the attention of the press, the public, and the NBA. Above the Rim is a poetic, exquisitely illustrated telling of the life of an underrecognized athlete and a celebration of standing up for what is right.

Kirkus Reviews

A timely read about an NBA player who spoke out against Jim Crow injustice.

Publishers Weekly

Bryant's richly contextualized account of Elgin Baylor's life, from his childhood in Washington, D.C., where the "nice parks" were "whites only," to playing in the nascent NBA in a segregated U.S., shows how a star athlete used his influence to raise awareness and trigger change. Baylor's astounding athletic talent and quiet character are presented in lyrical snapshots alongside key moments in the Civil Rights struggle, including "the courage of the first black students in Arkansas to sit down in an all-white classroom." When Baylor sits out a 1959 NBA game to protest segregation, he joins activists who understand that "sometimes you have to sit down to stand up." Morrison's lengthened lines in his stylized oil-on-board illustrations sinuously depict Baylor's gravity-defying grace. Includes author's note and timeline. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)

Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

K-Gr 4—Bryant and Morrison team up to honor 11-time NBA All-Star and Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor (b. 1934). This captivating account chronicles Baylor's rise to basketball stardom in spite of the obstacles he faced in the segregated cities of his childhood and throughout his career. The poetic narrative captures Baylor's unique style of play in the early days of the NBA: "The way he played was so different that people stopped what they were doing and watched." This observation not only reflects those who witnessed Baylor's seemingly effortless and gravity-defying moves on the court, but it is used to describe those who stopped to watch the historic acts of courage of Rosa Parks and Ruby Bridges. Neither Baylor's influence nor Bryant's story is limited to the world of basketball. After Baylor staged his own peaceful protest against segregation during an NBA game in 1959, the league took its first steps toward recognizing and rectifying the discrimination that Black players faced as they traveled the country. Morrison's vibrant oil paintings fill the pages with personality, energy, and movement. His signature elongated figures are perfectly suited to depict the 6'5" baller. An author's note, suggested reading, notes, and an extensive time line enhance the value of this book. VERDICT This inspirational and timely portrait of a lesser-known hero of the sports world and the civil rights movement belongs in every school library.—Lynn Van Auken, Oak Bluffs Sch., MA

Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Jen Bryant
Jen Bryant writes picture books, novels, and poems for readers of all ages. Her numerous awards include two Caldecott Honors, two ALA Schneider Family Book Awards, an NCTE Orbis Pictus Award and Honor, and a Sibert Medal and Honor. Frank Morrison is the award-winning illustrator of many books for young readers, including two Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor books, a John Steptoe New Talent Award winner, an NAACP Image Award winner, and a Society of Illustrators Silver Medal winner.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Abrams Books for Young Readers
Publication date
October 20, 2020
BISAC categories
JNF007110 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Social Activists
JNF054020 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Sports & Recreation | Basketball
Library of Congress categories
United States
Basketball players
Baylor, Elgin
Orbis Pictus Award
Winner 2021

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