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Ron Smith, Ira Winderman and Mary Schmitt-Boyer

Publisher: Carlton Books
Price: £29.95

Three centimetres thick, 570 pages wide and bursting with colour photos, The Complete Encyclopaedia is a comprehensive reference book on basketball, from its origins to the present day.

There are several sections dealing with different aspects of the game. The NBA teams and their history. The Legends of the NBA - from Abdul-Jabbar to Jerry West - and what made them so special.

One step down the rung are the Great Players (although the inclusion of Bryant Reeves here is somewhat mystifying) and Coaches, men (and woman) who loaned their brains to pushing the sport forward from peach baskets to slam dunks.

If there is one criticism, it is that the title is mis-leading. Basketball is more than just the NBA and if there is a failure in the book, it is that the blinkers have rarely been taken off when examining the reach of the sport. 

The international game receives only a cursory mention by comparison. Likewise the role of women is spreading the gospel of hoops. Even the college ranks are largely over-looked, omissions which are a trifle disappointing despite a detailed chronology of the last decade's worth of Final Fours.

The American focus is however a minor gripe. Compiled and written by three of basketball's finest observers, everything else about The Complete Encyclopaedia is top notch, its descriptive narrative matched only by the quality and frequency of its illustrative accompaniment. 

Not everything in the sport is positive and this is recognised with focuses on the sport's bad boys and on the negatives - racism, betting scandals and the problems which arose when the integration of black performers into a white man's game were in full flow.

There are plenty of statistics, trivia and anecdotes too to satisfy anyone's hunger for knowledge. A treasure that you will go back to, again and again.

Rating:  8/10

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