Author's Note: As per SBNation policy, this note is to let you know that I was provided a copy of this book, free of charge, to read through and review. However, a favorable review was not guaranteed, and the opinions in this review are solely my own.
100 Things Kansas Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, by Ken Davis, is not your typical Kansas history. Inviting readers to explore these topics more on their own, the book acts as a checklist of important people, places, events, and actions that are important to the rich heritage of Kansas Basketball.
Having been born on the East Coast in Maryland Terp country, my initial exposure to basketball was to the arrogance of the Duke fan who we knew from the neighborhood. While I liked to play basketball, I wasn't too overly concerned with how basketball came to be or how it was developed into the sport it is today.
Likewise, when I moved to Kansas as a kid, I wasn't too overly concerned with how Kansas rose to a national power. I was happy to have a local team that was successful that I could root for with all my heart. By the time the Final Four years of 2002 and 2003 rolled around, I was already hooked on Kansas Basketball, and had decided to make KU my college home.
However, every time I thought about the history of the program, it was always in little snippets of information here and there, and I never found the opportunity to really explore the rich history of our team. That is why this book was an absolute pleasure for me to read. Starting off with a foreword from Coach Bill Self, the book immediately sets a tone of reverential reflection, which is carried throughout.
While I was able to quickly read through the book and thoroughly enjoyed it that way, I highly recommend using this book instead as a launching point to explore various facets of the program. Each section is a standalone essay on a particular part of the program, and can lead to lots of additional information. This format doesn't lend itself to diving very far into any particular topic, but it is more than enough to pique your curiosity and get you looking for more information.
My only complaint is that the book is fairly heavy on "things to know" and really light on "things to do", although, like any good Kansas perspective, it lays the blame for being unable to attend a Border War game correctly with the neighbors far to the east. Only 10 chapters really give something to be done, and I was hoping for a larger bucket list of Kansas-related things to do.
That being said, the book is really good at what it aims to do. Instead of introducing people in Kansas history in chronological order, it quickly establishes the three most important figures (Naismith, "Phog" Allen, and the Fieldhouse), then leans on them heavily to help tell the stories that it moves on to. Phog stars constantly throughout the book, serving as the common thread that weaves heavily throughout each of the stories that are relayed.
Other than beginning with Naismith, and ending with Andrew Wiggins, there isn't really any particular order to the essays. In a way, this is actually extremely helpful to hold together such a diverse group of topics. This allows the reader to, in quick succession, learn about important players in Jayhawk history, share in powerfully emotional times, remember the heartbreak of failures, and relive the glory days that were witnessed with the reader's own eyes.
For a relatively recent Jayhawk fan (starting in the early 2000s) like myself, I enjoyed being able to learn about so many things I wasn't able to see with my own eyes. With a large number of contemporary people and events, I was not only able to remember the Jayhawk moments as I witnessed them, but also all the things that were happening in my own life as each of those important things happened.
I think the best takeaway from reading this book is the realization of just what it means to be a Jayhawk. After attending KU and following the Jayhawks for many years, sharing in the trials and triumphs of the sports teams is intertwined with all the highs and lows of my own life. Being able to examine the history of the program gave me a greater appreciation of what I've seen and shared in, and heightened my anticipation for the greatness that is sure to come in the future.
So whether reading the book will open your eyes to a history you hardly knew, or let's you relive all the ups and downs of your Jayhawk-filled life, or a little of both, I highly recommend you give 100 Things Kansas Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. Whether you add to the list with ideas of your own or not, this is a great place to start.
Enter for a chance to win a copy of this book. Leave your score prediction for the game today, and the closest will receive a free copy. As a tiebreaker, name the leading scorer for either team in the game, and the number of points they will score. If there is still a tie, I'll pick one of the tied winners out of a hat.