The Secret Game: A Wartime Story of Courage, Change, and Basketball's Lost Triumph

November 28, 2020
The Secret Game: A Wartime Story of Courage, Change, and Basketball's Lost Triumph

Winner of the 2016 PEN/ESPN Award forLiterary Sports WritingThe true story of the game that never should have happened—andof a nation on the brink of monumental changeIn the fall of 1943, at the little-known North Carolina Collegefor Negroes, Coach John McLendon was on the verge of changingbasketball forever. A protégé of James Naismith, the game'sinventor, McLendon taught his team to play the full-court press andrun a fast break that no one could catch. His Eagles would becomethe highest-scoring college team in America—a basketball juggernautthat shattered its opponents by as many as sixty points per game.Yet his players faced danger whenever they traveled backcountryroads.Across town, at Duke University, the best basketball squad oncampus wasn't the Blue Devils, but an all-white military team fromthe Duke medical school. Composed of former college stars fromacross the country, the team dismantled everyone they faced,including the Duke varsity. They were prepared to take onanyone—until an audacious invitation arrived, one that was yearsahead of anything the South had ever seen before. What happenednext wasn't on anyone's schedule.
Based on years ofresearch, The Secret Game is a story of courage anddetermination, and of an incredible, long-buried moment in thenation's sporting past. The riveting, true account of a remarkableseason, it is the story of how a group of forgotten collegebasketball players, aided by a pair of refugees from Nazi Germanyand a group of daring student activists, not only blazed a trailfor a new kind of America, but helped create one of the mostmeaningful moments in basketball history.