The “Crazy Basketball Association” – book review by HOOPSWORLD’s Jason Fleming
Remember Carson Cunningham? You can be forgiven if you do not, especially if you aren’t a fan of the Purdue Boilermakers or the Oregon State Beavers. Cunningham has now written a book about his experience in his final year in the Continental Basketball Association called Underbelly Hoops: Adventures in the Crazy Basketball Association.
Cunningham played his freshman season with the Beavers back in 1996-97, where the point guard was runner up for the Pac-10’s Freshman of the Year award to Arizona’s Mike Bibby. That’s significant because one of Cunningham’s teammates was another freshman, Corey Benjamin, whom the Chicago Bulls chose in the first round of the 1998 NBA Draft. After one season in Corvallis Cunningham transferred back home to Indiana to play for Purdue (a decision he talks about in the book). After college Cunningham played professionally in Australia and Estonia, plus three seasons in the CBA.
The book is a look, through the eyes of a player, at the CBA and all that it entails, from the travel to the personalities to hopes and dreams. In the book Cunningham does a good job bouncing back and forth between giving backgrounds of his teammates – names you know and remember, like Keith Closs, Ronnie Fields and Teddy Dupay – and detailing day-to-day life as a minor league basketball player. The book is well researched, providing much detailed background on the players and the league as a whole, and it’s colorful, giving the reader a chance to experience the daily grind the way Cunningham did.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Cunningham wrote a book as much a piece of history as it is the personal journey of a player coming to grips with the end of his career. Since retiring from basketball he has earned his Ph.D in history from Purdue and is studying for his MBA at DePaul, where he currently teaches history and coaches basketball. He has written two other books, one a well-reviewed history of USA Basketball called American Hoops: US Men’s Basketball From Berlin to Beijing, and the other about baseball – Before the Curse: The Chicago Cubs Glory Years, 1870-1945.