Gene Luen Yang was a math teacher at Bishop O’Dowd High School looking for a new graphic novel project. Without realizing it, he stumbled onto a perfect one: his school’s varsity basketball team.
The O’Dowd Dragons had made five trips to the state championship game in the previous decade but had never won. Their coach, Lou Richie, had also lost the state championship game as a player for the school years before. As a result, he made a significant change to the Dragons for their 2015 season.
Instead of recruiting a balanced mix of seniors, juniors, and underclassmen, Coach Lou named eight seniors to the team. His change would make that year’s team stronger and better able to compete for the state title, but at a significant cost: the following season would require a near-complete rebuild.
In the meantime, the Dragons had a stacked roster led by Ivan Rabb, the best male player in the school’s history as well as one of the top high school players in the entire country.
Yang spent the season attending Dragons’ games, and talking with the players and coaches. He quickly started to admire them and their pursuit of a championship. While following the Dragons, Yang saw parallels between their make-or-break season and his own decision between staying a teacher and quitting to become a full-time graphic novelist.
Around those two storylines, Yang also discusses the history of basketball and how that history shaped events in the Dragons’ 2015 season.
Will the team come together? Will Coach Lou’s gamble succeed? Will Yang take the safe approach and remain a teacher?
Dragon Hoops, by Gene Luen Yang, is shelved in our young adult graphic novel section.
If you enjoy Dragon Hoops, you may also enjoy Sprawlball by Kirk Goldsberry.
Goldsberry discusses how advanced statistics have changed tactics for professional basketball over the past decade, and profiles a handful of specific players who exemplify those changes. GPPL just purchased Sprawlball, and it will be shelved in the adult non-fiction section.