Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball
Winner of the 2021 Orbis Pictus Award, Above the Rim:How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball is a picture book biography of the basketball legend from award-winning creators Jen Bryant and Frank Morrison.
“A new generation of fans will be introduced to the legendary basketball player Elgin Baylor. . . . A timely read about an NBA player who spoke out against Jim Crow injustice.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Inspirational and timely.” —School Library Journal
Before there was Michael Jordan or LeBron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo, there was Elgin Baylor, shooting, passing, and soaring through the air like no basketball player before him. Here is the story of the basketball icon and African American civil rights advocate, told with beautiful artwork and poetic text:
“In one smooth move,
like a plane taking off,
he would leap . . .
higher and higher
as if pulled by some invisible wire,
and just when it seemed
he’d have to come down,
Hall-of-famer Baylor was one of basketball’s greatest players—an innovative athlete, team player, and quiet force for change. One of the first professional African American players, he inspired others on and off the court. But when traveling for away games, many hotels and restaurants turned Elgin away because he was Black.
One night, Elgin had enough and staged a one-man protest that captured the attention of the press, the public, and the NBA. With lyrical, moving text from an award-winning author and exquisite, slam-dunk illustrations from an award-winning artist, Above the Rim is a peek into the early days of the NBA, a poetic telling of the life of an under-recognized African American athlete, and a celebration of standing up for what’s right.
Praise for Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball
"Morrison’s captivating oil paintings feature dramatic compositions, rich colors, and the artist’s distinctive, elongated figures. Equally impressive is his ability to portray the emotional depths of individuals, from small-minded segregationists to heroes of the civil rights movement. Strong storytelling and riveting artwork make this a memorable picture book."
"With lively verse and elegant oil paintings, Bryant and Morrison masterfully place Baylor’s midair “slashing, crashing, gliding” basketball heroics in the context of his times."
— The Horn Book
"Morrison’s vibrant oil paintings fill the pages with personality, energy, and movement. His signature elongated figures are perfectly suited to depict the 6’5” baller... Inspirational and timely."
— School Library Journal
"Morrison’s lengthened lines in his stylized oil-on-board illustrations sinuously depict Baylor’s gravity-defying grace."
— Publishers Weekly
"Morrison’s captivating oil on board scenes sear Baylor’s tale into eyes and memories. The artist’s signature long-and-lanky character styling is the perfect match, with the flying tangle of airborne legs a glorious theme for his disciplined composition, and the elegant stature of Baylor himself underscoring his dignified, principled protest."
— Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"With Baylor’s story, Bryant and Morrison demonstrate that NBA players have a long history of speaking (or, in Baylor’s case, sitting) out against injustices in society. Bryant’s spare, emphatic text relates how Baylor’s Minneapolis Lakers were affected by Jim Crow and how his protest led to a change in NBA policy. Morrison’s vibrant paintings emphasize Baylor’s lithe athleticism, elongated arms and legs extending balletically."
— Kirkus Reviews
"Frank Morrison's oil illustrations work perfectly to display the beauty of Baylor's fluid, "above the rim" style of play. Through his palette and extraordinary depiction of light, Morrison, highlights the beauty of Black skin--and the importance of figures like Elgin Baylor."
— Shelf Awareness