The Hustle: One Team and Ten Lives in Black and White
One Team and Ten Lives in Black and White
by Doug Merlino
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The experiment was dreamed up by two fathers, one white, one black. What
would happen, they wondered, if they mixed white players from an elite Seattle
private school - famous for alums such as Microsoft's Bill Gates - and black
kids from the inner city on a basketball team? Wouldn't exposure to privilege
give the black kids a chance at better opportunities? Wouldn't it open the eyes
of the white kids to a different side of life?
The 1986 season would be the laboratory. Out in the real world, hip-hop was
going mainstream, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson ruled the NBA, and Ronald Reagan
was president. In Seattle, the team's season unfolded like a perfectly
scripted sports movie: the ragtag group of boys became friends and gelled
together to win the league championship. The experiment was deemed a
But was it? How did crossing lines of class, race, and wealth affect the
lives of these ten boys? Two decades later, Doug Merlino, who played on the
team, returned to find his teammates. His search ranges from a prison cell to a
hedge fund office, street corners to a shack in rural Oregon, a Pentecostal
church to the records of a brutal murder. The result is a complex, gripping,
and, at times, unsettling story.
Apted's Up series, The Hustle tells the stories of ten teammates
set before a background of sweeping social and economic change, capturing the
ways race, money, and opportunity shape our lives. A tale both personal and
public, The Hustle is the story a disparate group of men finding - or not
finding - a place in America
- Bloomsbury Publishing, December 2010
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