May 19, 1997 12:00 PM

by Spike Lee with Ralph Wiley

With the basketball playoffs in full swing, we’re sure to see plenty of NBA promos featuring celebrities crowing, “I love this game!” Few famous fans, however, can match the passion of filmmaker Spike Lee, who examines his deep-rooted devotion to basketball in this memoir, which is as vibrant, opinionated and meandering as his movies.

Cowritten with former SPORTS ILLUSTRATED journalist Ralph Wiley, Lee’s basketball musings will be of limited appeal to nonenthusiasts. But lovers of roundball will delight in this jazzy account of how an undersize 13-year-old from Brooklyn who snuck into Madison Square Garden for a 1970 playoff game became a prominent writer-director with a $l,000-a-game courtside seat, out of which he frequently springs to taunt opponents of his beloved New York Knicks. Mixing vivid memories of great matchups and special players with his own personal highlights—meeting Jackie Robinson, directing his 1989 break-out film Do the Right Thing, getting married and having a daughter—Lee confirms his gift for evocative, intricate storytelling.

Best Seat also has a serious side. The irascible Lee offers his perceptions of the subtle racism of sports-writers who celebrate white athletes while slighting equally talented black ones. Lee’s logic isn’t always rock-solid: He complains that lucrative endorsement deals have hurt the sport by making players more selfish, even as he continues directing Nike sneaker ads. Still, it is Lee’s unswerving love of the game that drives this book and makes it—at least for hoop aficionados—as purely satisfying as a Michael Jordan three-pointer. (Crown, $23)

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