Review by Nikko R.

Created by Kobe Bryant, written by Wesley King
592 pages. Granity Studios.

Basketball and magic, on the surface, have few common denominators outside of Earvin Johnson starring for the Los Angeles Lakers. Fittingly, another Laker great takes on the mantle of delivering a fresh take on both wizardry and the game Dr. Naismith invented. Kobe Bryant, for all of his championships and awards and buzzer-beaters, has now (since his retirement) evolved into an ultra-creative force we may have never seen before.

His latest endeavor (now that the filmmaking and Oscar-winning is a feather-already-in-cap) is a collaborative project of a novel with accomplished writer Wesley King. The Wizenard Series: Training Camp is a unique take on the game of basketball from the perspective of five young athletes getting acquainted with the complex twists and turns of learning and playing hoops.

Their encounter with a new, mysterious coach opens windows into their young souls as it opens their eyes and minds to possibilities they first thought unlikely. Their stories, while individually strong and unique like many experiences of teams and young friends, are intertwined in a clever, intricate pattern that’s been masterfully woven in a way only a seasoned author and a basketball genius can.

The tackling of basketball, on the other hand, is done with precision and a soft touch. Often, presentation of a sport in novels is done either half-baked – a summarized, hurried, top-level version of the actual game’s face value observed from the nosebleed seats by a distracted, barely-invested observer. Either that or it’s an up-too-close, mega-specific, cell-splitting over-analysis of the smallest and most technical details of the sport’s negligible-to-most minutiae that an obsessive former athlete may have the tendency to deliver from his view on Jack Nicholson’s Laker seat.

Wizenard manages to live in the sweet spot right in between – it splits the proverbial pick-and-roll defense with ease and agility, catering to both casual fans of the game and die-hard facepainters. It teaches the reader, as the characters learn themselves, the power, the potential, and yes – the magic of basketball when it is played the right way.

The novel’s true mystic ability comes not in the actual wizardry that occurs, but in the relationships you witness which begin, grow, and evolve throughout the book’s journey. Despite unusual occurrences, it manages to paint a realistic picture of what it is to grow up with basketball in the backdrop: the struggles, the losses, the dreams of winning, the trying, the teamwork.

Bryant’s fingerprints are all over the pages. Much like any and every game he’s ever played, Kobe’s actual impact goes beyond the stat sheet. Wizenard is laced with an intensity, a focus, a burning desire to deliver the perfect amount of force and grace depending on each changing situation. Any person who’s ever seen #8/#24 lace them up will immediately understand how the pace of the story, the decisions the characters make, the lessons the game of basketball attempts to teach, are allegories to Bean’s career and personal story.

Rookies to his legacy, however, will keep in step as they are slowly but definitely exposed to the mind and fiery dedication of an athlete we’ve rarely seen before.

The Wizenard is an achievement – not only because it’s a good novel; not only because it merges the worlds of wizardry and sport deftly. It is an achievement because it teaches that magic and basketball aren’t binary, not in fiction and not in reality. When played right, when played together, when played with the intention of creating magic on the floor, the game is pure, it’s magical.

Every young person who picks up a ball, or a book, or even a wand, should pick up The Wizenard Series: Training Camp to be fans and teammates of this standout rookie. The opening sequences of what is hopefully a longer campaign have proven to be a slam-dunking, alley-ooping show.

A dynasty in the making.

The Wizenared Series: Training Camp will soon be available at Fully Booked branches and Fully Booked Online. Reserve your copy in advance here.

Before he had any friends, Nikko Ramos was a grade-schooler who spent recess and lunch sneaking into the “High Schoolers Only” section of the library to read John Grisham’s Bleachers over and over. He has since gone on to become a (retired) Radio DJ, sportscaster, professional sneaker storyteller and magazine editor-in-chief. He’s read a few more books since then. Still waiting to make friends. Find him on Instagram @nikkorms.

[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]

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