Dragon Hoops follows two fascinating narratives. It’s the tale of a storied high school’s quest for a state championship and the author’s own journey as a graphic novelist.
Bishop O’Dowd High School, located in Oakland, CA, is renowned for its strong athletic program. Gene Luen Yang taught computer science at O’Dowd, while balancing a demanding career as a graphic novel creator. Yang had just wrapped up one project and was in the market for his next book idea. He was a self-admitted lifelong hater of sports, but he couldn’t ignore his students’ excitement about the Dragons upcoming basketball season. His curiosity led him to sit down with basketball coach Lou Richie. Before long, Yang had his next project.
The narrative includes details on the history of the men’s and women’s games, including how they were impacted by racism and sexism. For example, there was so much concern about the effects of basketball on their “womanhood,” women were not allowed to run the full length of the court until 1971. Profiles of the diverse team members and Coach Richie, himself an alum of O’Dowd and its basketball team, enrich the story. Some difficult history in the program is handled thoughtfully.
Yang elevates an already powerful story by weaving his own journey with sports and his career as a graphic novelist into the narrative. The concept of taking steps – taking risks – is a recurring theme.
Yang’s art brings the story to life with depictions of the basketball games which are so compelling you feel as if you’re there, watching. He uses a full range of colors, which are muted in historical sections and more vibrant in the time of the story. You don’t have to love basketball to love this book. Find Dragon Hoops at your local bookstore or comic book shop.