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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Vincent Mallozzi's "Doc": The Ultimate Hack Job

Vincent Mallozzi's Doc: The Rise and Rise of Julius Erving is a quintessential hack job; it is so poorly put together that it redefines the term "hack job" and from now on "Mallozzi" should be considered a synonym for "hack job." Mallozzi's book is touted as "The first complete biography of one of the greatest and most popular basketball players of all time" but the truth is that "Doc" is largely comprised of poorly thrown together quotes and stories from other people's work. Mallozzi contributed very little original content.

It should be illegal to write a biography of Erving without citing/mentioning/praising Marty Bell's classic The Legend of Dr. J: The Story of Julius Erving. Bell's book is vastly superior to Mallozzi's--and Bell's book includes Bell's first hand accounts and Bell's research as opposed to simply retelling other people's stories without proper attribution. Not only does Mallozzi act as if Bell's book does not exist, Mallozzi borrowed/stole heavily from Bell in terms of style and content, particularly when describing Erving's streetball exploits: the first chapter of Bell's book is titled "Me and Julius Down by the Schoolyard," while chapter four of Mallozzi's book is titled "Julius and Dave Down by the Schoolyard." The "Dave" in question is Dave Brownbill, a player who Bell interviewed regarding Erving's early days; Mallozzi simply ripped off Bell's research without any acknowledgment.

As I noted in the comments section of my Del Harris interview, Mallozzi's account of Julius Erving's brief 1972 preseason stint with the Atlanta Hawks consisted mainly of quotes from my exclusive one on one interview with Erving. Mallozzi stated that the quotes came from Basketball Digest but he did not mention my name at all; I suppose that is just as well, because on one of the rare occasions that Mallozzi actually gave credit to the real writers/researchers who produced the majority of the material in his book, Mallozzi repeatedly misspelled Sports Illustrated's Peter Carry as "Peter Garry."

Mallozzi clearly stole his description of Erving's exploits in the 1974 ABA playoffs from my article about Erving's teammate Mike Gale; Mallozzi used a Gale quote from my article without any attribution at all, a standard Mallozzi tactic in this book: Mallozzi is trying to convince the uninformed reader that he did a lot of original research and interviewing when all he actually did is cut and paste quotes/anecdotes from various sources. The ironic thing about this is that Mallozzi is a sloppy plagiarist: In the aforementioned Gale article, I wrote, "Gale averaged 8.3 ppg during the playoffs, ranked third on the team in assists (4.1 apg) and played strong defense" but in the book Mallozzi prefaced my words with the incorrect statement, "In the first championship series," which produces a sentence that is not only redundant--by referring first to the ABA Finals and then to the playoffs as a whole--but also inaccurate, because the numbers that I cited were Gale's playoff numbers, not his Finals numbers (Gale averaged 5 ppg and 4.4 apg in the 1974 ABA Finals).

Mallozzi followed in the footsteps of fellow amateur hour journalist Ming Wong by incorrectly asserting that Julius Erving's famous dunk over Michael Cooper took place in the 1983 NBA Finals; as I explained in April, that dunk happened in a January 5, 1983 regular season game (click on the preceding link to see a highlight of the dunk; that post also contains a link to a brief Sports Illustrated recap of the game that mentions Erving's "majestic dunk over Cooper"). Wong contented himself with a faulty headline over a photo spread in Hoop, but Mallozzi rambled on extensively, providing an entirely fictitious account about how Erving's dunk over Cooper was a key play in game four of the Sixers' sweep of the Lakers. Erving did in fact have a dunk late in that game, but that dunk was a two-handed, solo jaunt to the hoop after stealing the ball from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, not a "rock the cradle" special over Cooper (note that Erving dunked over Cooper in the Spectrum while wearing his white home uniform but that Erving wore his red road uniform when he stole the ball from Abdul-Jabbar and dunked in the Forum in game four of the Finals). It is disappointing, frustrating and infuriating that many people will "learn" NBA history from hacks like Mallozzi and Wong instead of from someone who actually takes the time to get the facts straight.

You can watch Erving's game four dunk at the 5:16 mark of this video:

If you saw the Table of Contents for Mallozzi's book online and decided to buy it to read the chapters about Cory Erving and Samantha Stevenson then you surely were disappointed to find out that Mallozzi's coverage of Cory Erving's death consisted mainly of a lengthy quotation from Julius Erving's appearance on Larry King Live! I wonder if Mallozzi received permission to make such an extensive quotation from the show's transcript or if he is liable for copyright infringement. Mallozzi added absolutely no new information. Similarly, Mallozzi's account of Julius Erving's affair with Stevenson simply includes information from articles that any Erving fan has already read. Mallozzi actually filled some space by providing a verbatim account of his brief telephone conversation with Stevenson requesting that she do an interview with him. Stevenson declined even though Mallozzi whined that he is a real journalist just like she is--insert your own punchline here--and that to properly do a book about Julius Erving he needed to speak with her. I wonder if Stevenson gave permission for the contents of this phone call to be published; I would guess not since she made it clear that she did not want to be interviewed by Mallozzi.

I am surprised and disappointed that first class journalist Dave Anderson lent his name to Mallozzi's book by writing the foreword; this is surely the low water mark in Anderson's distinguished career.

Julius Erving did not participate in the production of Mallozzi's book and it appears that the only time that Mallozzi interviewed Erving at all was in 1999, a conversation that did not produce any substantive insights. At the end of the book, Mallozzi gushed that he is a big Erving fan and that he hoped that Erving will enjoy reading the book as much as Mallozzi enjoyed writing it. I doubt that Erving will waste his time reading a book that simply rehashes old articles about him and I don't see why anyone would waste money to buy this book.

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posted by David Friedman @ 11:21 PM



At Thursday, November 12, 2009 1:49:00 PM, Blogger madnice said...

he was interviewed on the nets pre game show last night and was speaking like he pioneered some wonderful thing that no one knows about with dr.j. a definite hack who should be ashamed to cover new york basketball. i wasnt going to by it anyway since i already own marty bells book. did you read this whole garbage?

At Sunday, November 29, 2009 6:37:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have to agree about the book.. I am also amazed that he calls them the Washington "Wizards" from the early 80's era... THEN as part of the retirement tour, calls them the BALTIMORE BULLETS.... which was 1987.. Both could not be more factually incorrect.. The books cover hooked me in, wish I had read a review before I bought it...

At Monday, November 30, 2009 5:33:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


You are correct that Mallozzi completely bungled the Wizards' franchise names; if I had attempted to write a comprehensive account of all of the mistakes in Mallozzi's book this post would have turned into a book length project!

If you saved your receipt you can still return the book and get a much deserved refund--and even without the receipt you probably can exchange the book. I certainly would recommend that no one waste any money buying Mallozzi's hack work.

At Saturday, January 23, 2010 1:14:00 AM, Anonymous Nimphius said...

Recently purchased a used copy of this book. Another error off the top of my head is mentioning that Philadelphia fans "would later boo Santa Claus" or something along those lines. The Santa Claus incident occurred in 1968, eight years before Doc joined the Sixers

At Saturday, January 23, 2010 1:56:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Thank you for pointing that out.

If I listed every error in that book then this post would have been almost book-length itself!


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