BHS Grad Pens Book that Takes a Closer Look into the NBA in the 1970s

by Austin Arnold   In a span of less than a year, that of which included the birth of his youngest daughter, accepting a new teaching position in a different state, and subsequently buying a house in Missouri and selling his home in Ohio, 1997 Bluffton High School graduate Adam Criblez still found the time to read. While it may have been more out of habit as he was preparing to teach an upcoming course, than for leisure, the decision to delve into a few books at this chaotic time served him well. Not only did it help him in instructing a new class, it would also lead to a new writing venture, too. As a result, Criblez now has his second penned book titled “Tall Tales and Short Shorts: Dr. J, Pistol Pete, and the Birth of the Modern NBA,” which the author describes as, “A little slice of basketball Americana from the Me Decade.” 
   Criblez began teaching at Southeast Missouri State University in 2012. By the spring of 2013, he was anticipating teaching a sports history class, “Sport as America,” to freshmen students that fall. Criblez picked up a few books concerning different sports from a variety of eras, to better verse himself on the subject. One of these books was titled “Big Hair and Plastic Grass,” a look into the culture and atmosphere of Major League Baseball during the 1970s, written by Dan Epstein. While, admittedly, more of a “basketball guy” than a baseball enthusiast, Criblez found himself enthralled, so much so that the wheels inside his head started turning. He wondered if a book similar to “Big Hair and Plastic Grass,” only focusing on basketball, instead, existed. He found none, and Criblez decided he would be the one to fix that outcome.
   He began writing “Tall Tales” in August 2014. He had his first draft finished in mid-July 2015, but needed to trim down the length of the book. Once he did that, and after sending edits and re-edits back-and-forth with his editor, the last draft was sent in August 2016. Fast forward to the current day, and the book has just gone on sale, as it was released on May 16. “Tall Tales” is available online through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. It will be available in both hard copy and e-book form. A link on the author’s website at will direct people right to the Amazon purchase site.
   Criblez hopes “Tall Tales” has something for everyone, whether you are a sports fan or more of a history buff.
   “I want basketball fans to learn more about the history of the sport and I want people who love history to appreciate how pro sports [and basketball, in particular] help shape American culture.”
   “Tall Tales” traces the evolution of the NBA from the retirement of Bill Russell in 1969 to the arrival of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson ten years later. Sandwiched between the youthful league of the sixties and its mature successor in the eighties, this book reveals the awkward teenage years of the NBA in the seventies.
   It examines the many controversies that plagued the league during this time, including illicit drug use, on-court violence, and escalating player salaries. Yet even as attendance dwindled and networks relegated playoff games to tape-delayed, late-night broadcasts, fans still pulled on floppy gray socks like “Pistol Pete” Maravich, emulated Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s sweeping skyhook, and grew out mushrooming afros à la “Dr. J” Julius Erving.
   The release of “Tall Tales” marks the second book that Criblez has written. His first book, “Parading Patriotism,” covers far different ground as it explores July Fourth celebrations in major Midwest cities of Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Chicago between 1826 (the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence) and 1876 (the 100th anniversary).
   While the subjects of his two books are quite different, there were still some essential learning experiences that Criblez gleaned from having already written “Parading Patriotism.” Criblez said he learned what not to do, which was vital to his writing process in his second go-round with compiling a book.
   “From the beginning of ‘Tall Tales,’ I organized my notes and research in a way that made sense to me. My particular organization and writing style emerged during my first book, and was much easier to build on this time,” Criblez explained. “I found, during my first book, that I worked better if I didn’t try to constantly rephrase and edit. So, if I sit down at the keyboard, with my notes, I might write for one hour – no checking e-mail or Twitter – and no stopping to go back and reword or change what I’d written previously.”

See the full story in the Bluffton News