81 pages 2 hours read

Sherman Alexie

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2007

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Basketball, Competition, and Winning

Basketball plays a central role in Junior’s development into a more mature, developed teenager. Basketball is much more than a simple game, as Junior explains: “it was not just a game. Every game is important. Every game is serious” (148). The basketball court is the literal arena where Rowdy and Junior work out the problems in their friendship. While Rowdy is regarded as the great basketball player on the reservation, Junior doesn’t develop basketball skills until he joins the Reardan team. Their meetups on the court are laden with subtext, as both want to beat the other to prove the legitimacy of their life choices and allegiance to their respective “tribes.” The basketball team at Reardan also provides Junior with much need community and friendship, as well as encourages him to think beyond Reardan to college. The basketball team becomes its own “tribe,” as well as a place where Junior finds joy: he and Rowdy come to an eventual understanding on the basketball court, and that they don’t keep score signals that they have found peace in their friendship.

Basketball also helps Junior understand the world more deeply. From Coach, he learns a Vince Lombardi quotation that teaches him the importance of being committed.