While the majority of “Heaven is a Playground” takes place on the playgrounds of New York City, it is a story of much more than basketball, as Rick Telander takes us through the lives of inner-city youths and Rodney Parker, the wheelin’, dealin’ scalper/recruiter/talent scout who holds many of their hopes and dreams in his hands.
Telander spent a summer at New York’s infamous Foster Playground in the early 1970s, chronicling the park’s inhabitants as they played basketball day in, day out, morning and night. For them, the game was an escape from the dangers of the city, an opportunity to socialize, an outlet for their frustrations and a possible escape from a life that left much to be desired. It is a story of humanity in the face of adversity, as these young men struggle with pressures ranging from drugs to gangs to simply staying alive.
Telander also tells the story of Parker, a man who helps promising players get into college or high school. The players see Parker as their ticket out of the projects, and he sees them as a chance to make a name for himself in the basketball world, as well as help them get away from their lives.
This book is not only for sports fans. Anyone who is interested by real people facing real problems would enjoy it. While readers may not have personally gone through the experiences Telander describes in his book, they are certainly left with a knowledge and a feeling of connectedness to these young men.