When Andrew Maraniss, a New York Times bestselling author, first came to McPherson for the first time, he couldn't help but notice a giant mural painted outside of the McPherson Library. It was the " McPherson Global Refiners" with the caption that says"1st Ever Olympic Basketball Champions—1936." Once he saw the mural, he began working on his new book, "Games of Deception."
"I thought that was something really cool to see something that happened in 1936 is still being celebrated in town," Maraniss said. "It's a pretty cool thing for a small town in the middle of Kansas mean so much to the history of basketball. It is where the Olympic basketball, the Dream Team, current players like Lebron James, Kevin Durant. They wouldn't have the opportunity if not the guys from McPherson first."
Maraniss is a visiting author at Vanderbilt University Athletics and a contributor to ESPN's The Undefeated.com.Maraniss, born in Madison, Wisconsin but grew up mostly in Washington, D.C, is the son of David Maraniss, a Pulitzer Prize-winner and bestselling author in his own right
While Maraniss came to Kansas to promote his other book, "Stronger Inside," he wanted to learn more about the 1936 Olympic team. He went to Lawrence, where he got the chance to see Allen Fieldhouse for the first time. As a college basketball fan, Maraniss took a tour around the arena and noticed the original rules of basketball written by James Naismith himself, the inventor of the sport. That's when Maraniss learned that Naismith, at 75 years old, lived to see his inventions in action during the Nazi Olympics. It was a story, Maraniss couldn't pass on.
"I had no idea even what Olympics that was," Maraniss said. "When I found out it was from the Nazi Olympics of '36, there was a really good story there. So that's how I became interested."
Maraniss returned to McPherson on Tuesday to promote "Games of Deception," a true story about the creation of Olympic basketball in 1936, and how six of McPherson's residents who worked in the oil refinery became gold medalist during the 1936 summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany.
Maraniss did some digging to get more information on Naismith. He went to different college campuses around the country in which Naismith had connections with, met family relatives of the McPherson Refiners that had letters, journals, and medals they keep in a display, and even spoke to some people who witnessed the '36 Olympics, searching for answers before he began writing his rough draft. It took Maraniss one year to finish the book. Some of the hidden gems included Joe Fortenberry, who played for the McPherson Oilers, was considered the first person to ever dunk a basketball in Madison Square Garden.
"Most people who don't know—as much as we know about the game of basketball and love basketball, (they) don't know how the Olympic basketball started," Maraniss said.
Maraniss targets mostly the younger crowd. When he came to speak the students in the McPherson school district, he emphasized how important it is they know their history and why the town is known for the basketball.
"That was the most important thing why I came here," Maraniss said. "I was really excited about coming here because the kids here deserve to know this story more than anybody else in the whole world. This is part of McPherson's history, and I felt that kids might have seen the mural or heard about this a little bit, but they haven't had the opportunity to learn a lot about it yet."
"Games of Deception" has already been released. You can purchase it at your local library or Amazon.com.
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