In his book Vertical Leap, legendary New York City basketball player Bill Rieser takes us on the journey of his life thus far. Growing up in a single-parent home in Brooklyn under a level of prejudice due to his mixed ethnicity, Rieser found himself disillusioned by the experiences of his childhood which left him confused and searching for his identity. The one thing that he discovered he was good at, and which he received recognition from and affirmation for, was basketball. He quickly gravitated to the legendary NYC playgrounds where he developed his game. Eventually his skills on the court led him to success in the high school gym, and he was recruited to play college ball, and had high hopes of a career in the NBA.
Due to injuries and other issues, however, his college career turned out to be a lot less than he had hoped for, and after only a brief shot at trying to keep his dream alive after college, Bill’s dream of playing professional basketball was soon over. His search for identity, however, was not. Married with a young family, he sought significance in his work, in extramarital relationships, in drugs and alcohol, and in gambling, all of which left him more and more empty.
Then, everything came to a head. His wife discovered Bill’s infidelity, and he found himself at a crossroads. Through the series of events that followed, he ended up surrendering his life to Christ, reconciling with his wife, and discovering the purpose of his life, which he continues to pursue to this day.
As Rieser tells his story in the book, he points to the many lessons he has learned along the way, and challenges readers to consider their own lives, and what God offers them in a personal relationship with Christ. He discusses truths of the Christian faith and shows how basic Christian practices can empower us to live life to the fullest.
Rieser’s story was captivating, and the book was an easy read. It was encouraging and inspiring, and I would recommend it as a gift to someone who is seeking meaning and significance in life – particularly if they have an affinity for sports, specifically basketball. It would also be good for people who are on the treadmill of seeking their identity in their work or through the things Rieser was dealing with (substance abuse, affairs, gambling). A men’s group might also enjoy reading it through together.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.