The Real Hoosiers

Crispus Attucks High School, Oscar Robertson, and the Hidden History of Hoops

Regular Price $15.99

Regular Price $20.99 CAD

Regular Price $15.99

Regular Price $20.99 CAD

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On Sale

Mar 5, 2024

Page Count

304 Pages




The true story behind Crispus Attucks High School and the all-Black basketball team loosely depicted as the championship opponent in the beloved classic sports movie Hoosiers.
For far too long the mythology of Indiana basketball has been dominated by Hoosiers. Framed as the ultimate underdog, feel-good story, there has also long been a cultural debate surrounding the film. The Real Hoosiers sets out to illuminate the narrative that the film omits, the story of the unheralded Crispus Attucks Tigers, playing the game at the highest level in the 1950s in a racially divided Indiana.

After a crushing loss to Milan High School in the 1954 semifinal, which was the game that the final scenes in Hoosiers are based on, Attucks went on to win back-to-back Indiana state championships. That team was led by a young Oscar Robertson and coached by Ray Crowe, who fully recognized the seemingly insurmountable challenges of playing basketball in a state that was a bastion for not only the game but also the Ku Klux Klan.

Veteran sportswriter and the bestselling author of Dream Team, Jack McCallum, pulls back the curtain on that history, which is rich, far beyond the basketball court. The Real Hoosiers replaces a lacuna in the history of Indiana while dissecting the myths and lore of Hoosier hoops; placing the game in the context of migration, segregation, and integration; and enhancing our understanding of this country’s struggle for civil rights.


"This book is such a towering achievement…. An incredible blend of social history and sports…. The Real Hoosiers is my favorite basketball book now, which is pretty high praise because basketball has produced some of the most beautiful writing in the entire sports world." —Dave Zirin, "The Edge of Sports" podcast
“Much of the folklore surrounding the groundbreaking Crispus Attucks High School men’s basketball teams has been sanitized and glossed over. No longer. Jack McCallum, the dean of basketball journalism, does it again with The Real Hoosiers, exhaustingly excavating, and expertly crafting the true story of Hoosier basketball to deliver a jewel that resonates far beyond any hardwood court.” —Jonathan Abrams, author of Boys Among Men
“I will never forget this team. This book. Crispus Attucks. Oscar Robertson. Willie Merriweather. Al Maxey. Ray Crowe. Remember these names. Our nation's best basketball scribe Jack McCallum has offered a profound and soulful account of one of the greatest basketball stories largely gone untold. May it never be written out of history again.” —Mirin Fader, author of Giannis
"Nobody writes hoop history better than McCallum and The Real Hoosiers is a worthy addition to his outstanding catalogue." —Dan Shaughnessy, Boston Globe, author of Wish It Lasted Forever: Life with the Larry Bird Celtics
"The Real Hoosiers is the remarkable story of Oscar Robertson’s high school team.... McCallum makes quick work of the movie’s legacy to tell a much deeper and richer story about life under de facto legal segregation in 1950s Indiana.... The book goes well beyond simply resuscitating those Crispus Attucks Tigers and giving them their just due. The Real Hoosiers has a real edge to it.... [McCallum] pulls all the tricks from a Hall of Fame career out of his righteous writer’s bag to show what these teenagers endured while compiling an 85-6 record in Robertson’s three varsity seasons. He jumps back and forth in time, throws in fun footnotes about figures like Cab Calloway and Kurt Vonnegut, weaves in historical antecedents and ancillary tales, offers technical basketball analysis, and breaks the fourth wall with commentary and jokes, both grandpa groaners and one-liners dripping with animus at racial injustices past and present.... While filling out the brackets this year, consider getting your hoops mind right with [The Real Hoosiers]." —The Washington Post
“The narrative adroitly unfolded by Mr. McCallum…widens out to convey the particulars of the time and place: the mid-1950s, just after the Supreme Court ordered the desegregation of the nation’s schools; and midcentury Indiana, a state in which the Ku Klux Klan was experiencing a resurgence and, at one time, might credibly have claimed the allegiance of the entire Indianapolis school board…. In making history, the Attucks players rewrote the customs, the rhythms and the character of the game in a basketball-mad state.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Nobody writes hoop history better than McCallum and his latest is a worthy addition to his outstanding catalogue.” —The Boston Globe
“Jack McCallum brings his ‘A’ game in his latest book…. The subjects McCallum interviews and the extensive research he did provide a deeper, richer portrait…. McCallum brings humor, snark and turns many a phrase in The Real Hoosiers, like dishing off no-look passes. His writing is every bit as breathtaking as Robertson’s court demeanor…. McCallum offers a well-researched, balanced look at a basketball program that broke down racial barriers in a city that was loathe to change. He also offers a sobering look at prejudice that was still prevalent 70 years ago. Readers should be aghast and angry at what took place during the 1950s, and no feelgood movie is ever going to erase that.” —Sports Bookie
“[A] rousing history….McCallum emphasizes how the story reflects the social currents of the era….The historical research on how housing discrimination, school segregation, and anti-Black violence shaped mid-century Indianapolis makes the Tigers’ achievements all the more noteworthy, and the accounts of key games excite….This stirring success story hits nothing but net.” —Publishers Weekly
“Sobering, insightful.” —Next Avenue
“A must-read for sports enthusiasts, history buffs, and anyone interested in social justice.” —Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder
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