THE PUNCH ( Rudy Tomjanovich v. Cal Sports, Inc. d/b/a Los Angeles Lakers)

REVISITED (with notes on Recreational Injuries)

John Feinstein, best selling author of The Last Amateurs, A Civil War, The Majors and many other books brings to light The Punch in an accurate presentation of the biggest “sucker punch” in sports history. Feinstein describes “One night, two lives, and the fight that changed basketball forever” involved the altercation which occurred in the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers National Basketball Association game in 1977. This book combines a detailed study of the game of basketball, this particular contest and biographical information on the responsible players involved, Rudy Tomjanovich of the Houston Rockets and Kermit Washington of the Los Angeles Lakers. It also presents a detailed review of the National Basketball Association, its day-to-day activities and overall operation.

Feinstein accurately portrays the game in question and the actual assault or punch by Kermit Washington to Rudy Tomjanovich which dislodged Tomjanovich’s skull and separated his facial bones from his skull, there were several brain concussions and fractures. Medical evidence established that this blow nearly killed Tomjanovich, ruined his basketball career, as a player, and proved to be the basis of the lawsuit which provided the material for The Punch. This book points out the consequences of this single act of violence which is still being felt, affecting not only the game of basketball but the lives of the two men involved. Feinstein takes a deep look into the history, background and playing career of each player leading up to the tragic night in question and also follows their careers and lives following this historical incident.

Tomjanovich’s playing career was ended with the historical blow, went on to be the head coach of the Houston Rocket winning two National Basketball Association titles, and also coached the United States Olympic Team to a gold medal and later coached the Los Angeles Lakers. Kermit Washington, on the other hand, had major problems in attempting to return to the National Basketball Association arena as a player or as a coach. Feinstein describes Washington’s, who faced one difficulty after another, life to be haunted and shaped by that single assault and punch. The book seems to take Feinstein’s approach playing the race card in supporting Kermit Washington but this particular point can remain debatable with each individual reader.

The Punch presents an unerring insight to the deeper truths of professional sports and Feinstein reveals what really happened the night of the punch and traces the remarkable trajectories of both men’s careers before and after the punch. As Feinstein points out, this one act of violence and the percussions, legal action and acts that followed cast a light on the NBA’s entire program including its darkest secrets, violence, race, and the true price that men pay when they choose a career and a life in sports.

The success of John Feinstein and the literary sports arena is echoed by the following comments of journalists around the country:

“The Best Writer of Sports Books in America Today.”

– Will McDonough, Boston Globe

“When it comes to matchups, John Feinstein and basketball are a great one.”

-John Greenya, Washington Post

Feinstein’s beat, as it turns out, isn’t sports; it’s human nature.”

-Alex Tresniowski, People

“The talent that separates Mr. Feinstein from so many others is an unparalleled knack among sportswriters for recognizing a good story.”

-Mike DeCourcy, Cincinnati Enquirer

“A sport hasn’t really arrived until Feinstein has spent a season with it.”

-Bob Ford, Philadelphia Inquirer

After representing Rudy Tomjanovich in his case against the Los Angeles Lakers and researching the history of violence in the NBA and with the Los Angeles Lakers the detailed information provided in The Punch [1] provided very interesting reading for the writer.

[1] Throughout the 352 pages of information and numerous footnotes, my involvement in the case and trial – no formal mention of Plaintiff’s counsel is made.