praise for STATE

Steve Kerr

“My old coach Phil Jackson used to tell our Bulls’ teams, ‘basketball is a metaphor for life, and life is a metaphor for basketball.’ As I aged during and after my playing career, I slowly realized how right he was. The game, for so many, transforms lives, shapes personalities, and teaches lessons. It reminds us that joy and misery are just around the corner at all times. That nothing lasts forever, but our memories do…That’s why l loved reading ‘State,’ by Melissa Isaacson. Melissa covered the Bulls for the Chicago Tribune when I played in the NBA and we had many discussions about our love of basketball. The topic of her high school state title-winning team came up now and then, and I knew she was proud of it. But not until now, after reading her fantastic book, did I realize HOW much basketball meant to her. This is a beautiful story of basketball and life.”

Steve Kerr, eight-time NBA champion and head coach of the Golden State Warriors

Billie Jean King

“In State, Melissa Isaacson perfectly captures the birth of Title IX and a time when high school girls were starting to gain equality in sports and in the classroom, showing us how opportunities on the court can light a path for girls to become their authentic selves in all aspects of their lives.”

Billie Jean King, founder of the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative

Dave Barry

“You’ve probably never heard of the 1975 Niles West High School girls’ basketball team. But theirs is a terrific story, and as fate would have it, their point guard, Missy Isaacson, went on to become a superb writer. If you love sports, you’ll love her fascinating, moving, funny, and richly reported account of how her team finally won state.”

Dave Barry, Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist and author

Jeff Pearlman

“The best sports stories aren’t actually sports stories—they’re stories about life, highs, lows, bonds, exceptionalism, tragedy. That’s what makes Melissa Isaacson’s State such a tremendous piece of work. You think you’re reading about a girls’ basketball team, only to discover you’ve been lifted to new emotional heights. What a terrific read.”

Jeff Pearlman, author of Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton and Football for a

Chris Ballard

“A labor of love, “State” is a book suffused with heart and humor. It’s a snapshot of a bygone era, a meditation on women’s sports, and a book that stays with you. Melissa Isaacson has put into words the power of our athletic experiences and the way they resonate in our lives.”


Chris Ballard, Sports Illustrated senior writer and author of One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball season, Hoops Nation, and The Art of a Beautiful Game: the Thinking Fan’s Tour of the NBA

Chuck Culpepper

“I do not believe I overstate when I say this book belongs in, among all the other places, the Smithsonian, for its evocative, edifying tour of the female mind during the first crucial wave of cultural appreciation for the female athlete.”

Chuck Culpepper, Washington Post

K.C. Johnson

“Here’s the thing about a story whose ending is known: it needs to be told by a graceful writer, who can use humor in one sentence and tug heartstrings in the next. Melissa Isaacson’s tale of her Niles West girls basketball team capturing a state championship after years of hard work and heartbreak is a wonderful read about determination and dreams realized. But it’s bigger than that. It unflinchingly analyzes behaviors from a tricky time for anyone—high school—that is made trickier by the responsibilities of playing girls sports in a new world, the first few years after Title IX legislation. It captures the powerful bond of enduring relationships that stand the test of time, regardless of how much contact there has been in the years since. Perhaps most important, it reminds us all what can happen when individual desires are set aside for the greater good of a team. The power to create lasting memories is possible. What’s best: Isaacson’s words are merely the vehicle to speak for a transformative team.”

K.C. Johnson, Bulls beat writer, Chicago Tribune

Christine Brennan

“Melissa Isaacson has written a beautiful book about a time and place that is almost unfathomable to us now: when girls’ and women’s sports were not yet popular, widespread or vital to our culture. And yet the pages of ‘State’ come alive with the riveting story of a team of high school basketball players whose dreams took them to the place all athletes hope to go: a championship that lives with them to this day. This is their inspiring story. This is Title IX come to life.”

Christine Brennan, USA Today columnist, CNN and ABC commentator, author of the best-selling Inside Edge and Best Seat in the House

Marjorie Herrera Lewis

“State is storytelling at its finest. Melissa Isaacson will captivate readers with this long overdue memoir of heartache and triumph. Many will relate to the experiences Isaacson recaptures, and those who don’t will gain a greater respect for trailblazers in women’s sports. This book covers the scope and span of life as it can only be told by a daughter, a teammate, an athlete, and a friend. It is full of heart and history—a wonderful combination!”

Marjorie Herrera Lewis, author of When the Men Were Gone

Doug Bruno

“‘State’ is so much more than just another high school Championship Story. ‘The State’ of Illinois has an illustrious history of boys high school basketball, even including the trademarked creation of the term ‘March Madness.’ ‘The State’ of Illinois was also one of the last states to include girls high school basketball as a championship. Award-winning author Melissa Isaacson lived this story. Melissa Isaacson brilliantly chronicles the individual and team back story that created this special championship team. “State” also vividly captures the essence of why a young girl’s equal opportunity to be educated through sport, is a civil right, and NOT merely a quota.”

Doug Bruno,  head coach of the DePaul Blue Demons women’s basketball team

Jewell Loyd

“Every day walking into Niles West, you were surrounded by greatness. Seeing the state champs’ picture on the wall motivated me to try to bring that same excitement and competitiveness back to West. That team helped put us on the map. It gave people something to talk about. I wanted to do the same thing. Having a connection to the pioneering women who played before us gave me a deep appreciation for what they stood for and what they overcame. They paved the way for all of us and I’m incredibly grateful to be part of such an important legacy.”

Jewell Loyd, professional basketball player for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm

Bob Wojnowski

“A wonderful tale from a wonderful storyteller. So many layers, alternately heart-breaking and uplifting, woven with grace, humor and sadness. Melissa Isaacson starts from the heart, with the loss of her parents to Alzheimer’s, and builds from there. You have to know her beginning to understand how much the Niles West girls state championship meant to her and her teammates. While this is a book about a special group that bonded and won, there’s so much more. Isaacson paints real people so richly, so authentically, you almost forget it’s about basketball and realize it’s about life, tragedy, yearning and hope. I’ve known Missy for 35 years and I always knew she had a story like this in her. I’m so glad to finally see it in perfectly crafted prose.”

Bob Wojnowski, Detroit News columnist

Julie Foudy

“Missy Isaacson takes us on a beautiful first-person journey we all should travel, showing us how a group of young women in the 70s changed the perception of women playing sports. And equally important, how they discovered the value of chasing a dream together. From fighting to play in the “boys’ gym” to bonding together to winning a state basketball title, this was a story I couldn’t put down. I literally cheered out loud for these women as I read it.”


Julie Foudy, Olympic medalist, FIFA Women’s World Cup champion, and founder of the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy

Doug Collins

“Wow! I read State cover to cover. Couldn’t put it down. I smiled, laughed, and cried at Melissa’s brilliant story. I’ve lived my life working so hard to be a champion and never lifted the trophy, but I lived vicariously through her and her amazing teammates reading their story. It should be required reading for all young female athletes to understand all that young women did to elevate sports and provide the opportunities they are enjoying today.”


Doug Collins, sports broadcaster and senior advisor of basketball operations for the Chicago Bulls

Jackie Joyner-Kersee

“I remember Niles West beating us like it was yesterday. They worked as a team, triumphed through hard times, and were able to transform into winners! Basketball helped Melissa and her teammates find something bigger than just the game—they found inner strength. Anyone picking up this book will be inspired and encouraged to also find their inner strength and, with the help of others, believe in themselves.”


Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Olympic medalist and founder of the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation

Mike Greenberg

“I have known and admired Melissa Isaacson for three decades but never understood where her unending passion for sports was born until I had the opportunity to read State. In this interesting and insightful journey to a different time, Missy provides a wonderful reminder about the lessons these games provide and the unbreakable bonds they create.”

Mike Greenberg, ESPN host and New York Times bestselling author

David Kindred

State is memoir, history, and plain fun that should be required reading in every high school in America.”


Dave Kindred, Red Smith Award–winning sports columnist and author of the books Sound and Fury and Morning Miracle