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Fast Break

Edward Hirsch’s poem, “Fast Break,” captures a single slow-motion play on a basketball court. Join Hirsch, host Elisa New, NBA players Shaquille O’Neal, Pau Gasol, and Shane Battier, and a group of pick-up basketball players as they use basketball to understand poetry—and poetry to better understand the game of basketball. Hirsch himself reveals how he shaped his couplets to represent offense and defense, teamwork and rivalry, enduring friendship and human mortality. Shaquille does the play by play, heading this episode’s team of on court interpreters who explore “Fast Break” as sport, art, and lens on human character.

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Read the Poem

Fast Break

A hook shot kisses the rim and
hangs there, helplessly, but doesn’t drop,

and for once our gangly starting center
boxes out his man and times his jump

perfectly, gathering the orange leather
from the air like a cherished possession

Read the full poem