AJ Richardson is living the good life. Thanks to his longtime lover, NBA star Dray Jones, he has a gorgeous townhouse in New Orleans, plenty of frequent-flier miles, and an MBA he’s never had to use. Built on a deep and abiding love, their hidden relationship sustains them both. But when Dray’s teammates begin to ask insinuating questions, Dray puts their doubts to rest by marrying Judi, a beautiful and ambitious woman. Judi knows nothing about Dray’s “other life.” Or does she?
This is my second time reading Basketball Jones. I have this book in hardcover and signed by one of my author idols. It’s a sacred treasure so when I got the email from BookBub that the ebook was on sale for $1.99, I jumped right on that.
Reading this book a second time gave me an insight into relationships with celebrities that I haven’t explored yet in my own writing. I think that’s why I love this book. It’s not just a star-crossed lovers romance. It’s a story of friendship, betrayal, and living in your truth.
The story is told from the POV of Aldridge Richardson “AJ” an openly gay black man. He’s not in the closet but his relationship with Drayton “Dray” is. They’ve been together since college and now that Dray is an NBA superstar, their love is completely hush hush, to the point that it’s sad.
AJ wants nothing more than to be able to love his man openly, because it’s not all about what Dray can do for him. He truly loves that man. But, Dray is selfish…a little too selfish for my liking…and boy is Dray controlling. I wanted to like Dray because AJ liked Dray, but I just couldn’t. Everything was always about him and what he needed and wanted. When AJ wanted to visit his family, Dray wanted him in Atlanta because he might stop by. Every time AJ made a friend or was out in public, Dray was too paranoid to let it happen. He didn’t understand or accept AJ’s commitment to never speak on their relationship.
AJ sacrificed everything for Dray, and not once in the entire book did it seem like Dray appreciated it. That was an issue that I wished the author hadn’t done. I don’t think Dray was supposed to be unlikeable or the villain, but he was to me. From AJ’s POV, there was real love between him and Dray, not some superficial love. There were moments when you can feel it, but it was overshadowed by Dray’s unwillingness to see anything from AJ’s point of view, as if understanding that the love AJ had for him was an afterthought, or ranked lower than his career and what his family’s opinion on homosexuality.
This is a story of “we could have had it all, but you had to go and fuck it up”, but it’s a real look into how destructive homophobia in sports, in families, and in the world in general can be.
As much as I wanted Basketball Jones to have a happy ending, I don’t see it as an HEA. There’s character growth in AJ when he truly realizes that he can no longer be Dray’s sidechick, and has to live in his own truth, but the way he came to that realization is what tugs at my heartstrings. There’s no growth in Dray, who admits at one point that he knows he is AJ’s first and only love. Knowing that did nothing to make Dray a better person; he still went on living his life with marriage of convenience and a baby that may or may not be his. As AJ talks about his growth and life post-Dray, we still don’t know if Dray is suffering the loss of AJ. As a reader, I needed that answer. The story feels incomplete without it. The ending makes you yearn for a reconciliation or an all-out fight, something that would close the door on that chapter of AJ’s life.
If he was still alive, I’m confident that E. Lynn Harris would have given us that in another book. He was good at wrapping up loose ends that way. Unfortunately, we will never know. However, in that misfortune, us readers have the next best thing, our imaginations.
This reader believes that Dray is AJ’s person and vice versa. The universe will bring them together again, and this time will be different.