Game Changer: John McLendon and the Secret Game

GameChangerGame Changer: John McLendon and the Secret Game
Written by John Coy, Illustrated by Randy DuBurke

Publisher’s Summary:
When they piled into cars and drove through Durham, North Carolina, the members of the Duke University Medical School basketball team only knew that they were going somewhere to play basketball. They didn’t know whom they would play against. But when they came face to face with their opponents, they quickly realized this secret game was going to make history.

Discover the true story of how in 1944, Coach John McLendon orchestrated a secret game between the best players from a white college and his team from the North Carolina College of Negroes. At a time of widespread segregation and rampant racism, this illegal gathering changed the sport of basketball forever.

Primary Source Pairing:
What a story to be told, and now nearly 75 years later, the excitement unfolds as we learn about a secret basketball game that had a lasting impact on the players and the coaches. After reading the book, use the illustrations of the book as the primary source, and invite students to study the two-page spread (pages 13-14) with the eight panels of players on the court. Encourage students to look at each panel closely and make connections to the story and the discussion of how each team played the game. Challenge students to make connections to their own experiences playing or watching basketball.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What people and objects are shown?
  • How are they arranged?
  • What is the physical setting?
  • What’s happening in the image?
  • How is Duke’s team playing?
  • How is the Eagles team playing?
  • Make connections to what you learned in the book about basketball in the 1940s and basketball today.

Book Cover and Summary: Follett

Further Reading:
“‘Forgotten’ no more: Coach and Naismith protégé John McLendon broke color barriers in basketball”: