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Aberdeen native teams up with library for special event about NBA book

Aberdeen Township native Pete Croatto and author of From Hang Time to Prime Time: Business, Entertainment, and the Birth of the Modern-Day NBA, will speak about his first novel in a special virtual event through the Matawan-Aberdeen Public Library on Jan. 14 at 7 p.m.

Seven years of hard work and research came to fruition for Aberdeen Township native Pete Croatto when his work “From Hang Time to Prime Time: Business, Entertainment and the Birth of the Modern-Day NBA” was released by Atria Books on Dec. 1.

The book, which is published by Simon & Schuster, has been featured in Sports Illustrated, The Wall Street Journal and People.com

Croatto will share details of his book which describes how the National Basketball Association came to be what it is today, and what it is like to be a freelance writer, in a virtual event sponsored by Matawan-Aberdeen Public Library.

On Jan. 14 at 7 p.m., the library will hold an event through Zoom during which Croatto will speak to attendees about his book and the process he went through to produce the work.

“I’m very excited to be doing this event,” Croatto said in an interview. “This book looks at the rise of the NBA as an international business empire and covers its impact on race and social history. I think it will be fun for a variety of people.”

Jen A. Miller, a columnist for The New York Times and the author of “Running: A Love Story,” will be the moderator and will interview Croatto.

Since Miller and Croatto are full-time freelance writers, Croatto said part of the presentation will be a question and answer session during which people may ask both authors about avenues they should take if they aspire to be a freelance writer.

“This will be a good resource for people … on how to be successful at freelance writing,” Croatto said. “I want people to pick up inspiration from the event. I want them to walk away with ‘Hey, I can do it.’ ”

Croatto said he is looking at the virtual event as a homecoming to the area, where he said his passion for becoming a writer began at age 13.

His parents, Dot and Lou, were instrumental in his journey to becoming a journalist and an author as they encouraged him to read a lot of books as a child. Dot worked in the field of publishing as a copy editor.

Croatto’s parents still live in the house that he and his brother, Dave, grew up at in the Strathmore section of Aberdeen.

Croatto said the library was a “home away from home” for him as he was growing up. He got his start in journalism when he attended Matawan Regional High School and began writing for the student newspaper, The HuskieView.

He said he learned a lot from the newspaper’s adviser, Bonnie Sachs, who was “extremely encouraging and helpful” to him.

While still in high school, Croatto took summer writing classes at Brookdale Community College to further his development as a writer and his passion for writing.

After he graduated from high school in 1996, Croatto attended The College of New Jersey, Ewing, where he was a journalist/professional writing major. He graduated in 2000.

Writing “From Hang Time to Prime Time: Business, Entertainment and the Birth of the Modern-Day NBA” was “a labor of love. It started in Aberdeen. It was learning to love to write by going to Brookdale for summer writing courses, and to Matawan Regional High School and loving to learn how to read. It’s a homecoming,” he said.

Croatto has been writing professionally since 1998. He has published pieces for The New York Times, Grantland, Sports Illustrated, Philadelphia Magazine and GQ.com, among others.

An article Croatto produced for Grantland in 2013 about Marvin Gaye’s performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game being the pivot point of the league becoming what it is today led him to the idea of writing a book.

After talking to people around the NBA like Golden State Warriors President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Welts and to Magic Johnson’s agent Lon Rosen, Croatto gathered the facts he used to produce his book.

Seven years of “labor and love” later, Croatto has authored a book that takes the reader into the meetings that led to the merger of the American Basketball Association and the NBA in 1976, and discusses how NBA greats like Julius Erving, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan grew in the game of basketball on and off the court with their star power and talents.

The book describes how Magic Johnson and Larry Bird helped attendance skyrocket and racial lines dissolve, while diving into how the personality-driven coverage of key players by television launched NBA players into unprecedented celebrity status.

Croatto said he believes everyone from basketball fans to avid readers will enjoy his book and said he hopes to share those feelings and more during his upcoming virtual event.

“Without my time in Aberdeen, there wouldn’t be a book. It’s a book that caters to many people. If people from the community have time to join the event, I would love to see them there,” he said.

Registration for the Jan. 14 event is free. Visit https://www.matawanaberdeenlibrary.com and click on the Matawan-Aberdeen Public Library Program Calendar link for more information.

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