'Canyon Dreams:' High School Basketball On The Navajo Nation "It's important not to think of basketball as the only way out, but it's absolutely a cohesive and coherent force," author Michael Powell told us.

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'Canyon Dreams:' High School Basketball On The Navajo Nation

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'Canyon Dreams:' High School Basketball On The Navajo Nation

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'Canyon Dreams:' High School Basketball On The Navajo Nation

'Canyon Dreams:' High School Basketball On The Navajo Nation

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/785214451/785238852" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Raul Mendoza, varsity basketball coach at Chinle High School, with his team during a timeout in a game against Tuba City. The Wildcats went on to lose the game. NATHANIEL BROOKS/THE NEW YORK TIMES hide caption

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NATHANIEL BROOKS/THE NEW YORK TIMES

Raul Mendoza, varsity basketball coach at Chinle High School, with his team during a timeout in a game against Tuba City. The Wildcats went on to lose the game.

NATHANIEL BROOKS/THE NEW YORK TIMES

Sports can be a life preserver for disadvantaged kids — a foot in the door for a college education, or even a career.

For some Native American tribes in the Southwest, that sport is a unique style of basketball, known as "rez ball." It's provided connection and competition on reservations, drawing fanbases that are often bigger than the population of the reservations themselves.

It can also be a path to a better life. Today, we heard about the hoop dreams of a Navajo team in Chinle, Arizona, as they navigate the game, their adolescence and the challenges of life on a reservation.

They are the subject of the new book, Canyon Dreams: A Basketball Season on the Navajo Nation.

We spoke to the author of the new book, Michael Powell. He's also a sports columnist for the New York Times. We also spoke to Raul Mendoza, the coach for the boys' basketball team at Chinle High School; and Sunnie Clahchischiligi, an English professor at the University of New Mexico and a former sportswriter for The Navajo Times.

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