He never played in the NBA, but Angelo-Guiseppi “Hank” Luisetti was a master of his craft—a basketball legend in the 1930s who achieved such celebrity status that he starred in a movie as himself opposite Betty Grable.
In a new book entitled “Madness: How One Man Captivated A Nation and Started a Basketball Revolution,” Somers resident Mike DeLucia chronicles the life of Luisetti, who he declares was basketball’s first superstar and reinvented the game by perfecting the one-handed shot.
“He laid the foundation for March Madness and the NBA and even Michael Jordan can’t make that claim,” DeLucia said in a recent interview. “He was 50 years ahead of his time. He was the best player in the whole country. He broke all kinds of scoring records. Hank Luisetti was the first person to score 50 points in one game. He’s the one that put juice into the game that it is.”
The book has been in the works by DeLucia, a teacher at Clarkstown South High School in Rockland County, for 35 years. In the foreword, DeLucia credits Sylvester Stallone and the release of the Oscar winning movie Rocky in 1976 with inspiring him, an aspiring actor at the time, seven years later to write a screenplay based on the life of Luisetti.
“Hank found its familiar spot at the bottom of my “To Do” list and it remained there for decades,” DeLucia wrote. “It took 35 years to arrive, but Madness, the story’s newest title, is here to reintroduce Hank Luisetti to the world. Looking back on it now, I’m astonished that the desire to tell his story stayed alive in me for over three decades. Perhaps my stubborn personality was responsible for it, but I’d like to think it was Mr. Luisetti nudging me along every time I became sidetracked.”
“Ever since that day, Sylvester Stallone inspired me to write a screenplay, hold on to a dream, and see it through till the end…even if it was a million-to-one shot,” he added.
DeLucia said Luisetti’s unorthodox playing style, such as the behind-the-back dribble, helped quicken the pace of how basketball was played back then and “injected fluidity.” He said basketball’s fan base started to grow and that led to the creation of college basketball’s March Madness and the formation of the NBA.
A serious illness that Luisetti contracted during World War II prevented Luisetti from leaving his mark on the NBA but he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959. He died in 2002 at the age of 86.
“People are really loving the book. I’m very satisfied,” DeLucia said. “To me when I hear stuff like that I feel I did a pretty good job.”
A few years ago, DeLucia, a lifelong New York Yankees fan, fed up with how corporate greed has ruined America’s favorite pastime and taken the joy out of rooting for his beloved pinstripes, penned a book called, Boycott The Yankees.
DeLucia grew up in the Throgs Neck/Pelham Bay section of the Bronx and played baseball on streets, parks and empty lots in the borough. When he stepped up to the plate in Little League, he imagined he was Mickey Mantle.
“I didn’t play baseball because of the Yankees. I loved baseball, but I loved baseball better because of my allegiance to the Bombers,” DeLucia stated in that book. “So, my inspiration for this book grew from the fervent core of both my distant and not-so-distant past. Twenty years ago, I could never have imagined that I would one day write a book calling for a boycott of the New York Yankees. Writing those words is uncomfortable to me because they sound blasphemous.”
DeLucia said he started pondering writing a book taking the Yankees to task after he walked into the new Yankee Stadium in 2009 and noticed the right field bleachers had been relocated.
As for his book Madness, DeLucia said he welcomes any groups or organizations to invite him to speak about it and his experiences. Anyone interested can send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His books can be purchased at www.booksbymikedelucia.com.