Five Words From … There’s Always This Year: On Basketball and Ascension by Hanif Abdurraqib

Welcome to the latest installment of “Five words from …” our series which highlights interesting words from interesting books!

Cover of There's Always This Year
Hanif Abdurraqib’s 2024 memoir, There’s Always This Year: On Basketball and Ascension, finds him refusing to separate life from its external influences. Structured as a basketball game with quarters, intermissions, and timeouts, Abdurraqib meditates on basketball, belonging, and the art and function of looking back.


“I propose the difference between being naked and being bare is that in a state of nakedness, the end can be seen even if it hasn’t arrived yet. It has less to do with what one is or isn’t wearing, or showing, and more to do with how poorly one keeps the inevitable hidden.”

Abdurraqib opens with an exploration of male baldness as an exercise in self-discovery and self-worth, framed by both the “Fab Five” 1991 recruits for the University of Michigan Men’s Basketball team, and Abdurraqib’s father. The decision to shave one’s head (and the acceptance of genetics) investigates vulnerabilities and self-truths for the mentioned men.


“For all of the reasons I love the hood, the greatest reason is for how we honor our homecomings. The people who will show up to praise your return simply because it is a return. Doesn’t even have to be spectacular, though it often is.”

Abdurraqib remembers his neighbor, high school basketball legend Kenny Gregory, returning from the 1997 McDonald’s All American game, circling the block with his trophies in the front seat before an impromptu parade of neighborhood fans.


“Miracle is another word for deception. Who or what, can make someone believe anything that would otherwise be unbelievable?….A team is losing until it isn’t, until an architect of the miraculous takes over a game and the deception becomes real.”

Abdurraqib recounts his history of inconsistent prayer, both as a reluctant child and desperate adult, and how miracles are often requested in times of great duress. He witnessed what many Ohioans considered a miracle: the path leading to the Cleveland Cavaliers gaining the first pick in the 2003 NBA draft, where they chose LeBron James.


“The people who ignored LeBron’s obvious exit knew they didn’t have any control over what LeBron did or didn’t do, but they were in complete control over when and how their own heartbreak arrived.”

LeBron became a free agent in 2010, forcing locals to process their emotions around their hometown hero leaving. At the same time, Abdurraqib toys with the idea of leaving, as his parole nears completion, for the glimmer of life elsewhere. Here control becomes the basketball court, with awareness and denial being opposing teams.


“Nostalgia is only for the broken-hearted, for the displeased or disaffected, the ones who need to look to the past to give meaning to their present. I’m told there’s nothing in my childhood that will save me from what’s coming, whenever what’s coming arrives…I say I was happier in the past because the pain of the past is a relic. I speak of it, but no longer feel it. I do not know what pain is coming, but I know it is coming.”

Abdurraqib also calls nostalgia “a relentless hustler.” He remembers loved ones and looks ahead to look back on his own death. With clarity and precision, he understands that while nostalgia may honor the death of whole selves and parts of selves, it will never stop the clock from counting down to zero.

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Five Words From … White Supremacy is All Around by Dr. Akilah Cadet

Welcome to the latest installment of “Five words from …” our series which highlights interesting words from interesting books!
Cover showing a Black woman in a long striped skirt, using a cane

In White Supremacy is All Around: Notes from a Black Disabled Woman in a White World, Dr. Akilah Cadet shares her life and teachings to show the shadow structures in the United States (and beyond) that continue to give white, non-disabled, cis people advantages at the cost of others. Embracing the adage “when you’re used to privilege, equality feels like oppression,” she provides an actionable framework to label and dismantle white supremacy.

“An accomplice is someone who uses their privilege to dismantle racism, oppression, and white supremacy … An accomplice uses their privilege as a road map to know how to show up for others. They are unafraid of what their fellow white peers will say as they embrace being the odd one out.”

Dr. Cadet illustrates the difference between an accomplice and an ally. For her, being an ally is a fair-weather state of being. An accomplice is the person creating daily habits and actions to call out oppression, with or without self-promotion.

“A term coined by Kimberle Crenshaw, intersectionality means the inner sections of our identities, who and what we are.”

“Where ethnicity, class, gender, and characteristics intersect.”

Depending on the situation, a white woman can choose to be seen as white or a woman. Being a Black, disabled woman, Dr. Cadet’s experiences are shaped by being unable to separate these identities; she is not given the opportunity to self-label when living in white dominant culture.

For more on intersectionality, see Kimberlé Crenshaw: The urgency of intersectionality and Intersectionality, explained: meet Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term.

“The intent was not to harm but the outcome was just that.”
“‘That wasn’t my intent’ is an excuse to not do what you said you would do or evade accountability for harm or impact.”

When someone says something that offends another person, Dr. Cadet explains that the speaker’s intent may not have been to harm—but if it did, the speaker still needs to acknowledge accountability for unknowingly causing harm. When speakers refuse to recognize the impact of their words, it may be a way for them to hide behind bias and miss an opportunity to be an accomplice.

white centering
“When white people change the narrative of the story, situation, and harm caused to them–not the BIPOC person.”

Dr. Cadet meets a white woman who openly says the N-word during a presentation on the wine industry. Though Dr. Cadet asks her not to use it, the white woman still does. When confronted about it later, the white lady called the situation a “deeply emotional experience for me,” negating the experience and emotions of Dr. Cadet and instead placing herself and her feelings as the center of the story.

white supremacy
“White supremacy is a structure, system, process, policy approach, benefit and VIP club only for white people. It is the overt and covert racism that Black people experience, the feeling white people have of being superior and feeling like the best. Simultaneously, it is the feeling of resistance when being held accountable.”

Dr. Cadet acknowledges that people born into white privilege can have difficulty seeing and stepping away from it. No one loves the feeling of realizing they may have been wrong about something, or had advantages they weren’t fully aware of; Dr. Cadet stresses that the ability to learn and unlearn personal and systemic bias is key for those with various forms of privilege.

Got a book you’d like to see given the “five words from” treatment? Nominate it through this form, or email us!