By Vanessa V. Friedman
Updated March 10, 1995 at 05:00 AM EST

Take one star basketball player from the projects (better than Jordan, bigger than Magic), accuse him and his best friend of rape, throw in a vulnerable blond, a desperate, Geraldo-like columnist, and a baseball player- turned-lawyer, and what do you have? At most a best-seller, and at least a few hours of entertaining ”Did he or didn’t he?” Lupica, Esquire contributing editor and former sports columnist with New York City’s Daily News, presumably understands the motivations of tabloid reporters. His understanding of the ghetto psyche, however, is a little less informed, and his depiction of the rape victim’s motivations in Jump comes alarmingly close to Oprah. Nevertheless, the action moves on apace — just when you’ve started to tire of all the attention the book gives to the rape, a murder occurs — and the ending may hit too close to home for comfort. What Lupica has created is a fictionalized pastiche of his columns and the multiple tragedies and farces that have beset the sports world in the last year or so. Still, when you get down to it, the truth is stranger than fiction. B+