“Boys Among Men: How the Prep-to-Pro Generation Redefined the NBA and Sparked a Basketball Revolution” by Jonathan Abrams
Basketball, professional, draft, youth
March 15, 2016
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
In 1995, the Minnesota Timberwolves shook up the culture of the NBA by selecting Kevin Garnett with the fifth pick of the draft. The reason that this was highly unusual was that Garnett never played a second of college basketball – he was drafted straight out of high school. While Garnett was not the first player to have ever gone from high school to the pros, he was the first of a new generation of players that would make the transition. This generation of players and what it did to the game is the subject of this outstanding book by Jonathan Abrams.
Drawing from interviews from hundreds of sources, including players, coaches, executives and many other people involved in the development or lives of these teenagers, Abrams paints a balanced picture of what this trend has done to both the game and the young players who either made the transition or attempted to do so and fell short of their dreams.
When this topic is discussed on sports channels or talk shows, the two extremes are usually given as why this trend is either good or bad. Those who claim it helps the game and provides a means for young African-American men to escape poverty point to the very successful careers of Garnett, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwight Howard. The naysayers will state that these players are exceptions and more of them are doomed to be forgotten with no basketball career, no education and no hope like Leon Smith, Lenny Cooke, and Ndudi Ebi.
While these are the two extreme ends of the argument, there is a lot of middle ground to cover and that what sets this book apart. It isn’t just about the superstars mentioned above who went from high school to the pros. The book also portrays players who carved out decent professional careers even after the hype showered upon them made them seem like they fell short. Players like Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler and Sebastian Telfair fit this category. Abrams not only tells of their stories and struggles to adapt to the professional basketball lifestyle – he explains how their decisions and successes and failure affect many other people and the game itself.
Not only are the players’ stories told, but insight from people like former NBA commissioner David Stern, under whose watch this transformation took place, add a sense of balance and completeness to the discussion of the book’s subject. The exasperation of coaches who see that one of these young players don’t have the type of skills and ability to play in the NBA yet was illustrated time and time again. The legality of challenging this rule and the eventual development of a rule making the minimum age to enter the draft at 19 was also discussed from every possible angle. Every possible piece of information that could be used to prove or disprove that allowing high school players to play professionally is covered.
This book is highly recommended for any basketball fan, player or coach. It reads almost like a thriller with many characters involved and has twists and turns that will make the reader decide for himself or herself if this new generation and chapter in professional basketball is good for the game and players.
I wish to thank Crown Publishing for providing an advance review copy of the book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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