- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Crown Archetype (March 15, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0804139253
- ISBN-13: 978-0804139250
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.9 x 9.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,099 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Boys Among Men: How the Prep-to-Pro Generation Redefined the NBA and Sparked a Basketball Revolution Hardcover – March 15, 2016
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"“Mr. Abrams is such an excellent reporter and has been such a keen observer of the NBA over more than two decades that he makes an unerring tour guide. It’s a blast just to let him lead us through the tumultuous era between Mr. Jordan and Mr. James.” - The Wall Street Journal
“Riveting….an exhaustive work of research and reporting that reads with the propulsive energy of a magazine feature that makes you late for something important.” - Slate
"Masterful." - The Atlantic
“A must-read about the game, an incisive and exhaustively reported exploration of the price that young men pay for a chance to make it in the extraordinarily competitive world of pro hoops. Jonathan Abrams asks smart questions and has a gift for portraiture…an important contribution to the discussion about the way we consume sports in America.” - The Daily Beast
"Expertly weaves stories and anecdotes from these players to create a fascinating retrospective on the culture, success and the continuing impact of those players in the league..Abrams’ book does an excellent job telling stories of these players, unearthing details that add depth to even the most-known stars including aspects of Kobe’s legendary pre-draft workouts and the “luckiest” shot that accelerated LeBron’s star rising in high school. It is worth reading for every basketball fan as a piece of entertainment as well as for deeper insight into an era now past and the players who still shape our present and future." - The Sporting News
"Abrams weaves a compelling tale about a transformational era in the NBA that also speaks to the sometimes-desperate pursuit of sporting stardom." - Kirkus (Starred Review)
"This essential, well-researched book will appeal to readers interested in basketball’s business side as well as the factors that have helped shape the modern NBA." -
“In this excellent effort, Abrams, the gifted hoops writer late of Grantland, examines this controversial phenomenon from every angle. –Publishers Weekly
"A riveting read that cements Jonathan Abrams' reputation as one of the world's best basketball writers." – Bill Simmons, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of The Book of Basketball
“A fascinating and unsettling account of what happened to professional basketball when teenagers made their way into a man's game."—Malcolm Gladwell, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Outliers and David and Goliath
“Will stand as the definitive dissection of an oddly brief, perpetually influential period in the history of NBA labor relations."—Chuck Klosterman, New York Times bestselling author of I Wear the Black Hat and Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs
“There was much I learned from this book, which covers not only the superstar “kids" like Bryant and Garnett, but also the compelling cautionary tales.” —Jack McCallum, New York Times bestselling author of Dream Team and Seven Seconds or Less
"Boys Among Men is as inside as an account can be of the paths of those players, both the famous and the forgotten. It's not merely a compelling book for any hoops fan, it's an important one."—David Epstein, New York Times bestselling author of The Sports Gene
“An indispensable book for anyone who cares about basketball.” —George Dohrmann, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Play Their Hearts Out
“Jonathan Abrams has transcended one of the NBA's great business and moral debates to deftly tell the inside story of the prep-to-pros phenomenon…A marvelous book that will stand the test of time." –Adrian Wojnarowski, New York Times best-author of the selling The Miracle of St. Anthony
“Jonathan Abrams expertly captures this crucial era in basketball history. Yet what makes Boys Among Men so compelling isn’t the high school players who turned out to be future hall of famers, but the stories of all the tragic would-be heroes that basketball has long forgotten.’ —Dave McMenamin, NBA writer for ESPN
About the Author
JONATHAN ABRAMS is an award-winning journalist who has covered the NBA for ESPN’s Grantland, The New York Times and Los Angeles Times. Heis a graduate of the University of Southern California.
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Abrams mentions in the acknowledgements that his interest in the subject was peaked while working the Los Angeles Clippers beat right out of college. He was curious as to how these young players four years his junior handled playing in the NBA and handling the pressure and business of the sport (especially given that financial hardship is often one of the biggest reasons for high schoolers forgoing college). This curiosity frames his approach to Boys Among Men. While Abrams clearly possesses encyclopedic knowledge of the game and is adept at describing on-court happenings (his account of a matchup between cautionary tale Lenny Cooke and Lebron James at an all-star camp for prep stars is one of many such examples), the focus is more on how the players handled themselves off the court. What made them consider and eventually opt to skip college, how did they handle the pressure of performing for scouts in pre-draft workout sessions, and how did they acclimate to the NBA and what hurdles did they encounter? Agents such as Arn Tellem and apparel marketing executives such as Sonny Vaccaro also feature prominently, as they were instrumental in raising salaries to stratospheric levels and making it more appealing for players to declare early. The book also traces some of the developments that helped lead to the age limit, such as the Malice in the Palace brouhaha that severely harmed the league's image.
Abrams devotes most of his book to the second wave of prep-to-pro in the mid-90s (there was a 20 year gap between Bill Willoughby taking the plunge in 1975 and Kevin Garnett in 1995), especially Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O'Neal, and Tracy McGrady. The less successful flameouts such as Korleone Young and Taj McDavid receive almost equal coverage, and learning about what went wrong almost makes for better reading. After proceeding chronologically through the high-school-to-pro era, Abrams concludes with analysis on how the pro and college game has adapted to the age limit, including a look at John Calipari's efforts to build a one-and-done assembly line at the University of Kentucky.
43 players have jumped directly to the NBA from high school. In the wrong hands, an authoritative account of the prep-to-pro era would turn monotonous well before the reader got to Lebron James and Dwight Howard. However, Boys Among Men benefits greatly from Abrams' abilities as a writer and exhaustive research and interviews and the fact that some very colorful and varied characters involved in the story of the movement. From the laconic Moses Malone contending with recruiters such as an Oral Roberts coach that promised committing to the evangelist-founded school would heal his mother's tumors to the charismatic Kobe Bryant to the boisterous Lenny Cooke, the only common thread between high school draft prospects is their roundball skills. This diversity helps keep things from getting stale as there is no typical archetype for such players. Similarly, there is no typical "high-school-to-pro-rookie" experience, as while some players benefited from "Team Moms" and substantial support networks others were largely left to fend for themselves. Additionally, Boys Among Men is remarkably well-crafted and will undoubtedly be one of the best-written sports books of 2016. Abrams wrote the book over four years and this effort is evident on every page. he draws from numerous interviews with primary actors such as Tracey McGrady, Jermaine O'Neal, and even former NBA commissioner David Stern. This means there is plenty of new insight for even die-hard basketball fans, and the book is greatly enriched by insider tidbits such as how ridiculously close the Nets came to selected Kobe in 1996 and the actors that eventually quashed the pick (and as a result the Nets' success for the next few years) and quotes from Kevin Garnett's high school teachers about his diligence and personality.
Boys Among Men will likely go down as my favorite sports book of 2016. It's well-written, objective (Abrams acknowledges that the lack of an age limit had a complicated impact with pros and cons, this is not a hatchet job or rhapsody to the halcyon days of prep-to-pro draftees), and never drags despite its decent length. There is definitely enough original analysis and insights to appeal to even the biggest basketball fans, but anyone remotely curious about the the sport or the business around it will greatly enjoy Boys Among Men. Because at its core it's the stories of a bunch of wildly different players brave enough to take the leap from high school to the pros, and whether it's Kwame Brown trying to take his whole family out of poverty or the tragic story of Lenny Cooke or Kobe Bryant's 5 am shooting sessions and 100 point half-court games, these stories make for excellent reading.
9 / 10
Look, it's a book about basketball, so I wasn't looking for the author to sound like Ian McEwan, but the quality of the writing is hilariously bad. I guess this was a blogosphere darling (really briefly, anyway... certainly feels like it came and went) because the guy is "of the blogosphere," but I couldn't help but feel like this would be getting picked apart if it was written by a traditional print journalist. I found myself taking Snapchat pictures every few pages of a particularly dopey take or clunky sentence (he ends a chapter with something like "Everything was looking up... except it wasn't." Come on, MAN). The most interesting material is about the busts, but the Korleone Young part is available for free on The Ringer, and the Lenny Cooke section is structured in a really confusing way (I think he was going for a "big reveal," but I'm honestly unsure if he actually revealed anything?).
(Sidenote -- I don't know if this was intentional or not, but it was very funny watching him let like 8 different people get away with saying they wanted to draft Kobe but couldn't because of an organizational imperative.)
Considering the number of Pro. Players in the US, there is a pretty good chance that. Out of these players will come nowhere close to their idols, but will end-up with career-ending injuries, no education, working the night shift as a janitor. Quite a come down from all of the promises made by their clever and enthusiastic coaches, and training staff.
Young bodies no fully developed are being asked to perform feats of strength and endurance not at all suited to their still developing systems. Unbeknownst to the boys, Pro. Names are brought in to praise the system, while knowing full well of the rather low liklinood of success for the many eager young men.
However, this practice has indeed produced some rather astounding success stories, and it seems that this practice will not only grow, but thrive under the ministrations of all of the trainers' coaches, etc. with a hand in the cookie jar, partaking liberally from the fruits of the young mans efforts.
With such a low percentage of the players being accepted, the elephant in the room is the known and rather poorly-guarded secret. That secret being the long odds against actually being brought-up to speed and played for any amount of time. But even worse are the sometimes deadly results that American football can have upon even your widely known life.
Yes, there are indeed some astounding success stories,of a rise to great heights. Even should a Pro let slip that few of the kids in training stand even the most remote chance of making ikids have dreams too great to be punctured.
This is quite the interesting book, full of descriptions and insights Into the Pro. and Semi-Pro.infiltration into the games of even the youngest players. One could find it impossible to believe that there are NFL scouts out watching the performances of 12 and 13 year olds...shocking!
The book is very well-written. Even those lacking enthusiasm and interest in the games themselves,, can not help nut be caught-up in, and carried along by the manfascinating tales, and this new view into a price apparently as old as the hills.