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Boys Among Men: How the Prep-to-Pro Generation Redefined the NBA and Sparked a Basketball Revolution

by Jonathan Abrams

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771347,863 (3.92)1
When Kevin Garnett shocked the world by announcing that he would not be attending college - as young basketball prodigies were expected to do - but instead enter the 1995 NBA draft directly from high school, he blazed a trail for a generation of teenage basketball players to head straight for the pros. That trend would continue until the NBA instituted an age limit in 2005, requiring all players to attend college or another developmental program for at least one year. Over that decade-plus period, the list of players who made that difficult leap includes some of the most celebrated players of the modern era - Garnett, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Tracy McGrady, and numerous others. It also includes notable "busts" who either physically or mentally proved unable to handle the transition. But for better or for worse, the face of the NBA was forever changed by the prep-to-pro generation. In compelling, masterfully crafted prose, Boys Among Men goes behind the scenes and draws on hundreds of firsthand interviews to paint insightful and engaging portraits of the most pivotal figures and events during this time.… (more)
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A great read for any basketball fan. Personally enjoyed reading the stories of Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett the most. Along with hearing about the successes of players who went directly from high school to the NBA, Abrams shows the dark side of this rule, by writing about failures. Abrams writes in a smooth, easy to follow way, intertwining stories of players when it makes sense. Great read! ( )
  jskotler77 | May 3, 2016 |


The most significant story that pulses underneath the many taut yarns of Boys Among Men is one of labor. This was a decade in which elite college-age black male athletes—a population that, in terms of value versus compensation, ranks among the most unfairly treated labor pools in modern American society—found a loophole in the Byzantine rules designed to exploit them and worked it until the NBA sewed it closed (no doubt to the delight of the NCAA, which had suddenly lost its lucrative grip on the country’s top amateur talent). It might be odd to think back on Garnett and Bryant—long-in-the-tooth legends who’ve each made hundreds of millions of dollars before turning 40—as youthful labor revolutionaries, but that’s what they were.

Abrams is a fantastic storyteller, and Boys Among Men unfolds with a broadly chronological structure but with a natural sense for the well-timed digression. For instance, the professional success of Amar’e Stoudemire, who prior to entering the league had been the subject of unflattering coverage ranging from investigations of AAU corruption to humiliating dissections of his family background, stands as one of the great rebukes to anti-prep moralism. Abrams wraps Stoudemire’s tale into a sort of sidebar chapter about the man who drafted him: Suns General Manager Jerry Colangelo, an NBA lifer who’d gone to the University of Kansas in the 1950s to play alongside Wilt Chamberlain, only to be disappointed when Chamberlain bucked the convention of his day by leaving school after his junior year to play a season with the Harlem Globetrotters. In just a few pages Abrams gives us a microcosmic swath of the NBA’s youth movement from Chamberlain to the early 2000s, with the figure of Colangelo— who went from objecting to the prep-to-pro movement to cannily drafting future Rookie of the Year Stoudemire—standing as a sort of weather vane of history.
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When Kevin Garnett shocked the world by announcing that he would not be attending college - as young basketball prodigies were expected to do - but instead enter the 1995 NBA draft directly from high school, he blazed a trail for a generation of teenage basketball players to head straight for the pros. That trend would continue until the NBA instituted an age limit in 2005, requiring all players to attend college or another developmental program for at least one year. Over that decade-plus period, the list of players who made that difficult leap includes some of the most celebrated players of the modern era - Garnett, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Tracy McGrady, and numerous others. It also includes notable "busts" who either physically or mentally proved unable to handle the transition. But for better or for worse, the face of the NBA was forever changed by the prep-to-pro generation. In compelling, masterfully crafted prose, Boys Among Men goes behind the scenes and draws on hundreds of firsthand interviews to paint insightful and engaging portraits of the most pivotal figures and events during this time.

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