Wednesday, October 5, 2016


Boys Among Men is sportswriter Jonathan Abrams' chronicle of a particular ten-year period of NBA history-- the time between 1995 and 2005 when high schoolers were eligible for the NBA draft, and the players who were picked (and some who were not). Some of the success stories are well-known--Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Jermaine O'Neal. Some that were regarded as busts are also well-known--Kwame Brown, Eddy Curry, and others. But there were several vignettes I was not aware of, and I had always just assumed that the phenomenon was a bad thing and blindly agreed with the NBA's rule now that says a kid must be 19 to enter the draft. It really isn't; on balance, those that went to the NBA after high school had longer careers and did better than the average NBA player. Some of the other ancillary information about the phenomenon was interesting to read about, too--most importantly, it gave the shoe companies the opportunity to completely dominate the high school prospect market and the way colleges and pros became aware of talented kids. Toward the end of the book, the new reality of the one-and-dones that permeate the college game now is discussed in some detail, and I found myself presented with an alternative picture of someone I have truly disliked for a long time, John Calipari. I still don't like him--but I am prepared to admit that maybe, just maybe, he isn't a minion of the Antichrist.
This an excellent book. I liked Abrams' work when he wrote for Grantland, the now-defunct site that Bill Simmons founded while at ESPN. I wish I knew where he could be found on a more regular basis now.

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