2016, Basketball, Books, Non-Fiction, Sports

Boys Among Men (2016) by Jonathan Abrams

This is a pretty excellent narrative history of the one and only generation of NBA stars to come directly from high school. Though I have one minor quibble, I got over it and, for the most part, it’s probably the definitive book about this topic.

Initially, I was put off by the paragraphing, which felt highly idiosyncratic. At times, a paragraph was a sentence. At other times, it was two or three ideas. I am familiar with Abrams’ fantastic oral histories and, to me, this style seemed like it was poached form oral history and completely unsuited to Abrams himself having a voice. However, I soon got over it.

Abrams mostly avoids moralizing about this subject – which is among the most moralized in all of North American sports – until the end of the book and when he does share his feelings, he uses his interview subjects to make his points for him. This is exactly what he should do as a journalist and it is a refreshing take, not just on this particular subject – on which literally everyone has an opinion – but also on the NBA and North American pro sports in general, where opinion is almost always given more weight than facts. Despite his own clear position as to which side of the argument about the high school to pro players is right, Abrams’ approach is more fair and balanced than any you’ll get from your TV or crotchety sports columnist. Abrams’ book comes off as incredibly well researched and sympathetic, as well as far more nuanced than “The NBA should have an age limit because I think X” or “The NBA should be like other professions because Y.”

If you are at all interested in sports, in the professionalism vs amateurism debate in sports, or in the business of sports, this is worth your time.


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