Former Grantland writer, Jonathan Abrams, is about as talented a basketball writer that is working today. He has mastered the long form piece and is clearly quite skilled at gaining the trust of his interview subjects. His first book has been out since the spring, and luckily for us, covers a topic that would pique the interest of any basketball fan. Boys Among Men tells the stories of every player who went straight from high school to the pros. Abrams dives into everyone from Moses Malone to Jonathan Bender and helps explain how this phenomenon become so prevalent and why it came to a screeching halt.
The book starts with the story of Kevin Garnett and his famous pre-draft workouts in front of NBA scouts. Abrams then goes back to the beginning, explaining how both Malone and Bill Willoughby came to make the preps to pros jump. Large chunks of the first third of the book are devoted to Garnett and Kobe Bryant, and rightly so, because both of their stories are filled with almosts’ and what ifs.
Virtually no player who made the jump is left out. There are fascinating bits about Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry and Kwame Brown. At one point, Ndudi Ebi gives an amazing quote about the nachos at Staples Center. By the end of the book, Abrams makes the case that the league not allowing players to jump from high school to the NBA probably isn’t fair. Do not worry, though, Abrams has no agenda, he simply points out the facts and shows that an overwhelming majority of the players who jumped from high school are success stories. Obviously, there are cautionary tales. The one about Korleone Young was especially heartbreaking, but in the end most players panned out in one way or another.
For anyone interested in the NBA, any of the players involved, or the way basketball business is done, this book is a must read. There are so many players and teams directly affected by this era of the game’s history and Abrams nailed the telling of their stories.