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

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The definitive, never-before-told story of the prep-to-pro generation, those basketball prodigies who from 1995 to 2005 made the jump directly from high school to the NBA.   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 schoo The definitive, never-before-told story of the prep-to-pro generation, those basketball prodigies who from 1995 to 2005 made the jump directly from high school to the NBA.   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 other stars. 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. Award-winning basketball writer Jonathan Abrams has obtained remarkable access to the key players, coaches, and other movers and shakers from that time, and the result is a book packed with rare insights and never-before-published details about this chapter in NBA history. Boys Among Men is a thrilling, informative, must-read for any basketball fan.


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The definitive, never-before-told story of the prep-to-pro generation, those basketball prodigies who from 1995 to 2005 made the jump directly from high school to the NBA.   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 schoo The definitive, never-before-told story of the prep-to-pro generation, those basketball prodigies who from 1995 to 2005 made the jump directly from high school to the NBA.   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 other stars. 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. Award-winning basketball writer Jonathan Abrams has obtained remarkable access to the key players, coaches, and other movers and shakers from that time, and the result is a book packed with rare insights and never-before-published details about this chapter in NBA history. Boys Among Men is a thrilling, informative, must-read for any basketball fan.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lance

    In 1995, the Minnesota Timberwolves shook up the culture of the NBA by selecting Kevin Garnett with the fifth pick of the draft. The reason that this was highly unusual was that Garnett never played a second of college basketball – he was drafted straight out of high school. While Garnett was not the first player to have ever gone from high school to the pros, he was the first of a new generation of players that would make the transition. This generation of players and what it did to the game is In 1995, the Minnesota Timberwolves shook up the culture of the NBA by selecting Kevin Garnett with the fifth pick of the draft. The reason that this was highly unusual was that Garnett never played a second of college basketball – he was drafted straight out of high school. While Garnett was not the first player to have ever gone from high school to the pros, he was the first of a new generation of players that would make the transition. This generation of players and what it did to the game is the subject of this outstanding book by Jonathan Abrams. Drawing from interviews from hundreds of sources, including players, coaches, executives and many other people involved in the development or lives of these teenagers, Abrams paints a balanced picture of what this trend has done to both the game and the young players who either made the transition or attempted to do so and fell short of their dreams. When this topic is discussed on sports channels or talk shows, the two extremes are usually given as why this trend is either good or bad. Those who claim it helps the game and provides a means for young African-American men to escape poverty point to the very successful careers of Garnett, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwight Howard. The naysayers will state that these players are exceptions and more of them are doomed to be forgotten with no basketball career, no education and no hope like Leon Smith, Lenny Cooke, and Ndudi Ebi. While these are the two extreme ends of the argument, there is a lot of middle ground to cover and that what sets this book apart. It isn’t just about the superstars mentioned above who went from high school to the pros. The book also portrays players who carved out decent professional careers even after the hype showered upon them made them seem like they fell short. Players like Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler and Sebastian Telfair fit this category. Abrams not only tells of their stories and struggles to adapt to the professional basketball lifestyle – he explains how their decisions and successes and failure affect many other people and the game itself. Not only are the players’ stories told, but insight from people like former NBA commissioner David Stern, under whose watch this transformation took place, add a sense of balance and completeness to the discussion of the book’s subject. The exasperation of coaches who see that one of these young players don’t have the type of skills and ability to play in the NBA yet was illustrated time and time again. The legality of challenging this rule and the eventual development of a rule making the minimum age to enter the draft at 19 was also discussed from every possible angle. Every possible piece of information that could be used to prove or disprove that allowing high school players to play professionally is covered. This book is highly recommended for any basketball fan, player or coach. It reads almost like a thriller with many characters involved and has twists and turns that will make the reader decide for himself or herself if this new generation and chapter in professional basketball is good for the game and players. I wish to thank Crown Publishing for providing an advance review copy of the book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Charity

    Disclaimer I won a copy of this via a Goodreads Giveaway. My rating and thoughts on the book have nothing to do with this, if I had found the book disappointing or lacking I would express this. I hate the term "must-read," but this book for a fan of the NBA is a must-read. Abrams has a great voice and writes a riveting look of the NBA, it's players, and those players that were not able to rise to the level needed. It is fascinating and full of interesting little tidbits about players and teams th Disclaimer I won a copy of this via a Goodreads Giveaway. My rating and thoughts on the book have nothing to do with this, if I had found the book disappointing or lacking I would express this. I hate the term "must-read," but this book for a fan of the NBA is a must-read. Abrams has a great voice and writes a riveting look of the NBA, it's players, and those players that were not able to rise to the level needed. It is fascinating and full of interesting little tidbits about players and teams that before Social Media (now nothing goes unknown) are not wildly known. He presents an evenly paced and argued look at the issue, that gets the reader thinking without being told what to think, which to me is just about the best thing. It is lively, there is humor, and there are some really sad moments when you think about the path some of the high school players landed on for various reasons.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

    After reading this book I'm more convinced than ever that the NBA age limit is wrong. In Chapter 21, Abrams lays it all out. Think Kwame Brown was a bust and a cautionary tale? Kwame Brown made $60 million dollars over his 13 year career. Eddie Curry never lived up to his potential? How does $70 million over 12 years sound. Yes some players might not have the mental toughness to make it in the NBA. But does a year of college really help? Leon Smith ended up struggling with psychological issues w After reading this book I'm more convinced than ever that the NBA age limit is wrong. In Chapter 21, Abrams lays it all out. Think Kwame Brown was a bust and a cautionary tale? Kwame Brown made $60 million dollars over his 13 year career. Eddie Curry never lived up to his potential? How does $70 million over 12 years sound. Yes some players might not have the mental toughness to make it in the NBA. But does a year of college really help? Leon Smith ended up struggling with psychological issues when he jumped straight to the NBA from high school, but Royce White's collegiate career didn't help him work past his issues to carve out a successful NBA career. NBA players have a very small window in which to make money. Raising the age limit to 19 has deprived these young men an entire year of salary while the NCAA makes millions off their labor. It's ludicrous.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Benoit Lelièvre

    Fantastic book. Black metal, capital punishment and the NBA Draft are the three things I know way too much about in life, yet the prep-to-pro generation still held many mysteries to me. There were so many extreme cases: Kevin Garnett, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant on one side and Kwame Brown, Korleone Young and Lenny Cooke on the other. Jonathan Abrams did a killer job at getting into the lives of these mysterious super athletes who tantalized a generation of NBA scouts, these weird creatures tha Fantastic book. Black metal, capital punishment and the NBA Draft are the three things I know way too much about in life, yet the prep-to-pro generation still held many mysteries to me. There were so many extreme cases: Kevin Garnett, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant on one side and Kwame Brown, Korleone Young and Lenny Cooke on the other. Jonathan Abrams did a killer job at getting into the lives of these mysterious super athletes who tantalized a generation of NBA scouts, these weird creatures that are more fickle than Wall-Street traders. Learned a lot about the pressure facing the successes and the circumstances around the failures. Would recommend this book to every NBA fan, really. Whether they like reading or not :)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    Good book, but as a college basketball fan, I thought it had holes. It seems as though the author went in with the notion the "preps to pros" route is the "right" route, and went about trying to prove it throughout the book. Much more time was spent focusing on the success stories like LeBron and Kobe, then failures like Robert Swift and Leon Smith.... the failures were covered, but not to the degree I;d hoped. Good book, but as a college basketball fan, I thought it had holes. It seems as though the author went in with the notion the "preps to pros" route is the "right" route, and went about trying to prove it throughout the book. Much more time was spent focusing on the success stories like LeBron and Kobe, then failures like Robert Swift and Leon Smith.... the failures were covered, but not to the degree I;d hoped.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Matt Lieberman

    Originally reviewed on: http://www.batsarenotbugs.com/2016/01... This April will mark the 10th anniversary of when the NBA set their current age limit of 19, effectively banning the practice of players jumping directly from high school to the pros. Unless Gerald Green has a late-career renaissance or something we all have a decent idea of how these prep-to-pro players have generally panned out in the pros. The route has yielded some major hits (Moses Malone, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James) and misses Originally reviewed on: http://www.batsarenotbugs.com/2016/01... This April will mark the 10th anniversary of when the NBA set their current age limit of 19, effectively banning the practice of players jumping directly from high school to the pros. Unless Gerald Green has a late-career renaissance or something we all have a decent idea of how these prep-to-pro players have generally panned out in the pros. The route has yielded some major hits (Moses Malone, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James) and misses (Lenny Cooke, Taj McDavid), though a 2004 study conducted by Michael A. McCann of Harvard Law School found that such players enjoyed longer careers and larger contracts than their (at least semi-)college educated counterparts. While we can debate about whether this age-limitless-era was good or bad for basketball and the players that took advantage, these players undoubtedly had a huge impact on the game. In Boys Among Men, Grantland alumnus Jonathan Abrams chronicles the history of the prep-to-pro movement, from trailblazer Moses Malone in 1974 to Amir Johnson, the final high schooler selected in the 2005 Draft. Abrams' accounts of the players that took the plunge and how they influenced and were influenced by the evolution of the business and strategy of the sport make for remarkably compelling reading. 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

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alexander Piccinin

    Just finished Jonathan Abrams’ expose on the changing landscape of the NBA. Abrams crafts a deep dive into the multi-generational relationship between high-school basketball prodigies, and their entryway into the world of professional basketball. Personally, I found the book balanced and bi-partisan. Abrams offers neither a blanket support, nor a condemnation of the current state of affairs with the so-called “One-and-done” rule in place in the NBA. Instead, “Boys Among Men” maps the shifting Just finished Jonathan Abrams’ expose on the changing landscape of the NBA. Abrams crafts a deep dive into the multi-generational relationship between high-school basketball prodigies, and their entryway into the world of professional basketball. Personally, I found the book balanced and bi-partisan. Abrams offers neither a blanket support, nor a condemnation of the current state of affairs with the so-called “One-and-done” rule in place in the NBA. Instead, “Boys Among Men” maps the shifting landscape of prep-to-pro players across decades, spanning as far back as the earliest days of the NBA when players like Moses Malone made history by jumping from high school to the pro’s. The book concludes in the modern era, citing superstar Lebron James as the final generational talent to gain entry into the league in the pre-One&Done era. Overall, the book is an in-depth look at both the successes and the pitfalls of young men looking to make their dream of becoming a professional athlete a reality. At times it reads as a cautionary tale, as Abrams sheds light on various young phenoms whose life was derailed along their perceived path to greatness. That said, the book leaves plenty of space for inspiring stories of triumph, showcasing the successes of highschool-to-pro NBA legends like KG, Kobe, and Tracy McGrady. The book is impressive in its depth and completeness, and is a worthwhile read for any NBA or sports fan in general.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    An awesome book for NBA junkies. Starting briefly with Moses Malone in the 70s, then focusing on the Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant-led influx of high schoolers into the NBA, Abrams does an incredible job illustrating the pros and cons of these important life decisions on such young men. It really encapsulated a historic time in the NBA (and NCAA, for that matter), leading to changes in the league that continue to reverberate today. The most interesting parts of the book to me were the guys who di An awesome book for NBA junkies. Starting briefly with Moses Malone in the 70s, then focusing on the Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant-led influx of high schoolers into the NBA, Abrams does an incredible job illustrating the pros and cons of these important life decisions on such young men. It really encapsulated a historic time in the NBA (and NCAA, for that matter), leading to changes in the league that continue to reverberate today. The most interesting parts of the book to me were the guys who didn't make it. Lenny Cooke, Korleone Young, and Leon Smith are just a few of the "bigger" name guys who helped to define the "Too much, too soon" feeling of that generation that ultimately led to the NBA's age limit. It's a fascinating book that doesn't take sides, but simply tells you the story from all angles and perspectives. Abrams really did his homework, and the result is a book that should be on every NBA fan's bookshelf.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Brandon McGuire

    I absolutely loved this book and once I really sat down and started to read it for real, I flew through it. Basketball is already my favorite sport and the NBA is my favorite professional league so my interest was piqued at the beginning. It was a wonderful book and I really enjoyed seeing how the league has changed concerning the possibility of high schoolers jumping to the NBA. The heartbreaking aspects concerning the guys that didn’t make it really affected me. I’ve always been the type to be I absolutely loved this book and once I really sat down and started to read it for real, I flew through it. Basketball is already my favorite sport and the NBA is my favorite professional league so my interest was piqued at the beginning. It was a wonderful book and I really enjoyed seeing how the league has changed concerning the possibility of high schoolers jumping to the NBA. The heartbreaking aspects concerning the guys that didn’t make it really affected me. I’ve always been the type to be concerned about the human element of sports instead of just treating the players like they’re just here for my entertainment, so a lot of the stories really bothered me. The mental breakdowns of some of the guys due to loneliness, being used, depression, failed dreams, hard lives, etc was awful to see and read about. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys basketball that wants to see another side of the sport that is usually kept behind closed doors.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Brannock

    “Boys Among Men” didn’t do it for me. Jonathan Abrams tracks how some of basketball’s biggest stars transitioned from high school to the pros, covers a few who couldn’t make the jump, and considers a range of opinions as to whether the NBA’s age eligibility rules should be changed. I especially liked the sections on KG and Kobe, and it was interesting to learn a bit about big prospects that faded from the limelight, like Korleone Young and Lenny Cooke. Still, I thought Abrams lost some steam and “Boys Among Men” didn’t do it for me. Jonathan Abrams tracks how some of basketball’s biggest stars transitioned from high school to the pros, covers a few who couldn’t make the jump, and considers a range of opinions as to whether the NBA’s age eligibility rules should be changed. I especially liked the sections on KG and Kobe, and it was interesting to learn a bit about big prospects that faded from the limelight, like Korleone Young and Lenny Cooke. Still, I thought Abrams lost some steam and his sense of structure after the first several chapters. The book—and the reader—would have benefited greatly from a concise discussion of labor law and NBA collective bargaining dynamics, which could have led to a more nuanced review of the issue of age eligibility. Sports law is cool, and Abrams missed a big opportunity to educate his audience. But that’s also just me; I’m sure plenty of people want nothing to do with an explanation of how the CBA works. I don’t know, man... it’s really hard to read a basketball book without being overly critical after reading David Halberstam’s “The Breaks of the Game,” which I thought was pretty close to perfect. I’d give this a 2.5/5.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Nassiff

    For my money, the NBA is currently about as interesting as it’s ever been. I definitely don’t watch as much professional basketball as I did while I was in college, high school or even younger than that, but I love loosely keeping up with the league and its current generation of fun young talent: Giannis Antetokounmpo with Milwaukee, Anthony Davis with New Orleans, Karl-Anthony Towns with Minnesota, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid with Philadelphia, even the he’s-only-25-years-old Brad Beal, of Univ For my money, the NBA is currently about as interesting as it’s ever been. I definitely don’t watch as much professional basketball as I did while I was in college, high school or even younger than that, but I love loosely keeping up with the league and its current generation of fun young talent: Giannis Antetokounmpo with Milwaukee, Anthony Davis with New Orleans, Karl-Anthony Towns with Minnesota, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid with Philadelphia, even the he’s-only-25-years-old Brad Beal, of University of Florida fame, with Washington. If the NBA hadn’t changed its rules in 2006, though, these players could potentially have much different careers right now. That was the year when the NBA began disallowing players to enter the league straight out of high school, requiring prospects to play one year of basketball elsewhere — either in college or professionally overseas — before entering the draft. - Giannis came over from Europe at age 18; it’s at least slightly unlikely that he would have declared for the draft a year sooner even if he had been permitted. If he had declared earlier, he likely would have a pretty similar draft slot. He was taken 15th overall in the 2013 NBA draft, primarily based on potential. = Anthony Davis was the No. 1 ranked prospect in the 2011 high school basketball recruiting class per 247Sports. He played one year at Kentucky before becoming the first overall pick in the 2012 draft. - Karl-Anthony Towns was the No. 5 ranked prospect in the 2014 recruiting class. He too played one year at Kentucky before becoming the first overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft. - Ben Simmons was the No. 1 ranked prospect in the 2015 recruiting class. He chose a different SEC school, and played one season at LSU before becoming the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. - Joel Embiid was the No. 13 ranked prospect in the 2013 recruiting class. He played at Kansas for a year before becoming the third overall pick in the 2014 draft. - Brad Beal was the No. 4 ranked prospect in the 2011 recruiting class. He played one year for the University of Florida Gators before becoming the third overall pick in the 2012 draft. If he’d stayed one more year at UF, the Gators likely win the title in 2012. Just FYI. UConn doesn’t beat that Gators team in the Final Four with Beal thrown in. While Embiid had some injury concerns coming out of Kansas and Giannis had only moderate statistical success playing professionally in Europe, the rest of the players shared one trait in common: They’d proven themselves for a full season at competitive levels of college basketball. While college teams don’t play seasons as long as the NBA does, they do play longer seasons than high school teams and the top freshmen each season compete regularly against players who can be more experienced, stronger, and more mature than they are, if perhaps not necessarily as talented. Before the NBA’s 2006 rule change, the top prospects in each crop of high school players frequently chose to forego college and enter the league directly out of school. This is the topic of Jonathan Abrams’ well-reported book, Boys Among Men: How the Prep-to-Pro Generation Redefined the NBA and Sparked a Basketball Revolution. Abrams details the trend of high-schoolers jumping into the NBA without any college experience and how this highly talented generation became some of the best players to ever play in the league. The modern prep-to-pro era began with Kevin Garnett’s selection as the fifth draft pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1995, followed closely by Kobe Bryant’s selection as the 13th pick in the 1996 draft by the Charlotte Hornets (who traded him on draft day to the Lakers). Jermaine O’Neal was drafted just four picks after Bryant in 1996, and Tracy McGrady followed in 1997. Garnett and Bryant cast the mold that would lead a total of 39 high-school players to become NBA draft picks between 1995 and 2005. Some of these players would become notable talents for their generation; aside from the few mentioned above, Amar’e Stoudemire, LeBron James and Dwight Howard took the prep-to-pro route. James (2003) and Howard (2004) were the second and third high-school players to be selected with the first overall pick in the draft, with the first being Kwame Brown in 2001. Several other players built long-lasting NBA careers after jumping straight into the league, including Al Harrington, Tyson Chandler, Shaun Livingston, Al Jefferson and more. In 2004, an all-time high of eight high school players were selected in the first round of the draft, all off the board by the 18th overall pick; by comparison, only four college seniors were selected in the first round of that draft, a group that included the 20th and 25th selections. The 2001 draft saw four high-school players selected within the first eight picks. Clearly, the prep-to-pro trend was significant enough to draw major attention during the decade of its heyday. Where players like Garnett, Bryant and James stand out as generation-defining talents, though, there are plenty of cautionary tales that back up the waves of criticism about the trend. Ultimately, this resulted in the 2006 rule disallowing these talented players to begin their careers as early as they would have liked. In his book, Abrams takes the time to highlight the journeys of prep-to-pro players across the spectrum: Early on, you get terrific, rich storytelling about Garnett and Bryant as young men. The book is easy to read and incredibly insightful. For these players, it was clear from an early age that they had the drive and the love for the game of basketball that would have resulted in them becoming successful ballplayers regardless of whether they had gone to college for a year or not; here’s a passage detailing a conversation between Garnett in his rookie training camp and Kevin McHale, then the GM for the Minnesota Timberwolves": McHale trained a close eye on Garnett during those nascent days. He approached Garnett between practices one day. Garnett rested his back against the bleachers. His body would have collapsed without the support. “This is really hard,” Garnett told McHale. “How did you do this for so long?” McHale wanted to walk the fine line between coddling and nurturing Garnett. “You’re supposed to be tired,” McHale said. “Training camp is tiring. The first one is always the toughest.” McHale left Garnett alone to prepare for the day’s next session. He figured Garnett would deliver a lackluster performance. “Then practice started and you would’ve never known he was exhausted or tired because he had a motor to play that was so impressive,” McHale said. “I remember thinking at that moment that he was going to be OK.” That type of drive and passion and will wasn’t present in all of the players who made the choice to jump from high school to the NBA. Some declared for the draft on bad advice and either got drafted in the second round and never made an impact, or went completely undrafted; others were drafted to organizations who weren’t prepared to help such young players adjust to life as a professional; others were drafted with high picks but never got to the level they needed to reach emotionally, mentally or physically to become success stories. Even despite a rookie season that eventually saw him progress to a starting role and averages of 10.4 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game in nearly 29 minutes per game, Garnett was wide-eyed at how difficult the league was in terms of its grinding style: But if he had opened a door for other high school players to jump directly to the NBA, he did not want to be responsible for leaving it open. “I’ve heard that there are high school kids who are thinking about going straight to the NBA like I did,” Garnett told USA Today. “Well, they’re crazy. I’d tell them to put aside all the money, the girls and the fame…I’d tell them, There’s nothing easy about the NBA. If I could have gone to college, I would have in a heartbeat.” The league wasn’t a joke. Garnett would take a huge step forward in his second season, averaging 17 points and 8 rebounds per game in Kobe Bryant’s rookie year. Kobe is a player whose intense work ethic and burning passion for the game has been well-documented, and Jerry West recalls seeing signs of Kobe’s competitiveness in a pre-draft workout. He was relentless during the hour-long session that cemented West’s desire to draft him at all costs. But plenty of other players fell out of the NBA sooner than they otherwise might have if they had taken the time to mature and grow for a couple years in college. What a prospect may become was more tantalizing than what had been established. The ending only sometimes synced with the prediction. Yes, they got drafted—the ones who did—by an NBA team. They lived the dream, but it did not feel like one anymore. Basketball became work. It involved sweating hard, bending over and tugging at shorts, puffing-for-air–type work. Kevin Garnett knew this. So did Kobe Bryant. But some of the other kids who attempted to jump to the NBA in their shadows remained clueless. […] Most NBA coaches and executives advised that the real dream, the one with substance, was not to make it to the NBA. That was just the beginning. The goal was to make a mark in the league, one worthy enough to receive a second and third contract. Instead, their 15 minutes of fame may have lasted a couple of years, maybe three. The rest of their lives, which they had never bothered concerning themselves with, now loomed. Abrams’ book delves into plenty of satellite topics related to the prep-to-pro generation, too. There’s a good chunk about the sneaker wars when Nike and Adidas would bid to sponsor the next great basketball player; there’s a lot of storytelling about Michael Jordan’s time with the Washington Wizards, including the scouting and drafting of Kwame Brown, who Jordan personally selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 draft. Brown turned in to a bust considering where he was selected, while a slightly older Pau Gasol, who already had three years of playing professionally in Spain under his belt, turned into a much more productive and impactful NBA player as the third pick in the same draft. While Abrams’ book triumphs in reporting and structure, it sometimes lacks from a pure writing point of view. Abrams has his moments of prose, but the tone of the book flip-flops at times, which can make for awkward passages or a sense of misplacement. This is easily overcome by the relatively short nature of the book at only 310 pages overall. Boys Among Men is a no-brainer to check out for any 20- or 30-something who watched Kobe and KG and T-Mac dominate the NBA in the ‘90s. It’s an educational and insightful look back at one of the most influential groups of athletes to play any sport in the last few decades, and an enjoyable read to boot.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas A

    the books was not attention grabbing and it was like readung a wikipedia page.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Stevie

    It was a good book. It gave me an insight on the transition from high school to pro basketball, and I thought that was cool and interesting.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    It was a good book. It showed many opinions based off if people straight out of high school can go straight into the NBA or wait a Year and go in. I am not the biggest basketball fan but it was an okay book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jack Landis

    This book describes the transition that young men made into the nba instead of college. This was a bold decision to skip out on education and choose the risk of pro sports. Young basically high school students were among grown men trying to make it in the league.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Afsheen Zafaranian

    It was a good book about high school players going to the NBA.

  17. 5 out of 5

    MALIK FINLEY

    I thought the book was a amazing book. I loved reading about the NBA players what happened in their life and struggles they went through and some positives they went through.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Oliver Bateman

    The Abrams "prep-to-pro" essays that ran on the late, sorta-great Grantland (sorta-great at least in the beginning of its run, before it devolved into a bunch of 200-word Rembert Browne shitposts) were appointment reading. Each one was the result of careful, focused reporting; each one yielded a single coherent story. This book, however, is a mishmash of that stuff, along with some new material, in a mostly chronological account that does a disservice to the source material. At this point, when l The Abrams "prep-to-pro" essays that ran on the late, sorta-great Grantland (sorta-great at least in the beginning of its run, before it devolved into a bunch of 200-word Rembert Browne shitposts) were appointment reading. Each one was the result of careful, focused reporting; each one yielded a single coherent story. This book, however, is a mishmash of that stuff, along with some new material, in a mostly chronological account that does a disservice to the source material. At this point, when longform is preferable to the book and nobody *really* writes a book anymore, the intellectually honest thing to do would've just been to collect and expand the existing essays. I'm reasonably certain that that's what Abrams, given his druthers, would've done (I make this claim b/c I'm facing the very same problem--the demand for a "book" when I'd much prefer to just provide content). That said, if you've never read the individual articles, read this book. It's the product of hours of reporting and will likely constitute the principal primary source (though I'd really just love full length transcripts of the interviews Abrams did!) for sports historians looking to address this topic in one way or another. I wasn't exactly disappointed, in part because this was an ARC and I still got my $0 worth, but I believe that, given either more time to do something spectacular (i.e., to do a great deal more new work) or no time at all (i.e., simply collecting the old work), Abrams would've turned in a five-star book. Anyway, this is still the odds-on favorite for basketball book of the year, so if that's your bag, buy it and support this guy's continuing good work.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Shaun

    I received a copy of this book for free through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. "Boys Among Men" is a fantastic look at the years when many high school basketball players had the option of going directly into the National Basketball Association. The stories about the players featured are well researched and detailed. The author does a great job of including the obvious success stories like Kevin Garnett, while also addressing the 'what could have been' stories like Lenny Cooke. It's both a cele I received a copy of this book for free through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. "Boys Among Men" is a fantastic look at the years when many high school basketball players had the option of going directly into the National Basketball Association. The stories about the players featured are well researched and detailed. The author does a great job of including the obvious success stories like Kevin Garnett, while also addressing the 'what could have been' stories like Lenny Cooke. It's both a celebration of those that did succeed and a cautionary tale for those that did not. There are arguments and examples for why eighteen year old's should be allowed to go directly to the NBA along with arguments and examples for why the nineteen year old age limit is a good rule. Arguments are made for why it should be twenty as well. The author leaves you to decide for yourself, just presenting you with the facts and opinions of those in the business. I'm not sure which side I stand on it, but I can see the arguments from all sides. My only disappointment is there was no notes section to explain where facts and quotes came from. My copy was an uncorrected proof, so it is possible the finished book has this information. Therefore, it does not figure in to my final rating, but the book is still a 4.5 stars (rounded to 5) even without this information. Overall, anyone that wants to know more about this generation of players or has any interest all in the NBA, will find the book fascinating and I'd certainly recommend it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    Jonathan Abrams is the freaking man. I've read a bunch of his oral histories, so I was pretty excited when I found out he was coming out with an even longer and more in depth look at the NBA. I loved how he weaved in and out between timelines, players, coaches, and themes. Although it loosely follows a chronological order, its not a simple march down a timeline. He pulls the best content for the best moment to paint the picture he sees as the truth. In a lot of ways he reminds me of this college p Jonathan Abrams is the freaking man. I've read a bunch of his oral histories, so I was pretty excited when I found out he was coming out with an even longer and more in depth look at the NBA. I loved how he weaved in and out between timelines, players, coaches, and themes. Although it loosely follows a chronological order, its not a simple march down a timeline. He pulls the best content for the best moment to paint the picture he sees as the truth. In a lot of ways he reminds me of this college professor I had for a course called Science and Religion. Dr. Barnes always presented arguments, theories, thoughts from both sides of the aisle without overlaying his own bias. He would certainly critique arguments for strength and validity, but my friends and I could never really pin down his position on any topic. Throughout the book, Abrams is the same away about the discussion on turning pro immediately out of high school. I think he ultimately would conclude that the current crop of prep-to-pro players were a success, and thus others should be allowed to follow suit, but, the book is certainly not about proving that point. What helps is that the core characters of this tale are spectacular NBA all-time greats (Kobe, LeBron, KG), soul-crushing failures (Leon Smith, Robert Swift), and basketball royalty (Caliper, West). Any of those dudes would probably be worth reading about, but having a talented writer like Abrams pull them all together makes it a spectacular read. Instead of watching the inevitable Clippers/Grizzlies opening round playoff series, read this book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Hans Kristensen

    This is a great book. Abrams gets you into the heads of the players, coaches and officials he writes about and behind the scenes of some historic events and decisions. The writing is crisp and fast paced. After reading it I am convinced the all high school athletes should go to college for two years. This will mature their games, their bodies and ultimately themselves. If you are a basketball fan but and read this book

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sandi

    A well researched and written look at the group of young men who went directly to the NBA after high school and how they impacted the league. As someone who has always felt that the minimum age rule that the NBA now has is wrong, this book did reinforce my views but also presented the association's side. A well researched and written look at the group of young men who went directly to the NBA after high school and how they impacted the league. As someone who has always felt that the minimum age rule that the NBA now has is wrong, this book did reinforce my views but also presented the association's side.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dash Williams

    Excellent look at the time in NBA history in which GMs chased the next Moses Malone.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Grayson

    Did you know two of the last players selected in the NBA draft out of high school were Gerald Green and Amir Johnson. Amir johnson was the very last high school player selected in the NBA draft because now you have to be one year removed from high school. Both of these players turned out average at best and it shows that they didn't have the needed talents to become stars in the NBA. I did really like the book Boys Among Men by Jonathan Abrams which is a nonfiction basketball book that deals wit Did you know two of the last players selected in the NBA draft out of high school were Gerald Green and Amir Johnson. Amir johnson was the very last high school player selected in the NBA draft because now you have to be one year removed from high school. Both of these players turned out average at best and it shows that they didn't have the needed talents to become stars in the NBA. I did really like the book Boys Among Men by Jonathan Abrams which is a nonfiction basketball book that deals with high school players like Gerald Green and Amir Johnson. I think it was a great book because it had a lot of great information. My criteria for this book is voice of the writing, fullness of the story, and not staying neutral in the argument. Before I say if I think it was really good or not we have to go over what the book is really about. It is just about explaining some the careers of the players that were very successful coming out of high school and explaining the careers of players that failed when coming out of high school. Also it is describing and telling the reader what qualities people coming out of high school needed to be successful. For example, Garnett was known for his maturity and even when taunted by another player, “He maintained a straight face and returned daily” (19). Abrams talks about what it means to be selected out of high school and talks about qualities you need to succeed in the NBA as a high school player. It breaks off and just singles out certain players like Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry, Lebron James, Kevin Garnett, and Tracy Mcgrady. Each chapter is about a different NBA player that was drafted out of high school and more specifically about the certain qualities they all have. I had a lot of knowledge after reading this book because it was all real information about the NBA. There isn't exactly a plot in the book but there is a message that the writer is educating the reader on throughout the whole book. At certain times in the book the writer sounds like he is leaning towards going to the NBA straight out of high school but at other times in the book it sounds like he is leaning to go to college first so there is a theme throughout the book. This was a great book. My first criterion in judging this book is the voice of the writing. This is important because if it has a really good voice then it will compel you to keep reading because it makes it very interesting to read. When Abrams writes “This kid is about to hyperventilate, John Hammond worried to himself” (9) this demonstrates voice because the way it has been written just makes me want to keep reading from the very first page of the book. Another criterion is fullness of the story. This is important because some parts he doesn't fully explain some things and the story isn't completely full and it had holes. One more criterion is not staying neutral in the argument. For example, when the author is describing one of the players and the voice that he uses makes the writing sound like he would rather have them jump straight from high school. This is important because he does lean towards certain opinions and that may influence the readers decision and I think that the writer should stay neutral when it comes to a question. Even though it had some holes and problems in my criteria I still really liked the book. I liked because of the great information that was said throughout the writing. Another reason I liked the book is because I really love reading and watching things that are teaching me about basketball because it is always very interesting. The last reason that I liked the book was because I really liked the writing I think that the way that Abrams wrote the book really fit because he was very informative and that made me like the book a lot more. Overall I think that it was a great book and I really liked the quality.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Riley Haas

    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 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.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Peter Cohen

    Fascinating, exhilarating, troubling, sad. It’s about what makes a star, a reliable journey man, or a promising but flawed prospect. It’s about boys trying to break out of their poverty, immaturity, deprivation, or their being plundered or pigeon-holed as another example of “hip-hop culture.” And it’s about a group of youngsters daring to face down the status quo—that you can’t make it in the NBA out of high school—and those who help or hinder them. Written with heart and precision, Boys Among Me Fascinating, exhilarating, troubling, sad. It’s about what makes a star, a reliable journey man, or a promising but flawed prospect. It’s about boys trying to break out of their poverty, immaturity, deprivation, or their being plundered or pigeon-holed as another example of “hip-hop culture.” And it’s about a group of youngsters daring to face down the status quo—that you can’t make it in the NBA out of high school—and those who help or hinder them. Written with heart and precision, Boys Among Men made me appreciate the heart and art of basketball. It’s jazz, rap, free-form performed in an arena, 48 minutes of improvisation as intricate as Coltrane, Miles, Dizzy, Janelle, Chet, Dave, Kendrick...In its purest form, it's rhythm and style without words or music. But not every candidate gets those rhythms, knows how to watch and listen, puts in the time, or has the gift to step up and step onto the court to make an impact. The author Jonathan Abrams loves his subject and admires these prodigious young roundballers. He has the talent to construct a sweeping narrative. He can also relate the action in a game that keeps you glued to the paged. At times he gets too caught up in "who said or did what to whom," resembling a gossip page with more characters than a Russian novel. And at times his direct quotes from the players, coaches, and commissioners are disjointed sentences that require too much decoding to determine who they're talking about or who sabotaged or undermined whom. But those are minor problems, because the e-book allows you, to highlight the names of the characters, so you can immediately pull up a brief bio to keep you oriented. All in all, Boys Among Men is the thrilling story of how young talented boys find dignity, disappointment, tragedy, hope and transcendence in a complex and often treacherous world.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sirbriang2

    This was a great look at the generation of basketball players that went directly from high school to the NBA and became stars (Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, etc.) —- as well as several that failed. The book goes to great lengths to humanize these players as they transitioned from children to wealthy young men, and to tell the tale of their struggles and success. The stories about the “shoulda been” stars are pretty good, but the book is at its best when it gives context to the strugg This was a great look at the generation of basketball players that went directly from high school to the NBA and became stars (Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, etc.) —- as well as several that failed. The book goes to great lengths to humanize these players as they transitioned from children to wealthy young men, and to tell the tale of their struggles and success. The stories about the “shoulda been” stars are pretty good, but the book is at its best when it gives context to the struggles that eventual superstars overcame. The book struggles at points, though; not every player showcased has a dramatic arc, and some of the stories are given an outside point of view, which sometimes blunts the impact of the story. I found a lot of good stories about the first wave of prep-to-pro players. As the book went on, I learned less about the players and more about context for rule changes, sneaker contracts, and things like that. While I found those off-court stories interesting, they sometimes felt like content from a separate book because they omitted the emotional content that made the start of the book so compelling.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paweł Labe

    Not a bad book, but I hoped to read more unknown stories about young Kobe Bryant or Kwame Brown trying to accommodate in their pro teams. I quess that would be more interesting for me that reading about shoe companies, agents and academic trainers. I know that all of that it is a huge part of basketball business, but c'mon, there have to be great stories about relationship between Michael Jordan and Kwame Brown (both: in Washington and after years - in Charlotte) and that topic was just mentione Not a bad book, but I hoped to read more unknown stories about young Kobe Bryant or Kwame Brown trying to accommodate in their pro teams. I quess that would be more interesting for me that reading about shoe companies, agents and academic trainers. I know that all of that it is a huge part of basketball business, but c'mon, there have to be great stories about relationship between Michael Jordan and Kwame Brown (both: in Washington and after years - in Charlotte) and that topic was just mentioned on 2 or 3 pages. Same with young Garnett, same with Brandon Jennings and the year that he played in Italy. Same with Eddy Curry. He had all the tools to be a star, but there were many factors that changed his life (murder of girlfriend, robbery etc). All of that is mentioned, but I felt like reading a newspaper. I had already known all that and wanted to read more details from his early life in NBA. I feel that begging of pro carrier of Curry or a story of Lenny Cooke is a great topic for a whole book itself. That book is just like a pro carrier of Sebastian Telfair. It was ok. But I expected it to be great.

  29. 5 out of 5

    John

    This is an incredibly interesting look from all angles of the era of high school players joining the NBA. From stars like LeBron James and Kevin Garnett to busts like Kwame Brown and Robert Swift to the forgotten like Bill Willoughby and Lenny Cooke, this book covers everyone. Of the details of its history, it was most interesting to see how the high school generation was so heavily influenced by the shoe industry. It's great to read about loopholes in the system that let all this happen, the mo This is an incredibly interesting look from all angles of the era of high school players joining the NBA. From stars like LeBron James and Kevin Garnett to busts like Kwame Brown and Robert Swift to the forgotten like Bill Willoughby and Lenny Cooke, this book covers everyone. Of the details of its history, it was most interesting to see how the high school generation was so heavily influenced by the shoe industry. It's great to read about loopholes in the system that let all this happen, the motives of sides with power that few remember to include like agents and college coaches, and how many are still unhappy with the current rules of NBA eligibility and what should be done about it. Jonathan Abrams' book is flat out amazing. The highest of recommendations for anyone who considers themselves a die-hard NBA fan.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Clifton

    Abrams is not a showy writer. Rather than impressing readers with extravagant prose or inserting himself into every story (e.g. "I'm sitting with Kobe Bryant shortly after his final game...",) he lets the voices of his subjects take center stage. In this case, those are the voices of an entire generation of basketball players that jumped right from high school to the NBA. And the fact that I read this entire 300+ page nonfiction book in a week should say something about it's readability. It felt Abrams is not a showy writer. Rather than impressing readers with extravagant prose or inserting himself into every story (e.g. "I'm sitting with Kobe Bryant shortly after his final game...",) he lets the voices of his subjects take center stage. In this case, those are the voices of an entire generation of basketball players that jumped right from high school to the NBA. And the fact that I read this entire 300+ page nonfiction book in a week should say something about it's readability. It felt like I was cruising through a series of long Grantland articles from back in the day, and the time/research Abrams invested paid off. Much like his oral history of The Wire, you kinda have to be a fan to love this book. It is not for everyone. But if you love basketball and you follow the NBA and you think humans are interesting, this book is absolutely for you.

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