By Larry Platt
This is one of the more pleasant surprises I've come across all year. Many reporters have portrayed all basketball players as spoiled babies and hooligans. This book tells their side of the story. The author uses an interesting group of players to study.
First, there is Charles Barkley, the aging veteran who is a loveable free-spirit and one of the all-time greats. At the same time, Barkley does not like the young players and their attitudes, while ironically enough, many look up to him and take-no-prisoners, speak-your-mind approach to life.
Next, there is Barkley's teammate Matt Maloney, a 2nd year player who came up from the CBA, got thrust into the starting job as a rookie because of an injury to a teamate, and who learns the hard way in his second season that the NBA is a business.
Then, there is Vernon Maxwell, the athletic veteran with the fiery temper who played on a championshp team, but whose troubles with the law and inablity to control his temper has bounced him around the league. Maxwell tries to stick with a team and be more repsonsible, as an example to his son.
Also, there is Jerry Stackhouse, the high scoring guard who is trying to project a positive image and score a big contact in his 3rd season, while being traded to a new team.
Finally, there is Chris Webber, the misunderstood player with enormous talent, but who has been tagged with the label of uncaring player living off of his potential while lacking the heart to realize it.
The author doesn't give a second hand look at these players. He spends time with them behing the scenes. He works hard to assure the reader that the NBA is in good hands. However, he spends a little too much time doing so, in my opinion. I don't think players are as 1-dimensional and rotten as the morons in the press try to make them out to be, but at the same time, I think there is reason to be concerned about the attitudes of many in the young generation of basketball players. Barkley knows how stupid and simple the press can be, so he wouldn't be so easily swayed by their opinion. His dislike speaks volumes.
Still, though, this is fine writing. One of the more intimate looks at players beyond the court. It reads quickly and makes you feel like you are right there.
Keepin' it Real: A turbulent season at the crossroads with the NBA. Larry Platt. Spike. 1999.