Keepin' It Real:: A Turbulent Season at the Crossroads with the NBA

Larry Platt, Author William Morrow & Company $24 (320p) ISBN 978-0-380-97714-7
The image-conscious gentlemen who run the NBA will not be pleased by Platt's revealing look at the league. A Philadelphia magazine senior writer, he has crafted an intense behind-the-scenes account of the 1997-98 NBA season by following five players--Charles Barkley, Matt Maloney, Jerry Stackhouse, Chris Webber and Vernon ""Mad Max"" Maxwell. Having been granted intimate access to the five players, Platt offers a first-hand look at how they handle the temptations--women, drugs, the wrong friends--of their elite position and negotiate a delicate balance between team and individual responsibilities--and sometimes fail. Race is an inescapable subtext of the book as Platt dwells on the difference between ""'90s gangsta"" players like Maxwell and stars like Michael Jordan and Grant Hill, ""crossover"" figures who appeal to white America and thus to corporations looking for endorsement pitchmen. Platt, who calls himself ""a short, bald, white Jew who was always asking annoying questions,"" clearly sympathizes with the players against the ""suits."" He often adopts hip-hop lingo (as in the title) and argues that the conservative mindset of league executives fails to respect the street sensibility of today's young stars. He also has unkind words for most white sportswriters, believing that they are simply jealous of rich, young black men, a phenomenon he calls ""playa hating."" Some readers will surely think Platt too indulgent of NBA players, but there's no doubt that he presents a picture of these athletes that looks beyond the common caricatures of the role model and the gangsta. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/30/1998
Release date: 04/01/1998
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