KEEPIN' IT REAL by Larry Platt


A Turbulent Season at the Crossroads with the NBA
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The travails of five high-profiled basketball players during the 1997—98 season are documented in this unsentimental look at the National Basketball Association’s current state of affairs. Platt, a senior writer for Philadelphia magazine, focuses on five players during the season before the lockout: Charles Barkley, Matt Maloney, Vernon Maxwell, Jerry Stackhouse, and Chris Webber. The men, with different backgrounds and at different stages of their careers, are seen as trying to retain personal integrity in an image-conscious, unforgiving sport and role- model-hungry society. Issues facing the NBA players today include run-ins with the law, marijuana use (by 70 percent of players, as estimated by The New York Times), coach harassment, fan abuse, female pursuers and other hangers-on, media and promoter demands. Offering no solutions to the problems and acknowledging that sometimes the players cause their own dilemmas, Platt is mostly sympathetic to the players, railing against what he perceives to be unfair treatment, particularly by the media, owners, police, and the public. Use of the players’ own raw language (of concern, perhaps, for young readers) lends credibility and gives a sense of each man’s voice, especially Barkley’s, but the constant shifting of players’ stories often gets confusing. While the book is written chronologically—from the start of the season to the playoffs—there is no tension regarding the outcome, and no new insight to team play or the game play itself. Keepin’ It Real is a disquieting look at the future of basketball, mainly because the five poor-little-rich-boy stories offer minimal joy or hope. What stays with the reader is ultimately a frustrated statement by Webber: “If this is what it takes to be a star, I don’t want it. I reached my dream and made it to the NBA and if I can’t have this and be happy, I don’t want it.”

Pub Date: April 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-380-97714-1
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1999


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