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

By Larry Platt

published by Avon Books

304 pages, 1999

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Is the NBA Ready for Y2K?

Reviewed by Jonathan Shipley


The sports page looks different than it used to. Next to the box score there is a police blotter. Players with attitudes are not only scoring big points on the court, they're souring the sport off the court with antics involving drug busts, sex abuse charges, assaults, wrestling promotions, and issues of power. Larry Platt's new book, Keepin' It Real, takes a look at the NBA and the turbulence that surrounds it.

Michael Jordan is gone. A lockout knocked out half of the season. Dennis Rodman has worn a wedding dress. The NBA is in trouble. Platt believes the NBA is destroying itself from within and that, even with the lockout settled, the league is volatile and tumultuous at best.

Platt, who followed the NBA for a full year, with interesting behind-the-scenes footage, looks at five different players -- Jerry Stackhouse, Matt Maloney, Charles Barkley, Chris Webber, and Vernon Maxwell -- and tries to answer the question: What is wrong with the NBA? What will happen to it? The stories illuminate the playing field; shining the spotlight on what is right and wrong with the NBA and what will occur as the league enters the year 2000.

Through the players eyes we see the NBA as never before. Jerry Stackhouse reveals the pressures and stress a marquee player faces day in and day out on the court. Through Vernon Maxwell we see how these pressures wreak havoc not only on the court but within the players' personal lives. With Barkley, Maloney, and Webber, the reader is privy to all of the pressures, failures, thrills, and day-to-day life of an NBA player. They discuss the rampant drug use, the money, and how life on the streets -- filled with gangs and violence -- has entered the arena.

Larry Platt is a great journalist. He knows his subject well and he talks about it with integrity and without the slanted ravings of sports fans and critics. He's objective and lets the player's lives speak the story of the NBA. The book discusses the issues like a fine lob, that, in turn, makes a slam dunk. Full of interesting tidbits on the day-to-day activities of the people we see on Wheaties boxes, Keepin' It Real is real. It isn't the sugar-coated NBA commercials of wide-eyed kids staring up at their basketball idols saying "I still love this game!" It's real and that's what makes the book a surefire winner. | March 1999



Jonathan Shipley is a graduate of Washington State University and the editor of the literary magazine Odin's Eye. Shipley works for The Seattle Times and anticipates the day when he'll write his own novel for others to review.