Can’t Knock the Hustle: Inside the Season of Protest, Pandemic, and Progress with the Brooklyn Nets’ Superstars of Tomorrow

Dey St. Jul. 2021. 352p. ISBN 9780063036802. $27.99. SPORTS
Going beyond the on-court plays, sports reporter Sullivan analyzes the NBA’s culture and power dynamics through the lens of the 2019–20 Brooklyn Nets season. He describes a player empowerment movement that’s at the center of the present-day NBA, in which players (rather than owners or the league office) dictate business ventures, their own futures, and social agendas. NBA superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are Sullivan’s primary focus here; Durant struggles with coming back from an injury, while Irving questions basketball’s importance in his life, and the death of Kobe Bryant impacts Irving and other current stars mentored by Bryant. The narrative also introduces lesser-known Nets player Garrett Templeton, who pushes for social justice reform. Sullivan writes that many NBA players became more politically active after the murder of George Floyd and debated how to address the Hong Kong protests and whether to boycott the NBA’s Disney Bubble experiment, with views that differed based on players’ economic standings and social justice beliefs.
VERDICT A must-read for its in-depth look at the mental, economic, and political tribulations of NBA players. A good complement to Ben Golliver’s Bubbleball that will give readers a full understanding of the struggles and dynamics of the 2019–20 NBA season.
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