• Can't Knock the Hustle

  • Inside the Season of Protest, Pandemic, and Progress with the Brooklyn Nets' Superstars of Tomorrow
  • By: Matt Sullivan
  • Narrated by: Will Damron
  • Length: 10 hrs and 13 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (75 ratings)

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Can't Knock the Hustle

By: Matt Sullivan
Narrated by: Will Damron
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Publisher's Summary

“Brilliantly audacious...written with the profundity of a sage baller and the acuity of a seasoned journalist.” (Kiese Laymon, New York Times best-selling author of Heavy)

An award-winning journalist's behind-the-scenes account from the epicenter of sports, social justice, and coronavirus, Can't Knock the Hustle is a lasting chronicle of the historic 2019-2020 NBA season, by way of the notorious Brooklyn Nets and basketball's renaissance as a cultural force beyond the game.

The Nets were already the most intriguing start-up in the NBA: a team of influencers, entrepreneurs, and activists, starring the controversial Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. But this dynasty-in-the-making got disrupted by the unforeseen. One tweet launched an international scandal, pitting the team's Chinese owner and the league's commissioner against its players and LeBron James. The sudden death of Kobe Bryant, after making his final public appearance in Brooklyn, sent shockwaves through a turbulent season.

Then came the unimaginable. A global pandemic and a new civil-rights movement put basketball's trend-setting status to the ultimate test, as business and culture followed the lead of the NBA and its empowered stars. No team intersected with the extremes of 2020 quite like the Brooklyn Nets, and Matt Sullivan had a courtside view.

Can't Knock the Hustle crosses from on the court, where underdogs confront A-listers like Jay-Z and James Harden, to off the court, as players march through the streets of Brooklyn, provoke Donald Trump at the White House, and boycott the NBA's bubble experiment in Disney World. 

Hundreds of interviews - with Hall-of-Famers, All-Stars, executives, coaches, and power-brokers across the world - provide a backdrop of the NBA's impact on social media, race, politics, health, fashion, fame, and fandom, for a portrait of a time when sports brought us back together again, like never before. 

©2021 Matt Sullivan (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers

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What listeners say about Can't Knock the Hustle

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good history and narrative shifting

I enjoyed the book and gained a depth of insight into the read world of NBA basketball. The book provides a good history of professional athletes and activism, rooted in NBA basketball, while simultaneously delving into today’s players and the major shifts in society that they’ve been confronted with. Ultimately, it humanizes them as more than the media narrative—especially in the case of stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant—and positions them as (mostly) Black men aiming to use their platform for something good but not knowing how, not wanting to make the sacrifice, or pursuing activism and suffering consequences for it. It shifts the scrutiny to capitalism, media, and NBA ownership, and focuses on how they take advantage of Black players and limit their activism. In the end, I have more questions especially looking at how the NBA looks post-bubble and I imagine many of these players have more story to tell.

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Thoughts and prayers

The execution of an idea is generally more useful than the idea itself - except, of course, when the idea IS its own execution. A prayer doesn’t need follow through like a jump shot, but an audiobook does. Much like Kyrie Irving’s own minefield of expression, this audiobook sounds like it knows what I want, but it doesn’t quite deliver. It is very difficult to read between the lines of a text message or Instagram post, which is a problem we all find ourselves facing from time to time. The narrator’s performance grates upon “Death Row” group texts like a tone deaf journalist from the Ivy League. Sure, the content is wildly expansive, and Matt Sullivan’s research is Robert Caro-level, but it would take someone who doesn’t understand the story to deliver certain casual texts with such aplomb. This story doesn’t have an ending at all, happy or otherwise, and the narrator’s lack of nuance ultimately speaks to the tone deafness of our age; better to speak loudly and not carry a stick than to not speak at all, he seems to say.

The audience is unlikely to judge a story by the timbre of its narrator’s voice, but it is interesting to hear the overtones nonetheless. It’s as if the narrator was picked for a millennial consciousness, rather than a universal one. We tend to judge history by its last minute, rather than its last decade or century. From afar, everything seems equally minute or gigantic, but upon further review we are subjected to the inequities of time and place. Context, be it racial, environmental, economic, social, or historical, is big enough to swallow content whole in almost every scenario of life. And so we find ourselves glued to the minute, to the millisecond, waiting for more stories when we could realize they were set in distant realities. This underpins the performance here; we are as beholden as we want to be to time, to fame, to justice, to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving or to whatever master(s) we serve. But context does not spoonfeed us; we must go to it, or it will elude us in perpetuity.

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Great listen.

Great listen with inside information shared throughout the book. A must listen for NBA fans.

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Gets beyond the usual narratives

Most sports reporting is tedious click baity and terrible. This books gets to the heart.

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Great Insights

For an average sports fan, Sullivan gives detailed insight into the day by day thought process that superstore athletes go through as they maneuver the avenues of superstardom as well as every day life. Disassembling the argument of “enough money eliminates stress”, this publication allows you to be a fly on the wall of sorts to see real time decisions being made buy some of the most well-known names across sports today.