During the sweltering summer of seventeen-year-old Paul Volponi's life, he had only goal-he wanted, no, needed to become a legitimate and respected New York City street basketball player. It was a passion that consumed him night and day, and at times even isolated him from his friends and family. So he entered through the gates of the Proving Ground, the roughest streetball yard in the city. It was a place where the fouls resembled felonies, and the atmosphere mirrored that of the Roman Coliseum more than Madison Square Garden. It was where teens and adults contested pickup games with a ferocity seemingly greater than that of the NBA Finals. The Proving Ground was a difficult place to cultivate friendships and an easy environment to make enemies.
This is the story of Paul's summer-long initiation at the Proving Ground. It is truly a streetball testament of a teenager who wanted more than anything else to earn his stripes in streetball society. Only what he didn't understand at the time was that this experience would deliver to him, as it does today for so many young adults, a set of skills that would enhance his life far beyond the boundaries of a basketball court.