This book (as the title would imply) is about basketball. Or I suppose I should say it's about life, but told through the story of a basketball player. Not surprisingly, then, it is set in the sort of place where "hoop dreams" are often a big part of teen life. It is set in the inner city of New York, and specifically in Harlem.
The neighborhood where the main character lives has the usual set of problems that go with urban poverty. There are drug dealers and crime and such and Slam, the main character, has to make his way through all of that (and other problems) to try to fulfill his dreams.