Monday, December 28, 2015

"When you think you have done enough, do a little more, because someone out there is working harder than you"

I just finished reading When The Game Was Ours (2010) by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson (and Jackie MacMullan). Somehow I had forgotten that the book existed, but when I stumbled upon it making my Christmas list, I didn't think twice about ordering the intertwined memoir. As you may or may not know, I am somewhat of a Celtics fan (evidenced here), with Hall of Fame forward Larry Bird aka The Hick From French Lick my No. 1 Celtic of all time. The undeniable skills, the trash talk, the court vision, the shooting prowess, the work ethic, the fuzzy moustache ... Larry Legend aka The Great White Hope is basketball. I couldn't wait to learn more about Bird and of course his heated rivalry with eternal adversary Earvin "Magic" Johnson and the Showtime Lakers.

The skinny

Before Michael Jordan took over the NBA in the 1990s, the league belonged to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Bird, the Indiana native who attended Indiana State and was selected with the #6 pick by the Boston Celtics in 1978, and Magic, the Michigan native who attended Michigan State and was selected with the #1 overall pick in 1978 collected 8 NBA championships and 6 NBA MVP's between them from 1979-1980 through 1987-1988. Both helped save the NBA at its most critical time, starting as bitter rivals on opposite ends of the Celtics vs Lakers/East vs West/physical vs finesse/Old School vs Showtime/white vs black spectrums, but along the way becoming lifelong friends. Bird was ultimately slowed down by chronic back problems and Magic contracted HIV, cutting short their respective careers.

The review

I friggin' loved this book. Jackie MacMullen does a wonderful job of weaving together Bird's and Magic's recollections with those of dozens of observers to give us a fly-on-the-wall look at the their fascinatingly intertwined lives. I particularly enjoyed Larry Bird's country boy swagger -- or what else would you call him swinging on sloppy team mates or him and his Indiana State team interrupting a Michigan State practice in jeans, boots and ten-gallon cowboy hats? And of course there's Bird's legendary trash talk. As MacMullan reveals the inner workings of two players dead set on besting one another, we learn how the competition drove them and catapulted the league to a higher profile. Very detailed and definitely worth your while!

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to watch Magic Johnson and Larry Bird: A Courtship of Rivals Basketball on YouTube. 

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