Friday, 22nd February 2019

Retro Reviews: When the Game Was Ours

Posted on 05. Jul, 2018 by FSM Staff in General Sports, NBA

Retro Reviews: When the Game Was Ours

Reading this book has the same effect as stepping in to a time machine and setting the dial for any year in the 1980’s. Sure, there is some discussion of 1979, the early nineties, and a few events in this century, but for the most part, When the Game Was Ours is a beautifully written sports chronicle anchored in one of the greatest eras in NBA history. There is a beginning and an end to the story of Magic Johnson versus Larry Bird, but it is the middle of the journey that is the highlight of this collaboration written by Johnson, Bird, and sports journalist (as well as Around the Horn alumni) Jackie MacMullan.

The book is easy to follow and alternates between Magic and Bird’s anecdotes. It is a nice treat for sports fans to hear directly from both men about some of the biggest moments in NBA history. Many famous and not so famous names pop up throughout the voyage. Both Magic and Larry are straight forward and pull no punches. This is not one of those “dirt” books however. Besides some disturbing comments Magic makes about Isiah Thomas during the time of his HIV announcement, When the Game Was Ours is relatively drama free.

The impact of Magic and Bird’s rivalry on the struggling NBA in the early 80’s is well documented in this book. Former league commissioner David Stern’s role in turning the NBA’s fortunes around is discussed many times as well. Sports fans will have a new respect for Stern after reading this tale. His intelligence and creativity helped bring the NBA brand back in to the mainstream and his attempts to globalize the league are truly groundbreaking in sports.

There is also talk about Michael Jordan in this book though not as much as one might expect. This should not be too surprising however as this is not his book. When the Game Was Ours is based solely on events experienced mutually between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Those events usually involved the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, though this book is not exclusive to that storied rivalry. You will bump in to many familiar names and happenings from the last thirty years as you read and everything and everyone will always somehow connect back to Magic and Bird. That is the beauty of this book and this story. Magic and Bird’s fierce rivalry and eventual friendship transcended basketball and had an impact on many aspects of social life.

When the Game Was Ours is highly recommended for both casual and avid readers. You do not have to be a sports fan to appreciate the story that is being told. There is nothing complex or cryptic about Jackie MacMullan’s writing style. She tells a famous tale in simple fashion. There is an accurate account of events and her descriptions often conjured up some of my favorite NBA memories that I had completely forgotten about. Many direct quotes from NBA greats are included as well which is an added bonus. It was nice to get insight from people besides Johnson and Bird when certain topics were being discussed. For 324 pages you will be transported to a time when the game truly belonged to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Some of the highlights of your trip will include:

*1979 NCAA Championship Game between Indiana State and Michigan State

*1984 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers

*1985 “Choose Your Weapon” Converse commercial where the Magic/Bird friendship begins

*1987 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers

*1992 NBA All Star Game in Orlando, Florida where Magic comes back for the first time after announcing he is HIV positive

*1992 Dream Team going for Olympic Gold in Barcelona, Spain

In Review: Pistol

Posted on 14. Aug, 2010 by FSM Staff in General Sports, NBA

In Review: Pistol

Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich takes the reader on a surprising journey through light and dark while telling the tale of a basketball legend that will not be soon forgotten. Perhaps the quote that appears on the soft cover version of this intriguing biography written by Mark Kriegel summarizes this literary effort best by stating that, “His game was lordly, inimitable, and he should have been the greatest player to ever play the game. This great book will explain why he was not…”

I was excited to read this book for a few reasons. Primarily I wanted to learn a little more about the legendary Pistol Pete as he terrorized opponents in the NBA before my time as a fan (and as a human being). Secondarily, the book’s first couple of pages are lined with nearly 50 quotes from people in the media who are singing its praises. I figured so many experts couldn’t be wrong and delved in to 323 pages of basketball history with high expectations.

Pistol reads more like a chronicle than a biography. Many names and dates are hurled at the reader often times disrupting the flow of the narrative. Kriegel succeeds in providing a highly detailed account of Pete Maravich’s life but it comes at a cost. This is not the typical page turning sports biography which may be unappealing to a less seasoned reader. It is more of a textbook about the Maravich family beginning with a lengthy background about Pistol’s notorious father Press Maravich and ending with a melancholy update on what the Pistol’s two sons have been up to in the last few years.

It would be impossible to tell the story of Pistol Pete without mention of his hard driving father and the turmoil he was experiencing in his family life. Kriegel documents a number of incidents and relays many tales when only a few would have sufficed. The thesis of Pistol is perfectly clear and its themes reoccur on nearly every page. Before the reader makes it half way through this book, they will have a good understanding of all the demons the Pistol was dealing with. After a while, the stories of demons become overkill. Pistol takes on a dark tone, and maybe rightfully so, but it would have been nice to read more about Maravich’s exploits as a professional basketball player and the magic he created on the hardwood.

Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich has great historical value for fans of the college and professional game. It answers a multitude of questions including why a guy as talented and skilled as Pete Maravich never won a title or why he will never be considered in the same breath as Michael Jordan or Wilt Chamberlain. But people looking for a quick read or page-turner should try finding their fix elsewhere. Pistol is recommended for avid fans of basketball and sports historians only. The fringe would be better suited to remember Pete Maravich by watching YouTube highlights or the occasional feature on ESPN Classic.


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