Wednesday, November 11, 2009

DWG Book Review: When the Game was Ours

One of the first books I reviewed this year was "When March went Mad", a book about Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and their year's in college, so it's appropriate that one of the last books I review this year is "When the Game was Ours", this time by Magic Johnson and Larry Bird (and Jackie McMullen), this time with the two superstars giving telling their own stories.  And why not?  Growing up, Magic was my idol.  I always wanted to make the extra pass rather than scoring, and it always had to be a no-looker.  I had Magic's autobiography and read it several times, I had a bunch of videos that I could put in on a random weekend and watch his highlights, and I had enough Magic shirts that I could have worn one every day and not had to do laundry for a solid week.  Needless to say, I was looking forward to this book.

And it really doesn't disappoint.  The book gives you a little bit of everything.  College recruiting is touched on, and there's a very interesting tidbit in here about Magic and the University of Minnesota I will elaborate on in a minute.  The playoff battles (Magic's baby hook and filling in for Kareem, the Bird Steal and Memorial Day Massacre) are here, but rather than a huge play-by-play breakdown, you get more of what was going on within the team and on the sidelines.  There's also some very cool stuff from the Dream Team in here.  Perhaps most interesting however, at least to me as someone who knows so much about these guys' careers already, is everything that has happened from retirement until the present time.

Magic talks about his struggles with HIV, and how hurt he was by certain players reactions (I won't go into the Isiah stuff, that's been covered by everyone) and touched by others, as well as giving you a look at how emotionall hard this hit Bird and his teammates.  It really hits you how rough this was, or at least it did me since I was a 15 year old who idolized him, and was suddenly expecting him to die soon - I wore every one of those Magic shirts for the next two weeks straight.  Outside of that, it goes into his struggles to reach today's players when he took over as coach and in his ill-fated comeback attempt, and also goes into Bird's coaching plan - he would only coach three years because he said "players stop listening after three years."  Bird's reaction to the Artest melee and his current activities within the organization are here as well.

If this review feels a bit disjointed and rambling, that's because it's tough to wrap my head around how much information is in this book and how to lay it out in a relatively short review.  I mean, it's just 340 pages, and into those they pack the careers of two of the greatest players the NBA has ever scene, who started their rivalry in college and burned right through the 80s as the two best teams in the league and have continued to be relevant since their playing days were over.  You could have tripled the page count and it would still be a compelling read.  I can't recommend this highly enough. 

The last thing I want to mention is the the recruiting tidbit I hinted at above.  In the book, Magic mentions he took an officialy recruiting visit to the University of Minnesota when he was a high school senior (which I didn't know), hung out with Mychal Thompson and a bunch of students, and called it "the best recruiting visit I took" but that he "just couldn't go anywhere other than Michigan or Michigan State."  Damn.  I desperately wanted a chance to ask him about this on a teleconference interview with him and Bird that I was lucky enough to be a part of, but it turns out when someone like me is on the list with ESPN, The Sporting News, and a multitude of major newspaper writers, I don't exactly rank anywhere near the top of the "get to ask a question" list, and didn't get that chance.

Seriously, can you imagine Magic in maroon & gold?


Anonymous said...

not even a mention of the Isiah v Magic stuff? What about the regret for not going to play for Bob Knight? No you take the gay homer angle, SO predictABLE.

WWWWWW said...


Anonymous said...

Clearly anon here has never read this blog before. And honestly why are you coming here for you super in-depth book review?????

Anonymous said...

I read the book, I knew by the scroll that WWWWW was reading the book and once I saw the headline I though it would be nice to hear another's take on it. I was met with nothing but dissapointment.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to DWG, best place to meet dissappointment outside of North Dakota

WWWWWW said...

Sorry man. The HIV stuff was huge for me because I can still remember breaking down in tears that day, and the Minnesota stuff was really interesting too.

If you have any questions about anything else, feel free to ask.

T-Lits said...

BREAKING DOWN IT TEARS???? I think we know who else has HIV! FAG!