The first sentence of Larry Bird
's candid post-player memoir begins blandly enough: "On August 18, 1992, I announced my retirement from the Boston Celtics." It's the one that follows--"It was one of the happiest days of my life"--that sets the tone for the book. Most stars have to be pulled off center stage, but as Bird Watching
makes clear, the former Celtic legend who returned home to eventually coach the Indiana Pacers is certainly a rare bird. He's not afraid to ruffle feathers. And he's not afraid to tell his truth.
Perhaps the most striking revelations concern his heart. On top of the back pain that plagued him through much of his career, from time to time Bird experienced the feeling--and disorienting flush--of an irregular heartbeat, which he kept hidden from the Celtics. Even now, in the stress-filled world of coaching, Bird has almost passed out on the bench a couple of times--but he remains a fierce competitor. "I'm not going to be stupid about this heart condition, but I'm not going to live my whole life in fear of this thing either. If it goes, it goes."
Bird Watchingspends virtually no time with Bird the player; he's not one for looking back. He's more interested in explaining his evolution and thinking as a coach, examining the current state of the NBA, and picking apart the Pacer's disastrous 1999 playoff loss to the Knicks. He does, however, reminisce about his amazing connection to Magic Johnson, comparing it to the bond between Ali and Frazier. "I knew it was going to be like that forever after I played him in college for the national championship," Bird writes. "I never came up against anyone, other than Magic, who could challenge me mentally. Magic always took me to the limit." From Bird, it's hard to imagine a more heartfelt compliment. --Jeff Silverman
From Publishers Weekly
Fans expecting the literary highlight reel of the NBA legend's championship years with the Boston Celtics may be initially put off by this loosely organized collection of opinions and reminiscences. They should stick with it, however, because ultimately the book is an endearingly honest self-portrait of a humble man who has made the most of his opportunities. Celtic fans will be titillated by the frank reports of just how Larry Legend wound up leaving Boston. Being a give-it-to-me-straight kind of guy, he was disgusted with the disingenuous ways of the Celtic front office, where he briefly worked after his playing days. Bird, now the head coach of the Indiana Pacers, also explains, quite briskly, how his relationship with fellow Celtic Kevin McHale went sour: as their careers wound down, McHale and another teammate went behind Bird's back to reporters with complaints that his play had become selfish. But Bird's refusal to pull punches doesn't hit only his adversaries: he admits that he was lucky that his good friend Rick Robey was traded away from the Celtics, because the good times they had together got in the way of Bird's career. He also writes that not he, but Jerry Sloan of the Utah Jazz should have been named Coach of the Year in 1998. The Hick from French Lick solidifies his reputation as a straight-talker unimpressed with his own legend. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.