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
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The basketball player-turned-coach shares his thoughts on his NBA career and offers insights into the game, its strategies, and today's NBA players, coaches, and teams.