When The Game Was Ours: Larry Bird and Magic Johnson

Uploaded by MSLawdotedu on 05.09.2010

welcome to books of our time brought to you by the massachusetts school of law and seen
today we shall discuss a book called when the game was ours
the book is an unprecedented collaboration between n_b_a_ greats
larry bird and magic johnson who gave first-hand accounts of their parallel
careers and the affect each had on the other
with me to discuss it's the book is its author jackie macmullan a nationally
recognized sports columnist both for ESPN and previously the boston globe
and I am holly vietzke a professor at the massachusetts school of law
welcome jackie thank you for joining us thanks for having me holly my first question is
bird and magic
last played against each other competitively fifteen more than fifteen
years ago
what gave you the idea to do the book now
well honestly it's been something that's been going
on for quite a while to be honest with you holly it was something that we thought
about six seven years ago magic came to me magic has always got his wheels in
motion and he said you know I've always wanted to do a project with larry
we want to do a coffee table book so we need someone to just write a few words you
know twenty thousand words would you do that and i said well sure I'd be happy to do
well on we go
and the project gets going and there was a calamity of errors that i
won't go into here but many things went wrong
and the project fell apart
and i always say
what a blessing it was that it did because then we got to do the real book
which is the book that i always wanted to do and that was to chronicle
their parallel lives
and the fact that these two players were so intertwined with one another
that you couldn't think about one without the other
did you sit down with them together how did you conduct the interviews
or did you do it separately a little bit of both it's very hard to get them together
and so there was very little of that and you know i really think in the end it
was advantageous because
you sit down with larry and you start asking him
very personal questions about magic if earvin was sitting right there
i'm not sure I would've gotten the same response so i went out to
spent two-and-a-half days with larry stayed at his home
went to dinner with his family interviewed him had you know quite a bit of
flew out to
magic's dana point resort stayed he put me up in the most glamorous
hotel he could find it's kind of indicative of their two personalities honestly
uh spent about three days with him and that's where we started
then i went back to larry with all the things that earvin had told me
i went back to earvin with the
the other things that larry told me
and then you start interviewing the players the coaches the childhood friends uh
I think i interviewed over a hundred people
for this book
besides earvin and larry
and you know anyone that's done a project likethis will tell you
the best stuff always comes from somebody else it's pretty hard to talk about yourself
yeah you've covered larry during
his career here but how did magic
come to ask you to
be a well I knew magic pretty well in fact i used to joke that uh our magic talked to
me even more than larry did even though i was covering larry on the beat here for the
boston globe
you know whenever the lakers came to town over the years because i covered
the n_b_a_ so frequently earvin got to know me pretty well and
and unlike larry
if earvin would come to town he'd say so jackie what's going on tell me you
know he wanted to know all the gossip in the celtics locker room and all the gossip through the league
and he would seek me out before a game and talk to me for ten fifteen minutes
oftentimes with larry I was never even sure he knew my name
so I often had more conversations with earvin during that time than i did
with larry
now most people believe that the first time they met
larry and magic was the nineteen seven ninety NCAA championship
but you write in your book that that's not the case no it wasn't actually
in uh the year the summer before they both played on an all-star team
it was a classic made for television event um it was called the WIT the world
invitational tournament
and what it was was a group of college all-stars playing international teams
well they picked um
joe b. hall the kentucky coach to be the coach of that team 'cause his
kentucky team had just won the national championship
just days before that
so joe b. hall picked his team and of course picked five of his own players
and then dave gavitt and some others filled in some of the other players
larry bird got chosen
earvin johnson got chosen darryl griffith bailey james bailey some big names
in in college basketball sidney moncrief was on the team
so earvin and and larry met for the first time at that event
and uh but barely spoke to one another as again typical larry larry would get on
the bus and say hello and nothing else
earvin would get on the bus with his boom box dancing he was the youngest player
on the team
but clearly the most precocious nonetheless
now as magic put it larry
and magic uh dominated and embarrassed the starters during practices but why were they relegated
to the bench during games well you know it's interesting joe b. hall
just was convinced that his kentucky team they had just won the championship they were
the best players
and it didn't matter that in practice
larry and magic were really embarrassing
some of those starters
kyle macy and rick robey to be specific those two players in particular
and uh they would kill'em in practice and yet when the starting line up came out
macy and robey's names were always written in
and it used to really frost larry in particular he was really ticked off
but he figured well you know what
the heck with this guy i'm just going to have my fun in practice so that's what
they had to settle for
how did current boston globe columnist bob ryan
get larry on that team what was the connection there well you know
it was funny larry was playing for indiana state and of course putting up
big big big numbers back then
and uh...
but remember
this isn't this is the year before the national championship the undefeated
so people are
paying attention but not really 'cause they they figured that conference that indiana
played in wasn't a very big conference
but ryan's a basketball genius
an aficionado and he knew better and he kept hearing from the celtics about this kid larry
so when he was covering the n_c_a_ tournament
uh nearby he took a drive out to indiana state and he watched them play in the NIT
he watched larry bird play for three minutes
and said oh my god
this guy's unbelievable
now the funny part is most of the rest of the country thought
larry bird was african-american 'cause they'd never seen him play on TV he was never on
and what was the boston connection to that tournament
boston connection well larry red auerbach showed up at that tournament
and uh...
he was walking down the steps
and the players are walking up the steps and michael corn nudged larry bird and said wow look look
there's red
larry said red who and he said that's red auerbach he's the president of the celtics
larry said oh okay whatever but larry didn't realize was red was there to see him
never knew it didn't know who red auerbach was larry didn't know anybody outside of french lick
now it could have happened that larry and magic would have played together on the
same college team we all know how larry left indiana twenty four days after
starting but how did bobby knight lose magic too
well i'm not sure if bobby knight lost magic magic might've lost bobby knight uh
you bobby knight did want to come talk to earvin
uh came to his high school
told his his his high-school coach I'll be there at I think he told him two o'clock
and of course showed up at one o'clock and started roaming the halls and he wanted
to see earvin johnson in his own setting and watch this
this kid who was supposed to be this great player
and what he saw was a pied piper all the kids following him and
you know really
adul you know a lot of adulation going on in the hallways but
clearly could see that earvin was a leader born leader
so they get them to sit down in the cafeteria and earvin's a nervous wreck
okay because he's seen this guy on t_v_
crazy going yelling screaming at everybody throwing stuff and he was nervous about
meeting coach knight
but the coach knight that showed up at his high school was affable and friendly
and funny
and went out of his way to make
both earvin and his high school coach feel very very comfortable george fox
remarked later he couldn't believe how nice he was
so they were sitting there talking very amiably with with each other and
a lot lot of small talk and finally
bobby knight's tone changed immediately and he said okay earvin where the hell are you going to school
so this caught both magic and his coach a little uh
he wasn't really prepared for that
and you know earvin told him the truth he said you know coach i don't know if i can play
for you i i i i see you screaming at those other players and
i don't know if that's really what i want I I don't know if that's something i can handle
so knight kind of looked a him a little bit and cocked his head and
straightened out is a shirt
stood up shook the coaches hand and left
and that was the end of the conversation and i think
I think the message was you know what son
you don't want to play for me at indiana
i'll go find someone who does
and what was denny crum denny crum's recruiting tactic for bird
well bird
really didn't want to leave the state of indiana the only you know what the only
school that he would have considered outside of the state was kentucky
well denny crum was smart
he really wanted bird to just come for a visit he figured if he could just get him
on campus that he'd be able to convince him to go play there
bird wanted no part of it now he liked denny crum he thought denny crum was pretty
funny and he'd known him through his international play
they they had crossed paths
but he uh he just uh
he didn't really understand
why he should go to louisville when he knew he wasn't going to go there
so he said I'll have a free throw contest we'll have a shooting contest
and whoever wins we'll play horse
and whoever wins if if i win
I don't have to go to louisville if I lose
i'll come for a visit
and bird's figuring you know this little guy no problem
well what he didn't know was denny crum
had played for john wooden at u_c_l_a_and was a pretty darn good shooter
so it took a it took a while but of course
as always
bird hits the last shot
crum misses the last shot
bird has the final word
and he never went to louisville
not even for a visit
so you mentioned kentucky why didn't he go to kentucky
i think he would have liked to i think it would've been interesting to see uh
had joe b. hall continued on his recruitment of larry bird
he did go there for a visit with his parents
and of course you can imagine his his mom and dad sitting in rupp arena
which is the loudest place i have ever been
for a college basketball game
the whole building shakes
and there he was sitting there with his parents and they come rumbling out and
the place goes crazy and of course the birds have never seen anything like this
in their life
and kentucky wins the game and
and bird had watched kentucky on television with his dad on occasion and
was incredibly impressed
and went back and thought you know maybe i could go to school there
joe b. hall did you know have that one visit with him
but then later on through his high school coach
got word to bird that you know what
we just think you're a little too slow we're not sure you can get your shot off in
the s_e_c_ so uh
we're not going to recruit you anymore
and bird with his very long and stubborn memory
never forgot it and couldn't wait to settle the score with joe b. hall
never got a chance because his team never did play kentucky ever
was he extra motivated then in the WIT playing when he learned that hall was the
coach well he was mad he actually i think I think for a
moment he probably considered not even playing because he figured what kind of
chance would i have and he was kinda right joe b. hall didn't really give
him much of a chance
so how did you track down
magic and larry's
former college teammates
oh that was a little harder than the pro teammates in so many of the pro teammates I knew
i've i've known all these years
the college guys were a little harder
usually one would lead to another you know some the trainer of the
indian state was instrumental in helping me find a lot of the college teammates
larry wasn't much help at all because he really doesn't keep in touch with
too many of his college teammates
had numbers but they were all old and out of date so it was just a lot of good
old-fashioned leg work and it it took some time
and some of them i never did track down
bill hodges for instance larry's college coach
i must've called him twenty-five times he worked for a school a high school in
and never could track him down he never returned my calls and i knew he worked there
'cause i'd spoken to the secretary
and uh what i found out later was that there was there was another book that had come out
written by seth davis a fine writer who wrote about
bird and magic
and i think bill hodges felt a
loyalty to seth
and also i found out from larry later on that he had asked larry bird for a job in
the pacer's organization and larry wasn't able to find him one and bird speculated that
perhaps that's why hodges wouldn't uh
you know contribute to larry's book
were you surprised to learn about the jealousy among his teammates
birds teammates in college not so much it it seemed
to me it was self-evident because
you heard so much about larry ducking out not talking to the media
and i think he did that because he was getting too much attention and
knowing larry the way i do
he was a guy that just wanted to play and leave me alone and of course that was never
possible because
you know he was this sensation
and so it was i think almost expected there would be some jealousy
among larry's teammates and among earvin's teammates
talk about the billy tubbs press conference
the after the n_c_a_a_ game between michigan state and lamar yeah lamar now
so billy tubbs was known
much better years in later years as the coach of oklahoma
he uh...
he's going to play michigan state now you gotta remember back then not everybody's on tv as we already discussed so
so it's really hard to scout these teams so there was a great basketball mind named bill burke
who was who went still is with the lakers in some capacity wonderful basketball mind he started a scouting service 0:12:37.010,0:12:41.650 and so he sent uh you know lamar wanted one of the scouting services of michigan
state well it so happens the day that they sent their service to michigan state
they were playing indiana
and it became apparent to jud heath coat right away that they
that that bob knight was not going to let them run their usual fast-break team
so he played a slow it
walk it up kind of style of basketball
so the man working for the scouting service who was watching this game
wrote in his report correctly for that game
that michigan state was a walk it up the floor kind of team
well of course they were anything but that they were all about transition
and fast-break and trapping and
they had you know all so
so the the uh scouting report that billy tubs for michigan state couldn't have
been any more wrong and he actually
ripped it up
in the post-game press conference and said this was useless and and he was right it
explain how a detroit sportswriter prepared magic for his NBA career
well earvin you gotta remember now earvin's um finishes his sophomore year at michigan state
they win the national championship
and there's a lot of pressure for him to go back for his junior season
greg kelser was graduating
he was a graduating senior he was going to try to go on to the
but a lot of the other players were coming back and there was really a lot of
pressure from the community for earvin to stay
so he took kind of a straw poll around and um with some help from julius erving and
some of the people that helped him and unrealized no i need to go pro
so when he made the announcement he was expecting it to be quite you know quite exciting in in
the area in and a coronation of sorts
but there was one sports writer who said uh i think it was joe falls who said
you know
he's not ready he can't shoot and by the way he was right at that time he really
couldn't shoot
he can't shoot
he uh... i'm not sure he's going to be able to get away with all those
histrionics dribbling the ball when he gets in the pros
he's a little too big for a point guard
i think he's too slow
and so talk about motivation and you know what
those kind of criticisms
weren't that far off the mark because
as a as a college player earvin really wasn't a good perimeter shooter he had to turn
himself into that
and his ball handling skills
weren't the best that was something he had to work on
but he had all the motivation he needed from all those press reports
and how did the chicago fans how were they largely responsible for johnson becoming a
well the poor chicago fans um they it was a coin flip to determine who was going to
get the number one pick now the lakers had someone else's pick they were not one
of the worst teams but the balls were they were one of the worst teams in the
league and the way they did it back then
now they do it differently of course they have a lottery
was a coin flip
and they had a little coin flip over a squawk box
in the n_b_a_ offices
and it was a question of heads or tails
and the chicago bulls
ever the promotional people
decide to let their fans pic
whether it should be heads or tails
so the fans
i forget i think they picked heads
if they picked heads it was tails
either way the chicago fans picked the wrong thing
and so the coin flip and the number one pick went to the los angeles lakers
can you imagine
michael jordan never would have played for the chicago bulls if they had earvin
magic johnson
michael jordan never would have played there so
they did ok chicago bulls in the end
bird is known during his n_b_a_ career for having remarkable ability to shoot
the ball
anywhere at any time hm mm
yet he says that he was a better shooter before the n_b_a_ why yeah he really was
he um
he was playing um softball with his buddy neil heaton he actually was filling in for
his college buddy neil heaten at this point larry is uh done with school he's doing his
student teaching um doing drivers ed and some other things at a high school high
local high school
so neil heaton asks him to come in and fill in for his softball team so he said sure well he
shows up and who's on the other team but his brother
so larry's playing out in the outfield and his brother hits this kinda spinning looping ball
almost like a tim wakefield knuckle ball it's just spinning all over the place
and larry tries to go down and make a basket catch
and his finger goes all the way back and he's like man
wow it really hurts and he looked down and his finger was completely just
dislocated and mangled and
you know he it really was bothering him he had to stop playing right away
and his brother came over and
and almost vomited just looking at him it was really really bad
so uh you know they took him to the emergency room they they strapped it up they taped it up and
and uh bird went out the next morning went morrell mushroom hunting 'cause it was
hunting season big-deal down in indiana do the morrell mushroom hunting
and by the time he came out of the woods late in the day they said where have you been they're
looking for you've shattered your knuckle you need surgery right away
so now remember he's been drafted by the celtics during this point but he has not
signed a contract yet
so he his his finger's in a bad way he has to have major surgery with clips put in and pins
and everything else
and he he ever tells the celtics this has happened
but you know sooner or later they get word
and they summon him to boston
and uh... and the trainer examines him and says then the team doctor examines him
and they stay to red auerbach this guy is damaged goods
now red's like really
so he says come on larry get dressed so larry puts on his stuff
red throws him the ball he goes out starts shooting from all over the floor he's hitting from
throws him a few bounce passes
has him throw a few overhead passes and he said
you look fine to me kid
and bird said great
but bird to this day will tell you he's never had the same feel for the
since he injured that finger
he said i've never been able to feel the ball quite the same way again so as
great as he was in the n_b_a_
pre softball career
larry bird might have even been greater
wow it's kind of unbelievable
now we know about his mangled finger and we also know about his achy back during his
career right
another injury that people probably assume is a result of a grueling n_b_a_
schedule but that wasn't the case was it well you know it's funny
bird's um very first back injury
was actually caused shoveling gravel in his backyard
he had put in a new basketball court in his home
and he had asked his brother eddie and some of his friends to spread the gravel
around there was a pool there too
and uh eddie didn't do it
eddie had you know he was a young kid he was lazy he just didn't get to it so bird was so angry he said
the heck with it i'll do it myself
and while he was shoveling gravel that's the first time he felt that that extreme pain
in his back
now i will tell you this
he had a congenital back problem
the canal that led through the the nerves to his spine
was too small
he was going to end up with those back problems anyway
but it was started in typical blue collar lunch pail style larry bird
shoveling his own gravel
while we're on the subject of his injuries
um there were two instances that you write about in the book that i found remarkable we all know
about game five against the pacers when i bird slammed his head on the floor and
came back
tell us about
del curry elbowing him and then about his toe infection in nineteen eighty five well he took an
elbow to the head and uh
he you know it hurt
he felt funny he couldn't really figure out what was going on it was you know he thought
he probably had a concussion of course and back then they'd just
get up and go play
uh... so he went into the locker room and said to the doc man this doesn't feel
right and he was having trouble he was seeing double a little bit but
he played he kept on playing
he got back into the locker room
he went to blow his nose
and literally his eye
came out of its socket he had just
completely destroyed his face and ended up having major surgery on his face
the next day but of course played through all that
but the toe story and and it was m.l. carr was in the trainer's room when
this happened
you know bird came out i think it was nineteen eighty five and said hey doc you know my foot
it's really bothering me and so you know
bird never complained
so doctor said alright well take off your shoe he took off his shoe he had this incredible
awful ugly horrific infection in his toe and he said larry my god where have you been why didn't you tell me
about this
bird said ahh i don't know i thought it would go away but you know it's not going away it really hurts he said
you have a very very serious infection listen i
i know you're going to play and stuff but i can take care of this right now we're
going to have to
do a we're going to have to get you some novocain or something 'cause I'm going to have to lance this thing right now i
have to cut your foot open
and bird said nah just throw me one of those beers over there that'll work
so he cracked open a beer
started drinking the beer and the doc cut him up
that's bird
we will be right back after this short break
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welcome back to our conversation with jackie macmullan on her recently published
book with magic johnson and larry bird
titled when the game was ours
we heard jackie tell the humorous stories of larry's toughness when it came to his injuries
but what i think people don't know is just how injured he was i'm going to read
now an excerpt of jackie's book about the famous mangled finger
after the procedure the doctor attempted to immobilize the finger by putting a clip
behind bird's fingernail
one evening while bird was watching television the clip gave way and the
fingernail ripped off
leaving bird yelping in pain and splattered with his own blood
the book mentioned several times about the personal rivalry between bird and magic
one that during their careers we might not have known about at what
did you realize just how competitive they were toward each other not just the
lakers and the celtics was it during the book not until i did this book i if there was one
thing people always ask me what surprised you most that would be it
i knew that earvin
was a little obsessed with with larry just from my conversations with him he
would ask me oh well what's larry been like this week and you know what has he got what kind of injuries
does he have this week he would ask a lot of questions
larry never let ever let on to any of us his teammates his coaches anybody
what he was thinking
so i wasn't shocked to learn that earvin had been charting larry very closely
but i was stunned to learn how jealous
larry was of earvin and you gotta remember he loses in an n_c_a_a_ championship
uh to earvin
then the next year they're rookies in the n_b_a_ they come out
they both have great years
but remember ervin's playing with kareem abdul-jabbar so he's second fiddle there
he's you know he's the facilitator he's not scoring a ton of points
bird on the other hand is the rookie sensation putting up numbers all over the
so not surprisingly when the rookie of the year voting comes in larry bird's
the winner
i think earvin kinda knew that would happen
but it's right during the n_b_a_ finals
and of course the the celtics are eliminated they've lost to the sixers
it's the lakers and the sixers are about to play game six
with kareem on crutches
and and magic about to play all five positions
and it's just before that he learns of the rookie of the year voting
so the p_r_ guy tells him you know you lost and earvin said no okay right was it
close and he said oh no
it was sixty three to three
well earvin was so upset
and so angry and so jealous that everybody thought larry bird was that
much better than him
that he told everybody that would listen
you want to see who the best rookie is
you watch me tonight
and of course he went out there and put on
perhaps no
I'm gonna say yes
the most remarkable performance of any rookie ever in the history of the n_b_a_
finals forty seven out of forty eight minutes
dominated the game played all five positions won the m_v_p_ and the lakers
won the championship
now meanwhile larry
is in boston
watching this game
which back then in nineteen eighty was on taped delay gives you an idea of
how far the n_b_a_ has come
but larry's in a in a bar restaurant with some friends and he knows the proprietor who was
able to get a live feed of the game into the restaurant so they're watching
it live
and he's sitting there watching magic dominate this game you know rebounding assists
and he is so angry and so irritated
that he goes home to dina his girlfriend and wakes her up and says you know
what i gotta win something 'cause in his mental scoreboard
earvin's up two to nothing
and he couldn't stand it
couldn't stand it he evened the score eventually he did
although the final score
in championships was five to three ervin which believe me if you want to
get larry upset just mention that
now magic discusses in the book uh his h_i_v_ announcement and how people's
attitudes and
reactions towards him change dramatically yes
you write about two instances relatively small gestures that really meant a lot
to magic can you talk about those
well you know you have to understand that he's a guy that loves to hug people
and touch people that's what he's about always has been about
he he embraces that um the public
whereas larry was always
you know almost claustrophobic with the public
and i think it was very painful for earvin for not only strangers to all of a sudden
not wanna
touch him or shake his hand but his own teammates even some of his friends to
really back off him he would go to hug them and they would stiffen up
and back away
so this was the kind of environment he was living in and his own
wouldn't work out with him because they were afraid to get their sweat on him
you know it just became a really difficult time in his life and
so he got used to you know he would always show up in his practice gear 'cause he
he just couldn't get basketball out of his system
and one day he was working out down at the end of the court by himself
and he hears somebody yell hey magic you want to do a little one on one and he looked down and
he couldn't believe it 'cause no one would go near him
and it was rony seikaly of the miami heat the young center from the miami heat who
was working out and wanted a partner and said hey earvin you know magic come down here with
me work out with me
and rony seikaly had no way of knowing
how much it meant to magic
that this young player
was willing to bang with him and to sweat with him and
and to work with him
and and then the other of course was pat riley his old coach
who was the coach of the new york knicks and uh
when they came to town
earvin was in town
riley and if you know riley he's just an incredible stickler about pre-game
preparation getting everything just right he spends hours before every game
reviewing the film of the opponent and everything
but on this day
he got changed into his practice gear
had earvin change into his practice gear and put him through one of the old
fashioned laker workouts for about two hours before the game
pretty much ignoring his responsibilities
as the coach of the knicks for that one day
and then in the pre-game
as they were getting ready
he did a wonderful video tribute called do you believe in magic and played that music
for magic on the on the big screen and
it was it was a great gesture from a man pat riley who usually doesn't another
guy very close to the vest more like larry then earvin really
um showing showing how much he cared about his point guard
everybody knows
how during the career of magic and isiah thomas were such good friends
magic calls thomas's
reaction to his h_i_v_ announcement the biggest disappointment of his life yeah why
well i think it was just
devastating to him earvin and uh
were the best of friends
when when the pistons used to come to l_a_ to play if the lakers were out of town
and and the pistons were coming to play the clippers
uh magic would leave him the keys to his house when he built his mansion he had a special
room built called the isiah room it was his guest room and it was for isiah
they they vacationed in the summer's together
their wives were friends you know they were very very close
they shared all their dreams together
but so
for for when this h_i_v_ announcement came and
as we just talked about the reaction of all these people around him people that he
thought were his friends
to back away and to shy away from him and then to find out
that isiah thomas the one guy he thought he was going to be able to count on through all
this to find out
that he was
earvin sexuality how he got this disease
and questioning people about it
it was devastating to him
and uh... i think you know when i talk to his wife cookie about it in
particular she said
the hurt
didn't go away from his face for a long long time
because at that point you're looking
who are my real friends
who are the people
that are willing to have my back no matter what
and interestingly enough
one of the biggest people was larry bird
how was he one of the biggest people
well you know what
the minute he found out about the diagnosis he wanted to talk to earvin
everybody else was like oh this is terrible can I talk to him well no he's busy
and larry said no no i need to speak with him
and he called him
you know wanted to talk to him
and of course earvin ended up cheering larry up 'cause larry was devastated by this
and what he did was
very quietly
'cause that's all larry does everything
during this time where people were really shying away from him
larry's the one that
sent him a little note
get a job or you know something a little funny like that
or make a phone call
or support him publicly by saying something nice about him in the papers
and it was there were subtle little things but there were things that
earvin desperately needed
hoe's he doing now
he's doing really really well there's no trace of the h_i_v_ virus in his system
which he's very excited about
but as he cautions and and every time i talk about this he asks me to do the same
he still takes his medication
he's never stopped taking his medication and he said one of the big mistakes of
the h_i_v_ population is
they start feeling good they
start feeling really good the medicine works
and there's some side effects from the medicine that aren't so great
so they think you know what I'm just going to go off the medicine 'till I start feeling
bad again
and that's a very dangerous thing to do
you need to stay on your medication
at all times
and because the relapse can be very serious and the last thing you want to do
obviously is contract
the aids virus itself
h_i_v_ is very different
than the full blown aids
but earvin's very smart about what he does he has a very specific regiment workout
a very specific diet much to his dismay he can't eat a lot of what he used to eat he was never a
drinker so that's not an issue
so he takes very good care of himself it's not by accident that he's got this
great health report because he takes it very seriously
the abbott corporation and johnson foundation created the we stand with magic campaign
this was created in two thousand six to reduce the rate of h_i_v_ and AIDS in the
african-american communities
magic and his wife cookie have made great changes in the public perception of
h_i_v_ take a look at these public service announcements
when i was first diagnosed with h_i_v_ cookie and I decided to fight this disease now we're
here to urge you
to stand with us
in the fight against HIV
in the U.S. about half of the new HIV cases have occurred
among african americans
get informed get tested early detection could save your life
if you test positive seek treatment from a doctor
ladies are you talking to your partner's about h_i_v_
two out of every three new HIV AIDS cases
in women are among black women
get informed get tested early detection can save your life if you test positive seek treatment from a doctor
join the campaign to end black AIDS a partnership between
Abbott and the magic johnson foundation
in nineteen ninety one earvin magic johnson founded a nonprofit
corporation called
the magic johnson foundation
this foundation works to develop programs and support community-based
organizations that address the educational health and social needs
of ethnically diverse urban communities
now let's look back in history to the time when magic and larry were in barcelona
what was magic's role in getting larry on the olympic team
well larry didn't want to play on that team you know his back was shot he was really in a bad
way in fact within a year after that he had major back surgery
uh actually within a month or two after that he had major back surgery
and he just didn't feel like he could play
he was having trouble practicing with the celtics he knew it was his last
season with the celtics nineteen ninety two
he didn't tell anybody that but he knew
he couldn't go on in fact he probably shouldn't have played that final year maybe
not even the final two years of his career
he you know he was in a position where he couldn't
drive more than ten feet when he'd have to get out of his car and stand up
he had to wear a fiber glass glass body brace
most of the time when he wasn't playing
so he just didn't feel like he was going to be able to be a contributer to the team
and everybody wanted him on dave gavit kept saying we need three-point shooters
they play zone in the olympics we really want you
but i i i think it was earvin that just said you know larry
it won't be the same without you
let me pass the ball to you one more time like we did in that world invitational
just to play one game with me
and then you don't have to play anymore
and i think
that and the combination of gavit
placing that little idea in his head oh okay they do play zone i can still shoot
i think those were the two things that convinced larry to to join them
and what was magic's role in getting larry on the newsweek cover
well the newsweek cover was really supposed to be
just uh earvin
and michael jordan
and then they started talking about maybe barkley
maybe david robinson some others
and uh earvin said you-know-what i'm not doing this cover unless larry bird's on it
and uh...
so that's how it went
larry bird earvin
I think michael and
i can't remember if barkley made the cut or not in the end
but those three you know earvin wasn't was going to do it unless larry
was was also represented
and why wasn't isiah thomas on the team even though he was clearly one of the best
players in the game at the time
well isiah was just an unpopular guy he wasn't someone that people uh got along
very well with
uh michael jordan was very clear in saying if he's on the team i'm not playing
now member jordan's already won his olympic gold this wasn't his first
olympic games
magic and larry because of the way their college eligibility went
had never had the chance to play in the olympics that wasn't true with jordan he
had won an olympic gold medal before
so it was you know this is before the whole concept of dream team had
really been solidified
and uh...
so michael said you know if he's on the team forget about it i don't want to deal with that guy
i don't want to play with him
and uh this is normally the time
when earvin would say
aww come on michael
look i know he's a pain in the neck i know he's not your favorite guy but
you know he's the best point guard in the league right now you know we need
come on guys come on everybody i know he's not your favorite let's put him on
but but in the wake of all the h_i_v_
uh... scuttlebutt if you will
this was the one time that earvin said you know what
i'm not going to bat for him now he didn't say hey i don't want him either
but he certainly didn't go to bat for him and if
and if earvin wasn't fighting for isiah thomas
and the coach
chuck daly
who was the olympic coach but also his detroit pistons coach
if he wasn't fighting to the death for him
nobody was going to
how was that olympic team used as a model for others
oh it was the best team of all time
because it was the best assembled talent i think of all time
but also because they played like a team
uh larry and and magic were named the captain's now clearly michael jordan was
the best player on the planet at that point but he got it
he understood this was larry's
final hurrah he understood that earvin
would probably never play again 'course he did but that was later
you know he understood that
these guys were at the end of the line and he did a very magnanimous thing for a
guy with a very big ego by the way
and handled it i thought very very well
these guys did not get caught up in
who got the points who got the minutes
who got the glory magic got most of the glory that was his personality his story
was too good to be true
the whole h_i_v_ thing
everybody embraced that around the world larry didn't care
michael didn't care
barkley didn't care malone didn't care
none of them cared
they were out there to make history as this incredible once-in-a-lifetime team
their only goal
during the olympics
was to never call a time out
and not once during the entire olympic games did chuck daly call a time out
why was that their goal because it proved that they were so good that they were never
going to have no game would ever be in doubt
and they were right
they never called one
why did dave gavit ask larry to put off
retiring for two more weeks when clearly he was to hurt to play anymore yeah i mean
dave knew better than anybody 'cause dave was part of the olympic committee to
u_s_a_ basketball
so he saw what larry went through in barcelona and he knew
that larry wasn't going to be playing much longer so larry went in i think it was
about three weeks after those olympic games and said i'm done I'm retiring
and dave said you know hang on a couple more weeks
and larry said dave i know what you're doing I know in a couple more weeks my next years
salary kicks in and i think it was about seven million dollars larry said
i'm not taking any money i'm not going to earn
and i wouldn't be earning that money so you can have it I'm retiring right now today and he did
and i remember i was on vacation with my family I had my first child
she was three months old i was in new hampshire in a cabin with
no phone
and they still found me
to drive home
and cover the larry bird
retirement press conference so it was that big and that sudden it just happened
like that he went in that morning
that afternoon they had the press conference he didn't want
a lot of hoopla he didn't want a lot of advance notice that was the way
larry wanted to go out
no farewell tour no his wife was in indiana getting her hair done she was too
emotional didn't want to be there
so he went home
you know had some dinner with some friends and that was it
he calls that
press conference one of the happiest days of his life yeah why
well he was done playing he was
you know he loved the game
but the game by that point
or his body had betrayed by that point he couldn't play anymore he couldn't play at
the level he wanted to play
and the big thing for larry was he couldn't practice
larry wasn't happy
unless he could practice because that's how he got so good
and so you know his back was so bad that
when he wasn't playing he was wearing that brace he certainly wasn't practicing with
the team and he couldn't get his rhythm in he couldn't get
his you know his touches like he liked to
so I think he was tired of being in pain
and tired of having to play above all these problems
so i think for once he could finally say you know what
I'm done and he knew
'cause he had fusion he had serious
back fusion surgery
he knew he could never play again and he said it easy for me to stay retired unlike earvin
jordan and some of these others
who thought they wanted to retire and came back larry said i knew i could never come
back because of the
the fusion surgery
so for me it was as final as final could be
and i think it was just a huge relief after twelve thirteen seasons of just beating
his body to a pulp
now he had a larry had a very successful three-year run as coach of the pacers
even though they never won a championship they came as close as you could get though
yeah i know yeah
you know he didn't enjoy that same success as president
right yet he's done that for far longer which which role do you think he enjoys more
well i think he want always wanted to be in the front office uh the coaching for
him was a necessary evil to learn about the front office
he always said he wouldn't coach more than three years and he did exactly what
he said he would do unlike almost everybody else
and uh... he was a very very good coach
i will say this though
his tenure as president if you will
in my mind is only we're only into its second year
because the whole time he was there donnie walsh who i have great deal of
respect for
was there to and really did have the final say
so i think in many ways even though most people feel as you do that
you know his tenure 'cause he certainly had input and major input into the team
i really believe that it's only been in the last two seasons
that we've seen larry bird as the president so i think h'd like to see it through
there's talk about him stepping down after
this season i don't expect to see that happen he's not a quitter he has some
work to do he knows it
and uh i think he relishes the challenge i think this is something he's always
wanted to do
and now finally can do it without anybody else looking over his shoulder
so do you think he'll never return to coaching
no he told me well he emphatically used to say he would never coach period yeah i i
there's no scenario that i can imagine him coaching ever again
why have the celtics why has he soured on the celtics
I don't think he has I think uh larry is a guy that moves on uhm
at the end of his tenure with the celtics he had had his fusion surgery
he was a special assistant to dave gavitt who he loves and respects very
much umm the team was struggling dave made some questionable personnel moves
and uh... so he was on his way out they were going to get rid of him
larry disagreed vehemently with that
um they did remove dave
umm larry stayed on as as a the special assistant that was his title
but the day they got rid of dave gavitt was the day he made up his mind i'm not
staying with this franchise any longer the reason he did linger on for a couple
more years
was because of his back
he had had major surgery and he wanted to make sure his insurance was all set and that it
he was fully recovered before he walked away from that insurance and so
when they brought in rick pitino
bird was one of the people heading up the search committee for paul gaston
and looking for a new coach
he recommended larry brown
and uh some others and uh pitino
and uh
didn't think pitino was going to get the job really thought larry bird uh
larry brown was going to get the job
and in the end pitino pulled an end around as you were as you would call it
and uh... snuck in there under the wire and got the job and offered uh
larry a job in his organization
well that job was an assistant coach are you kidding
so larry was never going to stay
so uhm
i don't think larry has a ton of bitterness about it
pitino isn't there anymore paul gaston isn't there anymore I think with him it
was just a matter of you know he went to try to go back and by the team from paul gaston
gaston said the team's not for sale and then of course a year later sold it to
someone else i think bird's feeling was you know what
that happened it's too bad it happened
I'm moving on
he's very good at moving on
he doesn't look back
hardly ever
earvin looks back all the time
earvin has his own plane and is playing the old
clips from the eighty seven n_b_a_ championship
I betcha larry hasn't seen that in fifteen years
that's just the kind of guy larry is i'm done with this I'm moving on
do you ever foresee
a time when he would return to the celtics fold and if so in what
capacity i do i think he would still like to buy the boston celtics' at some
point but i don't know that they're for sale right now
although i will tell you this that the revenues in the n_b_a_ are
it's alarming to me what's happening
you know the celtics as good as they've been the won that championship and they have a
certainly a championship contending team again
uh there's a lot of suites that are empty
and uh... when you watch the games on television you see a lot of the same
commercials over and over that's not a good sign either so i think the
economics of the n_b_a_ right now are pretty tough and as I joked with larry uh as we
were doing this book
larry myself earvin and earvin's agent lon rosen all had high school seniors so
we've all got tuition to pay
let's return to magic for a moment why was the lakers trainer investigated by
well now this is when earvin johnson comes back for his his second comeback try
he came back after his wonderful time in barcelona and he thought you know what
i was embraced by the world i think this'll work he came back for a short amount of
time and uh
people weren't ready
they just weren't they they still were ignorant of h_i_v_ and and the aids
virus how it was transmitted
the players in the league didn't want him to come back they were nervous
frightened about him
and uh... unbeknownst to him behind his back were going to the lakers trainer
gary vitti and saying i don't wanna play with this guy how can you help me i don't want to
be guarding him you know i want you to pull me out of practice say i have an
ankle injury you know really a lot of this going on
so they're playing an exhibition game against the cleveland cavaliers and a
magic goes to the hole and he got scratched
it wasn't even cut
it was scratched
he has a little scratch on his hand
and he was bleeding
and because he was earvin magic johnson and he has h_i_v_
there was this collective gasp
in the arena
everybody seemed very aware of this
so the new regulations put in because of people like ear vin magic johnson who were
HIV positive were that
if a trainer was attending to a player with a cut or any blood
they needed to put on gloves and treat it
now you're gary vitti and you're looking at this scratch because that's really
all it is
and you're thinking
if i reach into my pocket
and put on my gloves
I'm telling all these players
privately I'm telling them there is nothing to worry about you cannot contract this you this
you are safe
there's just an infinitesimal chance of nothing's going to happen to you he
said if i put on these gloves
how will they ever believe me
so he reached in to get his gloves and said you know what
i'm not going to do it so he tended to the cut
tended to the cut you know cleaned it off put a band aid on it that was pretty
much it and put him back in the game
and uh
but somebody
who didn't like the celtics or had a you know some kind of itch
uh... with the government and this regulation saw the picture and the next
day in the new york times of him doing that
and sued him and sued the uh sued
the lakers
and uh... and so he had to be investigated because he didn't follow
protocol and of course he was cleared of any wrongdoing many many months later
but the story the investigation was headlines and his exoneration was a little
why did magic ask larry to present him into the hall of fame
i don't know
you know i was so stunned when he did that i was so pleased i thought it was
such a cool thing because it's so it it it's almost unprecedented usually you picked
a coach
first of all it has to be someone in the hall of fame you do have to pick someone from
the hall of fame
but he had choices he had jerry west you know who was his mentor when he was
he could have picked elgin baylor he could've picked kareem certainly
he uh he had some choices and uh
i think he just felt a kinship with larry that he couldn't explain to anybody
else and he felt you know we've always been intertwined and
i know who pushed me i knew who made me the player I am and it's you
and i want you to present me
it was i think one of the biggest honors of larry bird's life
we'll be right back after this short break
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thank you and i hope to see you in class
frequently clients and students and other ask me
what are my rights when I'm stopped by the police
well first of all what you should do
is do three simple things
use your common sense common courtesy and stay calm
all of which are often in short supply when we're pulled over and inconvenienced
but pull to the side of the road
whether it's a day or night you really should keep your hands on the steering
wheel and the vehicle illuminated
when we reach over as we often times do to get our registration or other things out
of the glove box the police officer's see a furtive movement and become concerned
for their own safety so until the police officer comes to the vehicle keep
your hands on the steering wheel and make sure the car is sufficiently
you have an obligation when stopped by police to identify yourself
perhaps the police offers officer is only pulling you over to
remind you or notify you of a safety issue maybe you have a defective
light or something
more than likely you're right there's some other issue involved but you do have whether
it's justified or not you do have an obligation to identify yourself and
cooperate with the police
if the police officer chooses to go further
then at that point you may receive a warning or a ticket and in some unusual
situations you could even be arrested
but if you receive a warning
then there's no need to do anything further unless you choose to make a big
uh a bigger issue out out of it
if you receive a ticket
you can either pay the fine or you can request a hearing
but the fortunately that hearing is not going to be the type you see on t_v_
with the lawyer and the jury and everything else
generally for a citation you have no right to have a lawyer appointed for you and you
have no right to have a jury hear those issues
the fact of the matter is it can be a relatively simple procedure
be prepared to discuss with the judge in a collegial fashion your problem
welcome back to our conversation with jackie macmullan on her recently published
book with magic johnson and larry bird
we heard jackie tell the humorous stories of larry's toughness when it came to his injuries
but what i think people don't know is just how injured he was i'm going to read now
an excerpt from jackie's book about the famous mangled finger
as time went on bird"s finger built-up calcium deposits and became grossly
once while bird was posing for a cover shot for sports illustrated the
photographer told bird to hold up his finger to signify that he and the
celtics were number one
but when bird held up his ghastly digit it looked more like we're number ten the
photographer shot him using his opposite hand instead
as the NBA playoffs are going on
those of us who were glued to the t_v_ for those great lakers celtics games
still long for another glimpse of bird's no look passes or magic's junior junior
hook shot
but more than their individual heroics magic and bird were the ultimate team
players true representatives of those who make the people around them better
an ideal that even our current president makes mention of in his latest p_s_a_
those of us who grew up playing basketball whether on a playground in
the city or a farm in the heartland
are grateful to the game for the lessons it teaches us about life
lessons like respect is something won by what you do
not what you're born with
or you can talk a good game all you want but when it matters you better back it
or if you want to marry a girl like my wife michelle
you better be able to impress her brother on the basketball court
but we remember that
throughout the games history its greatest players it's champions
are those who don't just perfect their own game
but make those around them better
who unite one team
around one shared goal
they know a simple truth that's as relevant today as ever
in america we rise and fall together
and in this time of so much need in our communities and across our country we are
blessed with endless ways to restore hope and opportunity to places that
yearn for both
prepare a care package for a soldier
read to a child
or fix up a local basketball court so the next generation can play and grow
I encourage everyone to join the n_b_a_ in the spirit of service to others
just log on to usaservice.org to find or create a project near you
and gather up some friends and lace 'em up
all of us have it within our power to get off the bench get in the game and
make a lasting contribution to the life of this nation
i hope you all answer the call
and join in the vital work of remaking this country we love thank you
welcome back to our conversation with jackie macmullan on her recently published book
with magic johnson and larry bird
titled when the game was ours bird and johnson each measured their success by the number
of championships they won an edge held by magic as superstars and the leaders on two
elite n_b_a_ teams
who entered the league at the same time they were destined to be compared to
each other
and although they played different positions their individual accomplishments and
accolades were remarkably similar
in addition to being in the hall of fame each won the m_v_p_ award three times
each was named to the all n_b_a_ first-team nine times each is a twelve
time all-star and each was co-captain of the olympic team
bird played eight hundred ninety seven games in his career and magic played
nine hundred and six
and each played exactly the same number of minutes in his career thirty four thousand
four hundred forty three
as bird and johnson reveal in the introduction to the book these
statistics did more than help their own teams they helped to motivate each other
larry writes
when i was young the only thing i cared about was beating my brothers
mark and mike were older than me and that meant they were bigger stronger and better
in basketball baseball everything
they pushed me
they drove me
i wanted to beat them more than anything more than anyone
but I hadn't met magic yet once I did he was the one I had to beat
he was the one I had to beat
what I had with magic went beyond brothers
I never let on how much he dominated my thoughts during my playing days I couldn't
but once we agreed to do this book I knew it was finally time to let people in on my
relationship with the person who motivated me like no other
and from magic
larry was a different kind of cat
he didn't say much and he kept to himself
but oh could he play
i had never seen a player with his size pass the ball the way he did
right away we had chemistry we played on the second team with a bunch of college
all-stars and we just embarrassed the starters
I knew I'd see him again and I did
when i got to the n_b_a_ and played for the lakers i watched as many celtics
games as i could so i could keep track of what he was doing he became my measuring
the first time we played head to head in the finals in nineteen eighty four larry
got the best of me
it took me years to get over it actually i'm not sure I am over it yet
i was surprised to hear larry describe watching me win the n_b_a_ championship
in my rookie season
he admitted he was jealous which really shocked me because he never ever showed
it back then
of course as you learn when you start reading this book i had my own bouts of
jealousy when it came to larry
you've already talked about how the personal rivalry surprised you
while you were working on the book anything else
during you know you've covered these guys forever it seems right anything else surprise you
while you were researching this oh there were a million things you know the toe infection story I didn't
know that there were so many little anecdotes about
the team on the road uh bird and rick roby as rookies um
the n_b_a_ used to provide each uh
team visiting team with a case of beer after the game
and you were you know allowed to drink a couple of beers before you got on your
bus to go home and
bird and rick roby stuffing them into their pillow cases that they sold from the hotel to
drag 'em off you know
just a lot a little fun stories like that and and just the interaction
between the two of them as the years went on i found to be
uh you know the racial tension in boston during uh
bird and er magic's time you know magic telling me stories about showing up at the
airport and having
african-american people saying you know
why don't you kill those
celtics and he'd say well where are you from I'm from boston
why aren't you rooting for the celtics I'm not rooting for those white boys you know
a lot of the a lot of great stories a lot of great anecdotes uh
it's just the most fun project i've ever been around i had a had a great time
writing this book
did were they surprised by anything they learned about the other oh sure lots of
things lots of things again probably most of all
the depths to which they studied one another i would say
more than anything surprised them larry was very surprised that earvin decided to
go public with the uh
his the things about isiah thomas i think
he was really stunned to find out that
earvin was
you know that it had bothered earvin that much that he needed to get it off his chest
and you know earvin didn't know much about larry growing up he didn't know that he
taught drivers ed to kids at west vigo high school you know there were a lot of
things about each other that they just didn't know
we'd like to thank our guest today jackie macmullan author of when the game
was ours
jackie i was a big larry bird fan growing up and there are things in this
book that even i didn't know so I highly recommend it to anybody who's an n_b_a_
fan in general or specifically a larry bird or magic johnson fan even you'll be
surprised by some of the things you read in this book
thank you for joining us on this edition of books of our time
be with us again for our next show