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Larry Legend Hardcover – September, 1998
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Even without his masterful debut as coach of the 1997-1998 Indiana Pacers, Larry Bird's brilliant, gutsy career with the Boston Celtics--three NBA championship rings and a trio of Most Valuable Player trophies--cries out for celebration and reassessment. He was a dominant player, a thinking player who controlled the game as much with his leadership as his keen passing, tough "D," and the soft touch of his jumper. In Larry Legend, Shaw interweaves chapters of Bird's biography with chapters chronicling his Coach of the Year season to create a hybrid volume; rather than do both well, he does both adequately. Everything is here--Bird's French Lick, Indiana, childhood; why he left Bobby Knight and the Indiana University pressure cooker for lower profile Indiana State; the glory years with the Celtics; the rivalry with Magic Johnson; the back problems; and the ways he re-created the Pacers in his own court-burned image. The problem is presentation. As he jumps back and forth in time, Shaw impedes his own flow, a foul that Bird never committed. That's too bad, because Shaw is a capable reporter who loves his subject and does an otherwise admirable job of fleshing out the life of a man beneath the "Legend" of the title. --Jeff Silverman
This book capitalizes on the phenomenal success of Larry Bird in his first season as a head coach in the National Basketball Association. In coaching, Bird wisely stuck to the farmerlike work habits of his playing career, habits that elevated him from high-school star in tiny French Lick, Indiana, to having his jersey hung in the hallowed rafters of Boston Garden. The simple approach to coaching worked, and Bird's team, the Indiana Pacers, far exceeded expectations, earning him Coach of the Year honors. Despite alternate chapters on Bird's whole career, Shaw's book does little to augment Bird's autobiography, Drive (1989). This is mainly a game log of Bird's rookie year as a coach, and it rarely takes us inside the action or relationships between thoroughbred athletes. Still, Bird's status as one of the key figures in basketball's exponential rise in popularity, along with last year's coaching success, is certain to attract fans to this journeyman effort. Dane Carr
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