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A classic book on the pre- Magic/Bird NBA
on April 1, 2015
This is one of the most famous books about basketball ever written. It captures a unique moment in the history of the NBA. The old Celtic dynasties are over and the Magic/Bird has not yet begun. Halbertsam, famous for his pulitzer prize wining reporting in Vietnam, follows the Portland Trail Blazers for a whole season. The team two years removed from their championship victory over the Sixers is struggling to survive the loss of the gifted Bill Walton to free agency. The playoffs and even a winning record are not guaranteed. But the real beauty of the book is not the drama of the Portland team but the changing nature of the NBA in general. Halberstam is writing in 1980. He cannot see that Magic and Bird will change the league and make it both popular and profitable. That is part of the beauty of this narrative; It is trapped in time. At the very end of the book, the owner of the San Diego Clippers decides to sell the team because, with Bill Walton injured he cannot make any money. He sells the team to a local real estate agent named Donald Sterling for 13.5 millions dollars. This is told without any irony because it was written in 1981.
This is the last Halberstam book I will read. I have read just about everything he has written and I was deeply saddened by this death. He has long been one of my favorite authors. But the cadence of his words becomes painfully predictable in this book. I will need a long fast before I can appreciate it again. (less)