If you could select the greatest basketball team in history, who’d make your roster? Could an all-star center come off the bench as a backup? Do you want rebounding or scoring or both from your power forward? Should your point guard be a pure passer or a scorer who slashes to the basket? Who’d be your enforcer? Who’d be your emotional leader? Who’d be your go-to guy at crunch time? How do you even build a team—with pure talent alone or with a combination of talent and role players?
Well your speculation is over—and the debate is about to begin. In The Perfect Team, the NBA tapped into top basketball experts, rounded up the greatest players, coach, and GM from different eras of the game, and now presents its argument for basketball’s most unbeatable lineup. Period.
Each member of the team has been picked as the embodiment of a particular trait such as leadership or competitive drive, rather than simply for being best at his position. And each player tells his story, shares his ideas about “the perfect team,” and talks about what makes great basketball. With each team member covered by a different veteran sportswriter—and the NBA has also rounded up the best in that business, too—the individual player profiles are candid, thoughtful, and entertaining, covering their lives both on and off the court.
Loaded with new and sometimes controversial insights into the players, their skills, and the game itself, The Perfect Team is not just an argument for the best team of all time—it’s an anatomy of the game presented by those who love it most and play it best. Sure to be the subject of much thought and debate, this is the perfect book for all NBA fans.
Die Inhaltsangabe kann sich auf eine andere Ausgabe dieses Titels beziehen.
by Jackie MacMullan
In 1986 the NBA concocted a novel way to spice up its weekend of All-Star festivities--a three-point contest for the top marksmen in the league to show off their shooting prowess.
On the day of the competition, Boston Celtics forward Larry Bird sauntered into the locker room where his fellow participants were dressing.
"Hey, guys," Bird chortled. "Which one of you is going to finish second?"
It's one thing to say it. It's another thing to back it up. Bird validated his bravado by easily outdistancing Craig Hodges 22-12 in the finals--even though he had finished fourth in the preliminary round and just barely advanced. But as the field narrowed, Bird's shooting improved. The higher the stakes, the more confident he became.
"I'm the three-point king!" he gleefully announced within seconds of winning the competition.
He was also a three-time NBA champion, the leader of an irreverent Celtics team whose swagger served notice that losing was out of the question. No deficit was too large to overcome, and no one player was too dominating for them to contain. Boston derived much of its personality from Bird, who was as adept at making grand pronouncements as he was at fulfilling them.
Consider Game 4 of the 1984 Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Celtics had already lost one home game and been trampled in Game 3, 137-104, at the Forum to fall behind 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. Before the critics could level the Celtics for their miserable performance, Bird landed the first blow. He called his team "a bunch of sissies" and recommended they report to the nearest emergency room for twelve heart transplants. The stinging words quickly produced the desired results in his own locker room. Boston returned home angry and edgy. Yet their captain wasn't done talking. The final salvo Bird delivered was directed toward the Lakers.
"We will win the world championship," he declared.
To do so, Bird knew he had to shake free from Michael Cooper, L.A.'s superb wiry forward, who lay in bed at night with his wife and watched game films of his celebrated Celtics opponent. Boston also needed to be more physical with the Lakers to prevent them from running the Celtics ragged with their transition game.
With goading from both Bird and teammate M. L. Carr, forward Kevin McHale permanently changed the tenor of the series in Game 4 when he clotheslined Lakers forward Kurt Rambis as he drove to the basket on the break. A rejuvenated Boston team, which had fallen behind by ten (68-58) at halftime and was down five with a minute left in regulation, forced overtime on a Robert Parish three-point play and a pair of Bird free throws. Larry almost won it in regulation with an off-balance leaner that rolled off the rim. As the Celtics huddled up Bird assured his teammates, "Get me a good look, and I'll win it for us."
That look came with sixteen seconds to play in OT, shortly after Lakers star Magic Johnson missed two free throws.
"I was coming across the lane," Bird recalled, "and faked one way, then went the other. Cooper fell down, and that meant Magic had to pick me up. I was actually glad Magic was on me. He was a great defender, but I knew I could post him up."
Bird systematically backed Johnson in, then swished a turnaround jumper over his outstretched hand. The Celtics won the game, 129-125, and they went on to win the championship--just as Bird had predicted they would. Bird went home with the league MVP trophy and the grudging admiration of his NBA rivals, who knew better than to question whether number 33 would honor his words with actions.
"At that point of my career, I had all the confidence in the world," Bird said. "When I took a shot, I believed it was going in, every time. I had taken so many shots, I couldn't imagine missing. I only thought in positive terms.
"People talk about being in a 'zone.' I've been there. It's when you just know you've got control of the whole game. It's hard to explain, but your reactions are quicker, and the rim looks bigger, and your eyes have better focus.
"I've always done a lot of shooting on my own in the summer. I got to the point where I could hit eighty to a hundred in a row without missing. That leads to a feeling of 'Give me the ball. I know I can make it.' "
Even later in his career, ravaged by injuries to his heels, elbow, and back that limited his practice time, Bird didn't abandon his strut. In 1990 he ventured to New York City to play the Knicks amid whispers that his game was in decline. Late in the first quarter he received the ball in the right corner of the court. Parish set a pick to free him, leaving Knicks center Patrick Ewing, a full three inches taller than Bird, to sprint out and cover him on the switch.
"Here's what I'm going to do," Bird growled. "I'm going to fake once, drive past you, then put in an underhand scoop layup."
Ewing, crouching lower into his defensive stance, shot back, "Like hell you are."
Bird rose up as if to shoot the jumper, then put the ball on the floor. He scooted past Ewing underneath, then upfaked once more. As Ewing scurried to recover, the most confident player in the NBA proceeded to do exactly what he said he'd do: he rolled in an underhand scoop shot against the irritated center for two points.
"Face!" Bird said softly as he ran back down the court. His body may have been on borrowed time, but his mind was still itching to spar with anyone who would take him on, particularly a friend like Ewing, who committed the egregious error of doubting him.
"If someone said I couldn't do something," Bird said, "I wasn't going to stop until I did it."
In fact, it was an offhand comment by Parish before the inaugural three-point contest at the 1986 All-Star Game that supplied Bird with all the motivation he needed.
"Robert said there was no way I was going to win it," Bird said. "He said all the little guards out on the perimeter who make their living hitting shots like that would. He just couldn't see a six-foot-nine-inch forward going out and doing it.
"I was ticked. I went in there saying, 'I'm going to show him.' "
Bird spent hours after practice preparing for the competition with Celtics teammates Danny Ainge and Scott Wedman, two excellent long-ball shooters. He left nothing to chance, importing red, white, and blue balls into his workout, knowing they would be used in the competition and would be worth a point more than the regular balls. He positioned the five racks around the three-point arc in deliberate fashion, always placing them in the same spot, with the seams lined up uniformly. He simulated timed rounds and tallied his results in his head. By the time he arrived in Dallas, Bird wasn't just the most confident contestant, he was also the most prepared.
He also enjoyed another advantage that prompted him to issue his now-famous declaration of superiority: an uncommon level of concentration that enabled him to block out any distractions. That, Bird believed, helped develop a reservoir of confidence that was not easily drained.
"For some guys, going out and being part of a big event like that with all sorts of people cheering and talking to you and making noise is difficult," Bird said. "To me, it was nothing. I got out there and focused on the rim and blocked everything else out. When I did that, the basket looked big enough to fit two."
Bird agreed to defend his three-point title in 1987 in Seattle, but soon developed severe problems with his shooting elbow and refrained from issuing any bold predictions. On the morning of the three-point competition he woke up and tried to straighten his elbow, but it remained locked up. He quickly dialed up Dan Dyrek, his physical therapist, who spent the hours leading up to the competition manipulating the elbow to regain some of its flexibility. As Bird pulled on his uniform and walked onto the court, he turned to his girlfriend (now wife), Dinah Mattingly, and said, "If I win this year, I'll never lose again."
He defended his title by edging Detlef Schrempf and Cooper and took particular pleasure in beating fourth-place finisher Ainge, who had helped him prepare in 1986 but had vowed to beat him in 1987.
The All-Star venue switched to Chicago in 1988, and again Bird strolled into the locker room asking who would finish behind him. The muted response from the players led him to believe that he had already eliminated half the field with his pregame histrionics.
Bird's primary challenger that day was Dale Ellis, one of the top snipers in the league. But Bird was healthy and had eased himself into the kind of rhythm that made shooting threes as easy as tossing rolled-up shirts into a laundry basket. Ellis had put up a score of 15 when Bird took the court as the final contestant. He revealed a hint of a smile when he got to the last rack, then buried the first three balls. He had already ensured at least a tie with Ellis when he lofted the final red, white, and blue ball, extending his index finger to signify number one as it took flight. The ball dropped through, and his reputation as a clutch performer was further cemented.
Asked how long he planned to enter the three-point competition, Bird answered, "Until I lose." Laughter accompanied his answer. Would anyone else ever win it?
They would. Bird missed all but six games the following season after undergoing heel surgery. Ellis took the three-point crown in his absence. Bird returned in 1990 in Miami, but by then chronic back problems had joined his balky heels as a persistent--and often debilitating--distraction. He sat out twenty-two games in 1989-90 and missed countless more workouts.
"I lose confi...
The National Basketball Association takes an unusual approach in creating a team of all-time greats. Instead of relying on statistics, the organization chose each player because he possesses one of 12 qualities that former NBA coach Daly says "all winning teams must possess." While this selection method leads to a few surprises—John Havilcek (who excels in "perpetual motion and hustle") and Bill Laimbeer ("intensity")—the rest of the team consists of the usual suspects, including Michael Jordan ("will to win"), Larry Bird ("confidence") and Magic Johnson ("leadership"). Each person and his defining quality gets his own chapter written by a different prominent sportswriter. The chapters brim with information that will interest fans, but many of the qualities are interchangeable among this collection of winning athletes. The book succeeds when the writers delve into the players' upbringings and college years, illuminating what went into creating the qualities they display on the court. Another highlight is the section where the athletes themselves assemble their own best teams, which will help fuel the debate about which players really are the best. Photos. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
„Über diesen Titel“ kann sich auf eine andere Ausgabe dieses Titels beziehen.