When the Game was Ours (2009) by Larry Bird, Earvin Johnson and Jackie MacMullan is a book that is a biography of Bird and Magic, an account of their rivalry and an account of how they changed the NBA into the very successful global phenomenon it is today.
Bird and Magic were in college at the same time and played a great college final in 1979 and then went on to be drafted by the Boston Celtics and the LA Lakers respectively. When they joined the NBA the NBA was going through tough times due to a series of drug scandals and the NBA was often not televised widely even in America. When the pair stopped playing in the early 1990s basketball was televised not just in the US but around the world and the money involved had increased massively. Following the pairs time in the NBA Michael Jordan appeared and boosted the NBA’s popularity still further.
The book looks at both players time playing in high school, their college careers and their amazing NBA careers and the finals they played against each other It’s structured around a series of particular dates for each player that includes their great games, Magic’s announcement that he was HIV positive, their time in the Dream Team at the Olympics and their induction into the NBA hall of fame. The book also uses their initial dislike and eventual friendship to tie the story together well.
If you’re into basketball it’s certainly worth reading. The chapters are sometimes a bit long but overall the book is highly entertaining. Both players were staggering athletes and both were also great team players. While Jordan, Shaq, Kobe and James are all possibly all better players none had quite the team impact of the two and none had a rivalry like Bird and Johnson.
It’s really highly entertaining.