It always comes down to the story. On Sunday in Orlando, the All-Stars were introduced from a rising platform to clouds of white smoke and thumping music. The goal was to make them seem larger than life, or at least larger than they really are.
"The current offer on the table from the NBA is one that we cannot accept."
If one legendary basketball superstar on the cover of your video game is great, what about three?
The phrase "pure shooter" has always struck me as slightly damning, suggesting a player who can whip anyone's butt in H-O-R-S-E might not be a complete player, and, further, might not be the guy you want to have the ball in crunch time. A pure shooter needs space and time, and you usually don't get much of either in the Finals, where, by Game 3, defenses not only have their opponent's play calls down but also most variations of them.
There's nothing like starpower when it comes to the NBA Finals. In the great 1980s we were treated to three Celtic-Laker matchups featuring Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Michael Jordan picked up the torch from Larry and Magic. Then came Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant.
Indiana president Larry Bird met with reporters on Thursday, one day after his scrappy Pacers team was eliminated from the playoffs. Bird offered few clues as to his future -- "Hopefully we (Bird and owner Herb Simon) will get together in the next week or two," he said -- and even fewer about the fate of head coach Frank Vogel.
His decision to fire coach Jim O'Brien doesn't change the long-term thinking of Pacers president Larry Bird. He still wants to make the playoffs this season, and he still doesn't want to consider his future with the Pacers beyond this season.
The expensive goal of winning an 18th championship is on track for the Celtics. They've absorbed absences by Kendrick Perkins (all season), Delonte West (38 games), Rajon Rondo (11), Shaquille O'Neal (10), Kevin Garnett (9), as well as Jermaine O'Neal (26), who was viewed as Boston's starting center entering the season, to somehow launch into the second half of the season with a 33-10 record that is second only to the Spurs.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. --You may have seen on NBA-TV's Friday night broadcast a portion of the playful banter that went on between the 1960 and 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball teams during enshrinement weekend at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. (Then again, NBA-TV isn't exactly a Nielsen leader.) The televised gotcha line -- Larry Bird getting in a dig at the '60-ers with his comment about stagecoaches and swimming to the Coliseum in Rome -- was only the half of it. And playful wouldn't always be the correct word to describe it.
The Boston Celtics were staggering in the spring of 1983. They were only two years removed from a championship season and had Hall of Fame-bound superstars Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. Incredibly, they were swept out of the second round of the playoffs by the Milwaukee Bucks.
LOS ANGELES -- A popular line of questioning at the 2010 Finals is about how the storied history between the Celtics and Lakers influences this series. When peppered with those questions, Lakers star Kobe Bryant couldn't be more dismissive, often giving some variation on the "Boston is just another team" answer.
The NBA Finals has greater meaning whenever the Celtics and Lakers meet. Here are five potential outcomes we'll be discussing in a couple of weeks.
To an extent, covering the NBA in the 1980s meant covering the Lakers and the Celtics. For the better part of that decade, I could set a preseason agenda of travel to L.A. and Boston -- with some side trips to Chicago (a guy named Jordan was playing there) and Detroit (the Bad Boys first turned baaa-d in the mid-'80s) -- and be pretty much on the money. And it came, conveniently, full circle in my final year as a full-time NBA beat writer when it was Boston-L.A. in the 2008 Finals.
The Lakers-Celtics rivalry is one of the most heated in sports, especially when you consider the stakes. This year's Finals marks the 12th time the league's two most decorated franchises have met to decide the title. The rivalry that began under Eisenhower and passed through JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Reagan and Bush II now includes Obama.
In the NHL, as in life, there are the small ideas and the big ideas. Like most people, I tend to get caught up in small ones. These are quotidian things like the Flyers' seemingly eternal search for a goalie, Henrik Sedin's run at the Hart Trophy, the turtle race for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and Colorado's Perils of Pauline predicament in the West.
If you popped on SI.com, you will see Dan Shaughnessy's interesting counter to my magazine story a few weeks ago about Tim Duncan. My story was more about my endless fascination with Duncan -- the main line was probably this one: "Has American sports ever had a player all at once so great and so unknown?" The man is so counter to today's sports world -- he's the opposite of flashy, the antithesis of SportsCenter, the inverse of hype. He's 1957 transported. He might be the greatest invisible player in American sports history.*
The title is more significant than you might think.
In a recent SI Players Poll, Celtics forward Kevin Garnett was voted by his peers as the game's biggest trash-talker, claiming 62 percent for a landslide victory. In light of Garnett's smack-talk honor, we dug through our notebooks and archives to relive some favorite trash-talking moments.
Before the Rockets played the Knicks a few weeks back, Houston forward Carl Landry warned his brother, New York forward Marcus Landry, that it was going to be a long night. "I know every move you do, and I'm going to stop it," Carl boasted. "I'm telling all my teammates your favorite go-to moves and countermoves."
During an interview with the New Yorker's Avi Zenilman a few months ago, Bill Simmons, an ESPN columnist/author and a man who doubtless dashed off 3,000 words this morning before I managed to get the brown sugar and banana on my oatmeal, was asked about the paucity of great basketball books. See, when you write about the NBA, as Simmons does and I have done for many years, you are generally asked negatively toned questions. What's wrong with the game? What's wrong with the refs? What's wrong with the young players? What's wrong with the Knicks? What's wrong with Mike Miller's hair?
They line up, single file and singular in purpose, between quarters of every Indiana Pacers game at Conseco Fieldhouse during the season. They all want the signature of the dapper executive sitting a few rows up in Section 2, in the seat closest to the tunnel leading to the Pacers' locker room.
"A season for the ages," commissioner David Stern said of this NBA year gone by. But I prefer to view it as a recasting of the 1980s: The names have changed, but the dynamics are familiar.
When I began working on a book about the 1979 NCAA championship game, one of the first things I did, naturally, was watch a DVD of the game. NBC's telecast began with host Bryant Gumbel narrating a pregame segment before handing the game off to the trio of Dick Enberg, Billy Packer and Al McGuire. During the segment, Gumbel stood by himself on the court. There was no set, no fancy trappings, no commercial presence at all aside from a small "Pro Keds" sign that disappeared from view when the camera zoomed in on Gumbel's face.
Tiger Woods knows a thing or two about winning -- who can win, who should win, who will win -- and has been the PGA's Most Valuable Performer since the day he cashed his first earnings check. So his thoughts the other day on the NBA's MVP race ought to carry more weight than your average Orlando Magic season-ticket holder's.
From the Book, WHEN MARCH WENT MAD: The Game That Transformed Basketball by Seth Davis. Copyright © 2009 by Seth Davis. Published by arrangement with Times Books, an Imprint of Henry Holt and Company, LLC. All rights reserved.
SI.com NBA writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the league each week. (All stats and records are through Monday's games.)
In honor of the extended holiday, here is an extended look at the simplest way I know to gauge NBA championship potential. Search the roster of any team for an MVP-level talent with the leadership and drive of Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, Hakeem Olajuwon or (to cite the newest example) Kevin Garnett. Well more than half of the NBA teams are absent this kind of star, which means you can essentially write them off as championship contenders (unless they are the Detroit Pistons of a few years ago, as you'll see below). Here's a look at who makes the biggest difference in the biggest games -- and who may be next to join them.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The last thing Indiana players see, when they exit their locker room in Assembly Hall these days, is a framed letter from Larry Bird. It's posted just to the right of the doorway, at head-height, and while new coach Tom Crean hopes to put a steady rotation of mail in this spot, Bird's is the first, on Indiana Pacers stationary that's dated Aug. 25. It's worth noting here that Bird spent 24 days at IU as a freshman in 1974, found the size of its student body overwhelming, dropped out and returned home to French Lick, Ind., where he temporarily drove a garbage truck. So he did not, understandably, write Crean to reminisce.
SI.com will analyze each of the NBA's 30 teams as regular-season tip-off approaches. For a complete list of team-by-team breakdowns, click here. The information in the "Go figure" category below is provided by Roland Beech of 82games.com.
Long goodbyes work best for Raymond Chandler, Mick & Keith, second-term presidents, Evander Holyfield and, every few years or so, Cher.
The fireworks over Denver and balloon drop in St. Paul are distant memories of the 2008 presidential conventions, but Harry Rubenstein and Larry Bird hope the handful of Democratic and Republican delegates who pledged to help preserve history keep their word.
A Smithsonian collection of memorabilia from past political conventions records the rich history of election campaigns.
I don't remember the first time I paid visit to the Boston Garden in the early 1980s, but I do remember the smell. You walked up the staircases to the upper back of the arena where the incense of boiled hot dogs from the press room gathered with the humidity of the playoff season. The worse the smell, the bigger the series.
BOSTON -- Larry Bird did come walking through that door after all. He had changed size, shape and color, but the changes were incidental. His name was Paul Pierce, and he was turning into something larger, something memorable.
It is part of the faith-based history of the NBA, which I wholly accept, that when Larry Bird and Magic Johnson entered the league in the autumn of 1979, they took an enterprise that was discredited, dispirited and desperate and restored it to acceptance, even prominence.
The sound seemed to rise up from the earth's core, raw and raucous in its staccato intensity. Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.! Some say the chant started in Boston Garden in the 1960s, but crowd behavior wasn't so organized back then, so it can be most safely dated to May 23, 1982, near the end of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. The Garden's denizens realized that their Celtics were going to lose to the 76ers, and with the Western Conference champion Los Angeles Lakers awaiting Philadelphia in the Finals, they wanted to make their rooting preference clear to all of the nation.
Right now, in a darkened video room at NBA Entertainment in Secaucus, N.J., and at ABC's offices in midtown Manhattan, interns who weren't even born when Larry Bird and Magic Johnson first squared off in the NBA Finals are probably collecting clips for a trip down memory lane. Ah, there's the footage of Celtics forward Kevin McHale clotheslining the Lakers' Kurt Rambis on a fast break, both of them springing up to go at each other. That happened in 1984. There's a montage of the tight-lipped Lakers after they were beaten 148-114 in the famed Game 1 Memorial Day Massacre at Boston Garden, which motivated L.A. to come back to win the series in six. That was in '85. There's a sideline shot of Magic seesaw dribbling across the lane and launching what he later christened "the junior, junior, junior skyhook" to nip the Celtics in a dramatic, Finals-turning Game 4. That was in '87.
Rebuilding is like recession: No one wants to hear about it or talk about it, but after enough time passes, it becomes inevitable.
Indiana Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh has reached an agreement to run the New York Knicks next season, a league source confirmed.
Also in this column: • Uncertain times for Pacers brass • Cheeks plays his part with 76ers • No comeback yet for microfiber ball
The game is two-on-two. It's Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in their prime against Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
The little country boy in Indiana had a recurring dream. In it, he has found a million dollars cash, and he has dug a hole for it under the front porch, and he is hiding there with it. His older brothers walk up and down the steps just above him, but he stays so quiet, they don't have an inkling that their kid brother is down there with a million dollars cash. ''I had that same dream all the time -- over and over and over and over,'' says the man who was the little boy.
I've never met David Gordon. If I did, I probably wouldn't recognize him. It was 14 years ago that Gordon, a walk-on senior at a nondescript Jesuit university in Eastern Massachusetts changed the college football landscape with one swing of his left leg, a 41-yard boot that gave Boston College a 41-38 victory over top-ranked Notre Dame.
Behold the NBAsuperstarus , a most splendid subspecies of Homo sapiens . He is a gifted soul, perhaps energetic and multitalented (like 6' 11" Kevin Garnett), or efficient and charming (like shooting guard Ray Allen), or fierce and explosive (like swingman Paul Pierce). But the NBAsuperstarus often falls victim to the flaw of hubris, believing that he is surrounded by lesser subspecies whose job it is to pay him homage and, most important, to recognize that their team is -- all together now -- his team.
If the odds out of Las Vegas are to be believed -- gaming site Bodog.com puts the San Antonio Spurs at 2-1 to win in five games, 7-2 in six and 3-1 in seven while the Cleveland Cavaliers are, at best, 15-2 to win in seven -- LeBron James' first Finals will be a learning experience but not a victory. Of course, very few observers (including this one) believed that he would make it this far.
Also in this column: • Lottery a hot topic at league meeting • Kerr will be tested as Phoenix GM
ORLANDO -- Hubie Brown wasn't available for Indiana, so Larry Bird did the next best thing: He hired Jim O'Brien.
In some ways Jim O'Brien's hiring as Pacers coach comes as a bit of a shocker. The veteran coach, who replaces Rick Carlisle, was not among the names mentioned early in the Indiana hiring process. Sam Mitchell, Stan Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and a group of assistants that included Chicago's Jim Boylan, L.A.'s Brian Shaw and Indiana's own Chuck Person were considered the front-runners.
SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Strange, the situations you can find yourself in by wandering around the halls at the mini-circus that is the NBA draft lottery. In a cramped waiting room outside the TV studio set, for example, with Patrick Ewing leaning against a wall near a coffee machine and Larry Bird sitting atop a counter next to a water cooler. Almost like you stumbled upon the filming of an episode of The Office, recast with members of the original Dream Team.
This article originally appeared in Sports Illustrated on June 29, 1987.
For all those angry Indiana Pacers fans who consider their team's 37-win pace to be an outright embarrassment this season, understand this: It really isn't much of a drop-off from what you should have expected. If you had higher expectations going into the season, then you were misguided.
Is it a statistical coincidence? Or a result of teams' desire to make a few more bucks by selling a few more courtside seats?
It is just past 6 a.m. in Phoenix and Marc Iavaroni is already in his office.
On a cold winter morning in 1986, Dennis Johnson and his Boston Celtics teammates stood outside of Market Square Arena, unable to get inside for a shootaround before their game that night against the Indiana Pacers. Johnson bundled his coat around him and pulled down his ski cap over his ears.
"Put the fish on the table," says George Kohlrieser, a professor at the International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland. You've got to go through the "smelly, bloody process of cleaning it," but the reward is "a great fish dinner at the end of the day."
Lounging in his gold-bedecked 727 not long ago, Donald Trump explained one of his rules of investing: "I only do a deal if I think it has the greatest glamour."
Investing mistakes, like most things we do, have both immediate causes and more fundamental ones. Didn't do your homework on a stock that tanked soon after you bought it? Your more fundamental erro...