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Posted October 13, 2013
4 1/2 of 5 stars (excellent)
The 1990-91 season was a time of transition in the National Basketball Association. Michael Jordan was becoming the face of the league. The reigning dynasty would shift from the Detroit Pistons to Jordan’s team, the Chicago Bulls. One of the teams that was the powerhouse, the Boston Celtics, was going through a time of transition itself much like the league. How the franchise dealt with that season is portrayed in this excellent book by Jack McCallum.
McCallum has shown to be one of the best authors of books on the NBA and this one is no exception. His style of portraying the season through equal parts of game recaps, anecdotes about the players and coaches, and even some commentary on social issues of the day will grab the reader’s attention and won’t let go.
The writing and story mirrored the Celtics is many ways. While the “Big Three” of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish were getting older, a new crop of talented players were trying to make their own mark on the storied franchise. While the attention of fans and the press was naturally paid to Bird and his back issues, McCallum adds many interesting stories on these younger players such as Dee Brown (that year’s slam dunk contest winner, something that certainly did not fit the usual Celtic image) and Brian Shaw.
The franchise was also facing other transitions, such as a new coach for that season in Chris Ford, the retirement of legendary radio play-by-play man Johnny Most and the realization that the Boston Garden had outlived its usefulness and would soon have to be replaced. Add that to the play of the team on the court and you truly have a franchise in transition. The team was trying to become more athletic while still playing the style that the three future Hall of Fame players enjoyed that produced three championships and three more trips to the finals in the 1980’s.
This was the best season in which to write an interesting story on this franchise, and McCallum does in an entertaining manner. Readers who enjoy books on basketball history or are Celtics fan will want to read this one.