Writing in The Boston Globe during the Bird-Magic era, the sports columnist Leigh Montville imagined them at a nursing home years into the future, engaged in a cutthroat game of checkers. Bird and Johnson aren't in a nursing home (yet), but in any case their collaborative memoir, written with Jackie MacMullan, is much more than checkers. It should satisfy both those who saw them play and younger fans inclined to snicker at television images of the legendary rivals in their tight short shorts. While Bird and Johnson do most of the reminiscing, MacMullan, a longtime Boston sportswriter, supplies enough reporting to enrich the narrative, drawing on others to help illustrate what the sport has come to lack, or fake.
The New York Times
Perhaps more than any other sports rivals (with the possible exception of boxers Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier), Bird and Magic are intertwined in history, and that rivalry and that history (as well as the friendship, both unlikely and unavoidable, that developed between them) are at the heart of a fascinating new book, When the Game Was Ours. Though Bird and Johnson (with Jackie MacMullan) are credited as the authors, it is clearly MacMullan's book, as all but the introduction (by Bird and Johnson) is written in the third person, with the former Boston Globe reporter and columnist masterfully weaving the recollections of the two protagonists with those of dozens of observers, including teammates and family members.
The Washington Post
NBA legends Bird and Johnson, fierce rivals during their playing days, team up on a mutual career retrospective. With megastars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and international superstars like China's Yao Ming pushing it to ever-greater heights of popularity today, it's difficult to imagine the NBA in 1979, when financial problems, drug scandals and racial issues threatened to destroy the fledgling league. Fortunately, that year marked the coming of two young saviors-one a flashy, charismatic African-American and the other a cocky, blond, self-described "hick." Arriving fresh off a showdown in the NCAA championship game in which Johnson's Michigan State Spartans defeated Bird's Indiana State Sycamores-still the highest-rated college basketball game ever-the duo changed the course of history not just for the league, but the sport itself. While the pair's on-court accomplishments have been exhaustively chronicled, the narrative hook here is unprecedented insight and commentary from the stars themselves on their unique relationship, a compelling mixture of bitter rivalry and mutual admiration. This snapshot of their respective careers delves with varying degrees of depth into the lives of each man and their on- and off-court achievements, including the historic championship games between Johnson's Lakers and Bird's Celtics, their trailblazing endorsement deals and Johnson's stunning announcement in 1991 that he had tested positive for HIV. Ironically, this nostalgic chronicle about the two men who, along with Michael Jordan, turned more fans onto NBA basketball than any other players, will likely appeal primarily to a narrow cross-section of readers: Bird/Magic fans and hardcorehoop-heads. Doesn't dig as deep as it could, but offers a captivating look at the NBA's greatest era.
“MAGICBIRD, BIRDMAGIC really should be the titled “When the Game was Mine” because that is how they went after each other on the court. In When the Game Was Ours you will enjoy an exhilarating ride down one of the most competitive rivalries ever.”
"Finally—a book that tells the story of Magic and Larry from their vantage point. When the Game Was Ours took me inside their fascinating rivalry with new insights and revealing details about two men who evolved from bitter competitors into lifelong friends."
"At long last the great book on Bird and Magic—their own account, told from behind the scenes, inside huddles, confidential phone conversations, backseats of cars, and most importantly, from their inner hearts. Their book is alive with truth—it's a story of brilliance, brilliantly told with the help of prize-winning writer Jackie MacMullan."
—Sally Jenkins, author of The Real All Americans, Funny Cide, and It’s Not About the Bike with Lance Armstrong
"When The Game Was Ours is the ultimate insiders' account of the rivalry, the friendship, the tension and the bond between Bird and Magic that launched the modern NBA. A real treat for all hoops fans."
—Tom Verducci, author with Joe Torre of the #1 New York Times bestseller, The Yankee Years
"You know that game where you pick a certain number of characters for your favorite dinner party of all time? (The one where you picked Gandhi, Babe Ruth, Li'l Wayne and, who was it, Jenna Jameson?) I just spent a couple of nights with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in the lyrical When The Game Was Ours and they should be in the mix. They're funny, frank, anecdotal and just plain interesting. This book is terrific."
—Leigh Montville, bestselling author of Ted Williams and The Big Bam
"Unprecedented insight and commentary from the stars themselves on their unique relationship, a compelling mixture of bitter rivalry and mutual admiration... Offers a captivating look at the NBA’s greatest era." -- Kirkus Reviews
"Highly entertaining . . . A thrill-packed, lively and moving dual memoir." -- Shelf Awareness
"A terrific read." -- Sports Illustrated
"Spectacular." -- Dan Shaughnessy, The Boston Globe
"An unbelievable read." -- Improper Bostonian
"You have to read this book!" -- Conan O'Brien
"A must-have for any basketball fan." -- Jimmy Kimmel
"A winner...Deftly explores the relationship between the former NBA superstars that started at arm's length [and] became a lasting friendship." -- USA Today
"Greatness commands our attention . . . uplifting . . . If ever there was a two-man Dream Team, they were it." -- New York Times Book Review
"In MacMullan’s capable hands, the tale is re-energized . . . a wonderful waltz down memory lane . . . A compelling and enjoyable read, every bit as entertaining as watching Magic and Bird battling on the parquet." – Boston Globe
"Fascinating . . .The former Boston Globe reporter and columnist masterfully weav[es] the recollections of the two protagonists with those of dozens of observers . . .The book is at its most powerful when it hews close to its premise: the evolution of perhaps sports' greatest rivalry . . . The game of basketball has never been better than when it was theirs." -- Washington Post