Sunday, March 31, 2013

the last book I ever read (Bill Bradley's Life on the Run, excerpt ten)

from Life on the Run by Bill Bradley:

The Boston Celtics are our special rivals. We replaced them in 1970 as world champions and since then the press writes of a Knick era as they once talked of the Celtic dynasty; even though we lost the championship two of the next three years. The rivalry between us is intense and the competition is fierce. The games are rough and emotionally draining. The battles over the years, though, develop respect among the players.

I guard John Havlicek—by far the most difficult job I have in a season. Havlicek’s every movement has a purpose and his teammates look for him constantly. If I am a split second behind him, or respond to his fakes away from the ball, he receives a pass and gets a basket. He never lets down and his stamina seems endless. I’ve played him for six years. If he get twenty-one points and I get fifteen, and we win, I think I have done a good job. Testing my ability against his superior skills gives me great satisfaction. Both of us know instinctively how far we can challenge each other without destroying our mutual respect. If he makes a cut to the basket without the ball, I might try to stop him with a stiff arm to the hip. He might respond by grabbing my arm for leverage and hurtling past me. In tonight’s game, a regular season contest, we will play hard against each other—each doing some holding and pushing, but never turning the natural aggressiveness of the game into hostility.

The interaction between the two teams is a competition that extends to the level of management. Red Holzman and Red Auerbach, the Celtic general manager, are bitter rivals. Both subscribe to the notion that no advantage is too small to take. They are polite enough to each other at public and league functions, but individual pride sometimes makes courtesy difficult. One time after a Saturday night game, both teams flew to Boston together for a Sunday afternoon game. As we waited in the passenger lounge, players from each team chatted amicably, but the two Reds remained apart. When the flight was called, they got into an argument about who would get on the plane first.

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