Tuesday, April 9, 2013

the last book I ever read (David Halberstam's The Breaks of the Game, excerpt eight)

from The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam:

If there was one thing which buoyed the Portland coaches, it was the knowledge that whatever afflicted their team afflicted any team that had been successful. It was the special burden of success in the NBA. The moment a team reached the top, the very mechanism that had worked to pull the players together began to work to pull them apart. Watch out, Red Auerbach of the Celtics had warned Harry Glickman, the Trail Blazers’ general manager, after the Blazers won the 1977 championship, now your troubles begin—they’ll think they’re All-Stars now.

Players were willing to sacrifice on the way to a championship, but once there, once at the top, it was a different matter. Agents and wives spoke of bigger salaries and of greater recognition, and of how much rival players, of lesser talent and playing on losing teams, were making. In Washington, runner-up the previous year, Bob Dandridge was said to be sulking; there was also dissidence from other players and Dick Motta, the coach, was reported to want out. In Seattle, which had finally won the championship, Dennis Johnson, the most valuable player in the championship playoffs and signer of a huge contract at $400,000 a year, was already said to be dissatisfied. He was, a friend had told Ramsay, acting petulant, disregarding his coaches. A Seattle sportswriter had told Steve Kelley that Johnson was disaffected because, though he had signed for $400,000, he knew that his teammate Gus Williams, now in his option year, was going to get $700,000 or more. Johnson figured he had asked for, and received, too little.

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