- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Casey took a large contingent, including his family, Ford and Jennings, to Spago, the trendy West Hollywood restaurant presided over by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, whom Casey had gotten to know during his Clipper years. They ate and drank and ogled celebrities far into the night, and the following morning Jennings had to admit: "You know, sometimes this L.A. stuff isn't bad."
Brown walked into the Marriott-City Center Hotel in Denver on Feb. 16 to find his wife, Jill, waiting for him. Bird walked in to find the "Golden Girls" waiting for him. It had only been a week since Dee had won the slam-dunk contest, but Jill had already felt the strain of his sudden fame. Dee was glad to see her. Ford was not, for wives on the road are considered a taboo in the NBA. But Ford pondered the situation—the Browns' ages (he 22, she 25), the changing circumstances and the fact that the Celtics were playing well—and decided not to get on Dee about it.
Bird checked in, put his bags in his room and came back downstairs to see the Golden Girls—Bonnie Brown, Dona Rossow, Lenore Goehring and Joyce Tisdall, all of whom were pushing 60. They had first become interested in Bird through Bonnie Brown's son, Scott, who lived in Indiana and worshiped Bird. Joyce lives in Denver, so the other three decided six years ago to make the sometimes difficult 650-mile drive from Mobridge, S.Dak., where they reside, to see Bird play against the Nuggets. As they checked into their hotel, they ran into Bird and, according to Bonnie, "attacked him."
It was one of those happy twists of fate for the Golden Girls. They had caught Bird in a good mood, and he stayed and talked to them for an hour; they have made pilgrimages to the Celtics' games in Denver ever since and visited with Bird each time. Actually, this was not so far out of character for Bird. Just as he was friendlier with Kleine than with McHale, and more likely to hang out with someone like Brad Lohaus (a former Celtics forward) than with Magic Johnson, so he was more inclined to give his time and friendship to a foursome of older women than to the gladhanders and autograph seekers who continually hound the Celtics on the road.
On this occasion, Bird and the Golden Girls shared a table in the downstairs lounge, talking about Larry's fishing and Larry's grandmother and Larry's wife, who just a few days earlier had mailed each of them a new pair of sneakers in anticipation of their visit to Denver. Dozens of other fans came by and hung at the periphery of the group, wondering if they would be asked in, and then they drifted away when it became obvious that Bird was paying them no mind. Finally, he got up to leave.
"Gotta do some runnin'," said Bird. "I'll see ya all before the game."
"O.K., Larry," one of the women said. "Get a good night's sleep, and we'll see you tomorrow."
Bird sensed a big game coming, which was only logical, because Denver didn't have anybody to guard anybody, far less Bird. With the Golden Girls cheering him on from their prime seats under the basket, Bird came out firing. He hit his first four shots and finished the first period with 17 points. It was a joke. Half the time he looked over at the bench while his shot was in the air, his disdain for his opponents evident in the smirk on his face. Near the end of the game, McHale, on the bench in street clothes, was eating a slice of pizza. "When I saw that," said Michael Adams, the Nuggets' injured point guard, "I knew they were showing us a lack of respect." The final score was 126-108. Bird had a game-high 24 points in just 25 minutes. The Golden Girls had a good time. And the Celtics were 4-0 on the trip. Without McHale.
The following day, McHale's attention was fixed on a sign in the Jewish Community Center gymnasium in Phoenix, the Celtics' final stop on the trip. It read NO HANGING ON RIMS.
"Hey, Mike," he called to Mike Fine, a writer for The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Mass., who is Jewish. "See what you make of this sign." Fine read it. "Now, Mike, is this a big problem?" McHale asked. "Somehow I think the springing Jew is somewhat of a dying breed, don't you? Can't you hear them out there saying 'Oy vay! How the boy can jump.' "