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When the Game Was Ours
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When the Game Was Ours

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  14,319 ratings  ·  529 reviews
From the moment these two players took the court on opposing sides, they engaged in a fierce physical and psychological battle. Their uncommonly competitive relationship came to symbolize the most compelling rivalry in the NBA. These were the basketball epics of the 1980s Celtics vs Lakers, East vs West, physical vs finesse, Old School vs Showtime, even white vs black. Eac ...more
Paperback, 340 pages
Published November 1st 2009 by Houghton Mifflin (first published 2009)
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Average rating 4.21  · 
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 ·  14,319 ratings  ·  529 reviews

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Wow. I didn't want this book to end, because that would mean Magic and Larry weren't playing any more. Which is silly, since they haven't played in years.

I wish I had paid more attention to basketball while these two were playing. I had no idea of their significance to the game. Their leadership and rivalry remains unmatched today.
Intriguing and detailed look at two basketball greats

I am a huge NBA basketball fan, with a special love of the game from the 80s--00s. I also really love journalist Jackie MacMullan, so when I received this book through a bookswap, I was quite excited. Obviously it probably appeals to a particular set of people, but if you love NBA basketball and detailed retellings of events that already occurred, then this book is for you. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson recount events to MacMullan, starting fro
Barnabas Piper
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Bird and Magic were NBA saviors just before my time, and this book, expertly written, helped me appreciate both more as players and for their role in the league. It jumped around a bit here and there, but moved quickly and was always engaging.
Aug 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I feel like I’ve always known about Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, but I never really knew much about their careers until I read this book. After reading this book, I have a new appreciation for just how great and influential they both were. Their rivalry was instrumental in preventing the NBA from dying out, which it seemed like the league was on the path to before they arrived. When the Game Was Ours dives deep into the rivalry between Magic and Larry and explores what made them connected throu ...more
Mar 01, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book made my top 10 nonfiction list of 2021! Check out the video here:

As a lifelong fan of the NBA this book hurts me. Reading about Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and that time period of basketball makes me feel like an old man who just doesn’t understand kids today.

I thoroughly enjoyed how competitive these two legends were, and how they went from rivals, to enemies, to life-long friends in a natural way that felt earned. I love how at that time the two best pl
Jul 25, 2010 rated it liked it
Reading this book really took me back to my college days. I was a freshman at Indiana University the year Bird and Johnson faced each other in the NCAA finals, and had been an IU basketball fan for years. I remember seeing Larry Bird on the IU campus for some kind of sports dinner just before he started his freshman year there, and I always wondered what the story was behind his departure before the season started. The unofficial word around campus was that the campus was just "too big" for a sm ...more
Oct 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Man, what a book. What a show NBA games depicted back in the day. I think this book captured some of the magic that nowadays you don't see everyday; legends battling it out on the basketball courts from East Coast to the West Coast for the championship. Great details from the author, Larry Bird in showing how the players dealt with internal pressures of trying to live up to the hype and dealing with the corporate machines and sponsors. Trash talking taken to a new heights among players. Great ga ...more
Jan 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a well-researched look at the two NBA icons who practically saved the league in the 1980's - Larry Bird, the self-professed "Hick from French Lick" and the effervescent play maker from Lansing, Earvin "Magic" Johnson. Author Jackie MacMullen lets Bird and Magic tell the story with very little other than their first person voice present.

The story begins shortly before the dramatic 1979 NCAA final between Bird's undefeated Indiana State team and Magic's Big Ten champion, Michigan State Sp
Brian Eshleman
Mar 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Among the generally lame selection outside of Harry Potter that is available in Amazon Prime's free library, this one was a find. Bird and Magic's mutual drive comes across well, and the differences in their personalities are highlighted. The book was worth reading just to hear Magic's initial reaction to his HIV-positive diagnoses, but even Bird's legendarily icy reserve cracks from time to time. As a college counselor among largely poor students, for instance, I was intrigued by the idea that ...more
John A Raju
Despite not being a keen follower of basketball, I had heard of Magic Johnson. I had never heard of his counterpart Larry Bird until a friend showed me a YouTube documentary on him. That kindled a wide eyed search for something that I could delve into a bit deeper and that's when I came across this book, which had inputs from the legends themselves and evokes a nostalgia for a time that you were not even a part of. Turns out Magic and Bird were widely and deservedly credited for the revival of N ...more
Jul 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got this book as a gift years ago and if you had asked me had I read it, I would have said "I'm sure I did". Well, while moving books amongst bookshelfs, I took a look at this one a little harder and realized I never had read it. And I'm glad I did cause it was a really strong telling of both a bond between rivals and of a time looked at as the golden era of the game. As a Sixers fan then a Jordan acolyte, I hated Bird and thought Magic was overrated back when they played (and I was much young ...more
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I listened to this book on Kindle (at 2x speed). An excellent sports book about how Bird and Johnson, and their rivalry, revitalized the NBA. I thought the best part of the book was recounting the early years through their retirement. The book fills in the rest of the story, such as Johnson's various comebacks and the 1992 dream team, which didn't quite have the charge of the rest of the book.

Its a sports book. The author (Jackie McMullin, NOT Bird and Johnson) does a good job of recreating the
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fun, fast-paced return to the Bird/Magic NBA of the 80's. MacMullen touches all of the areas you'd expect and never stays on a subject beyond the amount necessary. (To suggest the book was written by Larry and Magic with an assist from Jackie MacMullen is absurd.) It reads a bit YA but it's a sports book so that's fine, maybe even its strength.

Magic is pretty fully drawn but his Lakers teammates come across flat. As a Celtics fan that didn't trouble me in the least. Bird's former teamm
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Basketball aficionado my age (or older) must have heard of a couple of stories about Larry and Magic. Only by reading this book do we realize however, just how large each man loomed in the other's mind during their playing days.

Problem is, these two greats, two legends, are so well known, the book covers a lot of material that most hoops fans already know. The run-up to their epic 1979 NCAA Championship battle, their ascension to NBA superstardom, their quest for NBA rings, Bird's struggles with
Jo Skeffington-Debski
Really enjoyed this book; a definite keeper and one I would highly recommend. I grew up watching them play and it floods back memories of the NBA greats as I read it. The days when the game was a team sport and less of the ego drama of today. It’s uniquely written giving the perspectives of both players. My favorite passage documents after the Dream Team won the Olympics…
“ The two superstars, who spent their entire careers affixing their signatures to pictures, posters, papers, and sneakers for
Lucian Dunham
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Any fan of the game should read this book. It needed to be written and it needed to be a collaborative work, which it was. It captures so well the heated rivalry, the legendary performances, and the deep respect between the two. It chronicles their earliest days, their near mythical heights, and their days in the front office. It's written without bias or prejudice, just a recounting of one of the greatest eras in basketball history. I loved every second. ...more
Ben Potloff
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great book if you love the NBA and want to know what is was like the decade before MJ took over. I never got to watch Magic & Bird but this interesting book gave me a context for all the highlights I’ve seen over the years. Really fun read.
Anthony Baamonde
Jan 30, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book on the rivalry between Bird and Magic. Goes into great depths about their college careers and how they became forever linked with each other. It was also great to see how the NBA has changed since they took over in the 80s, and a total resurgence of the league.
Feb 17, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a sucker for books that make me feel nostalgic about the 80s and 90s. When it comes to sports books, it helps when they are well written and don't seem overly self-serving. This one is a solid read.

I was *obsessed* with sports, but I came along at the tail end of the Magic and Larry years. All I knew was that the Lakers and Celtics had been really good when I was too young to pay much attention. I didn't realize quite how linked they were, pretty much from high school through now. Nowadays,
Brad Urban
Jul 28, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a big sports fan but did not know much of the history of the NBA, and this was a treat! I was so entertained learning about Magic and Bird and the incredible stories from their time changing the league. Jackie MacMullan is also a wonderful author who writes in a way that allows the player’s stories to shine. “When the Game Was Ours” makes me wish I had witnessed the NBA revival of the 80’s, but it certainly lives on through this book.
Nonethousand Oberrhein
The odd couple
There was a time when the NBA was not the worldwide renown show that we know today… then Larry and Magic came. This sums up the importance of this “double biography” that goes through twelve essential dates for the two sportsmen (from their first encounter in the ‘78 World Invitational Tournament to Larry’s retirement ceremony in ‘92), picturing the rivalry as it was: a mix of envy, admiration, respect and competition that grew in time into one of the most iconic friendships in mod
Jan 17, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book made me Re-evaluate and increase how I feel about the legacy's of Bird and Kareem, but not Magic's. 3.49☆ ...more
Mar 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: basketball
Larry Bird and Magic Johson. They are legendary eighties talent NBA players .
Ben Martin
Jun 16, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies, sports
For someone who has watched every Larry Bird documentary out there, read his biography, and watched countless highlight reels, I still learned a decent amount of things I didn’t know prior to this book. Same goes for Magic. While this book focuses on their relationship, it also goes into both of their lives individually. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, Celtics vs Lakers, east coast vs west coast. No one could have designed it any better. This book reads like you are watching a movie, highly recomm ...more
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Brennan Kulick
Miss Weilnau
English 3
18 March 2018
IRP #6
Part 1. The book that I read for this Independent Reading Project was Larry Bird & Magic Johnson: When The Game Was Ours. This book is a basketball bibliography of two people, that being Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. This book is about Magic Johnson and Larry Bird’s career in basketball starting from their early life through their NBA career and life after the NBA. Throughout this book it alternates from Larry to Magic and lets you see their
Sep 15, 2010 rated it it was ok
I was really disappointed in this book. I don't know what I was expecting, but it didn't deliver for me. I did enjoy the first half which was about how they got their start, and many of the things that went on, but really, by the end of the book I was so sick of reading the phrase, "Magic and Larry" or "Larry and Magic". Really, let's use a modicum of creativity and originality. I started to wonder if the whole thing was made up.

I really liked both Larry Bird and Magic Johnson when they were pl
Anthony Francalancia
Sep 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Have you ever known a person that you had been best friends with yet competing with your whole life? In the book When the Game Was Ours by basketball legends Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, their relationship both on and off the court and the differences between them created an exciting and competitive basketball environment. As the two fight for championships and maximizing fame, they were symbols of their time, where they differentiated in race, demographics, and style of play.
The story begins w
Jay French
Feb 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: basketball, audiobook
During most of the Larry Bird and Magic Johnson era I was in college and most interested in the college game. I knew that Bird and Magic were NBA royalty before Jordan showed up, but not much more about them. I recently attended a presentation by Magic Johnson for my job, where the focus of his talk was his work with companies in underserved areas. He comes across as very smart, or at least smart enough to hire very smart people for his companies. He has created millions of dollars in value in p ...more
Will Gustafson
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"When the Game was Ours" was composed by a collaboration of authors including Larry Bird, Earvin (Magic) Johnson, and Jackie MacMullan. Their purpose for creating this masterfully written biography was to bring Bird and Johnson's fascinatingly intertwined lives as basketball players to the public's eyes. It starts out by describing their dominant high school and college careers. Then it goes on into their intense and heated rivalries as pros, along with their journey to Barcelona to play in the ...more
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