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Let Me Tell You a Story
A Lifetime in the Game
- By John Feinstein
- In print, usually dispatched within 48 hours.
- Tagged with:
- Published: 2nd Feb 2006
- ISBN: 0316010723
- Pages: 464
From the Publisher:
The legendary Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach - who led the Celtics to nine NBA championships, eight of them consecutive - joins forces with America's favorite sportswriter to produce one of the most richly entertaining books ever written about the game of basketball.
Red Auerbach colorfully recalls all the players and coaches he has worked with and played against: Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Bob Cousy, Wilt Chamberlain, Sam Jones, and Michael Jordan - you name them, the basketball greats are all here. Red holds nothing back as he offers up the highlights of a triumphant career.
From the Book:
"DID I EVER TELL you about Chamberlain?" The old man leans back in his chair, a smile creasing his face at the memory. Someone sitting at the round table has said something about Wilt Chamberlain and, as always, memories and stories flood back to him.
"Chamberlain," he says, once the table has gone silent, "was the most unbelievable physical specimen ever. There wasn't anything he couldn't do on the basketball court. One year he scored fifty points a game. Another year he led the league in assists. He was so strong it was frightening."
He pauses. "But there was one thing he couldn't do. He couldn't beat us. Just couldn't do it. Russell wore him out, running up and down the court, and you" - he points across the table at one of his listeners - "you drove him crazy. Remember how we ran that pick-and-roll play, where Russell would feed you the ball and Chamberlain had to switch? He'd always get there just as you released the shot, and you, you sonofabitch, you'd say in that high-pitched voice of yours, 'Too late.' And you made the shot every time."
The man he is pointing at is Sam Jones, who, like Bill Russell, is in basketball's Hall of Fame. Jones is cracking up at the story, at the memory, and at the shrill imitation of his taunting of Chamberlain.
"Remember the night he chased me?" he says. "Oh yeah." Now the old man is laughing too. "You ran down the court, grabbed a stool from one of the photographers, and used it for protection."
"Protection?" Jones says. "I told Wilt, 'Now I've got a chance. You come near me, I'll swing the thing at you.'" "He'd a still killed you." "No way. He'd never catch me."
A dozen men are now convulsed with laughter. "I ever tell you about the night Wilt tried to get at me?" the old man says.
For the next twenty minutes he talks about Chamberlain and all the times his Boston Celtics brought him grief, first as a Philadelphia Warrior, later as a San Francisco Warrior, then as a Philadelphia 76er, and finally as a Los Angeles Laker. "I actually liked the guy," he says when he is finished. "He flew all the way across the country to come to my eightieth birthday party. After all those years, that meant a lot to me."
For a split second, he is silent. Then he pushes back from the table. "Gotta go."
A dozen men stand up as if the old man is a judge walking out of a courtroom. Red Auerbach is now eighty-seven years old, but there aren't many down moments in his day. When it is time to leave lunch and get to his afternoon card game, he doesn't linger. For everyone else at the table it is different. Most of them have jobs to get back to.
None of them are in any hurry. They would prefer to linger. But when Red says, "Gotta go," no one argues. Arguing with Red is about as easy as beating his Celtics was for Chamberlain.
Outside, it is a midwinter Tuesday in Washington DC, and a cold rain is spitting down, the midday temperature hovering around freezing. On the sidewalk outside the China Doll, the twelve men who had been sitting at the round table in the back corner of the restaurant are now standing in groups of two and three, engaged in conversation. There is a good deal of contact between them: arms around shoulders; repeated handshakes; the occasional hug.
To those walking by, they must be a strange sight. Some of the passersby pause or even come to a halt when they get a glimpse of Auerbach, who is the only one in the group in any sort of rush to move from the spot anytime before dark.
"Come on, gotta go," he barks again, walking slowly in the direction of the silver Mercedes convertible parked in front of him. A glance at the license plate will quickly dispel any doubt about who the car belongs to. It says simply, CELTIC. Those riding with him know from his tone that this is last call, that it is time for one more handshake, a promise to call later in the week, a reminder to stay safe on the road.
Even so, as Auerbach starts easing himself into the driver's seat, his passengers are still lingering just a tiny bit. There may be one more story to tell, one last laugh to be had before departing. Only when he is seated, engine running, and looks up one last time and says, "Hey, how 'bout it?" do they finally break away and start to get into the car.
No one, except the old man, really wants to go. By now, inevitably, some of those walking by or walking into the restaurant have stopped to stare. "Is that who I think it is?" they ask. Or they may just call out, "Hey, Coach, how's it going?"Auerbach waves in response, accustomed to the notion that there are very few places he can go without someone recognizing him.
One man dressed in a suit, walking rapidly with a cell phone to his ear, stops in his tracks when he sees him. He looks at no one in particular among those still on the sidewalk and says, "It's him, isn't it?"
Yes, he's told, it's him; it's Red Auerbach, the man who, for all intents and purposes, invented professional basketball. "What the heck is he doing here?" the man asks. The answer to that question is simple: it's Tuesday.”
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"In Shakespeare's time, mattresses were secured on bed frames by ropes when you pulled on the ropes the mattress tightened, making the bed firmer to sleep on. Hence the phrase, 'Goodnight, sleep tight.' "
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