Bird's zingers and more snapshots from the Hall of Fame weekend
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. --You may have seen on NBA-TV's Friday night broadcast a portion of the playful banter that went on between the 1960 and 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball teams during enshrinement weekend at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. (Then again, NBA-TV isn't exactly a Nielsen leader.) The televised gotcha line --
The competiveness of the players on the '92 Dream Team has been well chronicled, but unless you're an older basketball follower (somebody like, say, myself) it might not be clear that a couple of the '60 players invented competitiveness. They were on stage Friday night and I watched the reactions of '60 co-captains
They weren't laughing.
But that's what made them great. I loved the fact that the '60 players -- West and Robertson plus
That televised segment also revealed another truth: Bird has become a funnyman. Sure,
Herewith a few more snapshots from enshrinement weekend:
• On separate occasions Bird and Magic, the Dream Team co-captains, went out of their way to single out Barkley's play during the '92 Games. Magic called him the team's "best player" on Friday night, and earlier that afternoon at a private roundtable Bird had called Charles "our most dominant player." Bird's comment is the one that rings true, not Magic's. At that venue and at that point in his career -- he would win the NBA's MVP the following season -- Barkley was unstoppable as a back-to-the-basket operator. But
• The fact that Barkley and two other Dream Teamers,
He probably regretted it the moment he said it, but no one took it as racist, which it wasn't. (Barkley has talked about eating fried chicken himself.) Barkley didn't miss a beat. "What you really wanted to say, C.M., was that Bobby Knight was a prick," said Charles. The room roared but it will probably be edited out of the official Hall of Fame video.
• Strangest sight of the weekend?
• Overheard from a Hall of Fame official before the long-delayed Friday morning news conference: "We're waiting to see if we can get Michael and
• On Friday morning, Dream Teamer
The ball looks like a misshapen volleyball that your middle school phys-ed teacher would throw in the scrap heap. It would've been more grist for the these-guys-are-old humor mill, but, in truth, the ball-handling skills of the '60 team had to be superior to work with that thing.
• Anyone who knew
• Bird has long called D.J. his favorite teammate of all time. But he was honest enough to admit D.J.'s one shortcoming, if you can call it that: He wasn't exactly a model practice player. "If D.J. had played 40 minutes the night before, we'd tell him to go sit down the next day at practice," said Bird. "Why? Because he wouldn't go hard. So he sat down."
• The two Celtic teammates are forever linked, of course, by the play that occurred in the 1987 Eastern playoffs when Bird stole Isiah Thomas's inbounds pass and zipped a feed to a cutting D.J., whose layup won the game. The play showed up on the big screen during the induction ceremonies, and
Here's what he didn't do. He didn't jump in the air or pump his fist. Here's what he did: He immediately turned to guard the inbounds pass. The man was a stone-cold killer in big games.
• Among the most vivid memories of the Dream Team in Barcelona was what's known as "the Kukoc game." That was the game in which Jordan and Pippen vowed to shut down
So several hours later it was jarring to see Kukoc featured so prominently and saying nice things about Scottie in the taped segment that preceded Pippen's induction.
In truth, though, Pippen always felt a little guilty -- emphasis on little -- about "the Kukoc game." For after the tall and talented Croatian joined the Bulls, he became one of Jordan's and Pippen's favorite teammates for his versatility.
• There were several great moments of speechmaking on Friday night -- I loved coach