Bird was also dealing with a painful back injury that limited his effectiveness, one that forced him into paying attention to his fighting trim for the first time in his career. In the excerpt, McCallum details the 34-year old Bird’s battle with the bulge, in the wake of missing nearly the entire 1988-89 season with Achilles’ issues. “I think I wanna be active,” said Bird. “What I might do, though, is git in shape, git outta shape, then git in shape again. I won’t do it like I used to, though. It’s gittin’ tougher. Three years ago I could lose fifteen pounds like nuthin’. Now? I don’t know if I could.” He had put on a few pounds when he was out of action, but he wasn’t sure how many. “I was so bored, I’d set around the house, drive my wife crazy, and eat and eat. In two and a half weeks I was off I ate ten gallons of ice cream and seven weddin’ cakes. Why them? I ate weddin’ cakes ’cause you knew they was gonna be good. I mean, who would [eff] up a weddin’ cake?”
Jack McCallum Rumors
In a lengthy Deadspin excerpt from his forthcoming book on the 1990-91 Boston Celtics, famed sportswriter and Basketball Hall of Famer Jack McCallum detailed the travails of a Celtics team moving uneasily into middle age. The group would go on to win 56 games that season with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish still playing All-Star level ball, but the team was a few years removed from working as a championship contender, as teams from Detroit, Portland and Chicago had eclipsed the C’s, with even their rival Los Angeles Lakers managing to make it to their last Finals appearance of Magic Johnson’s career that spring.
“He’s trying to ruin a 30-year friendship I’ve had with Magic. I’ve been one of his biggest supporters in the game of basketball, and probably his biggest fan. I have nothing bad to say about Magic, ever.” Drexler conceded that he made one comment to which he was quoted. “I said, ‘People didn’t know what would happen with Magic. If I’d known he was going to live that long, I’d have tried harder to get the MVP (of the All-Star Game) in 1992,’ ” he said. “But I was laughing, and I was kidding. Jack should have known that. I would never comment on someone’s mortality. That’s not for us to do. Jack lost he mind when he put that out there.”
McCallum goes into length discussing the Drexler interview in a pair of blog posts on his Website, JackMcCallum.net, and posted the transcript of the aforementioned part of the Drexler interview. In a Thursday conversation with me, he explained where he felt Deadspin’s Jack Dickey erred, stressing he believes the writer took it out of context. “Deadspin took the idea that everyone on the Dream team felt sorry for Magic because he was going to die,” McCallum said. “Clyde didn’t say that and I didn’t write that. He was talking about a league-wide perception. “No. 2, they seemed to cast it as if Clyde resented Magic on the Dream Team. That’s not true. Clyde talked about some other guys who shouldn’t have been on the Dream Team, but not Magic. My impression was Clyde did not resent him being on the team.”
I connected with McCallum Thursday morning. He had already engaged in several discussions with Drexler on Wednesday. McCallum said he has Drexler’s comments – taken from a two-hour visit at Clyde’s Houston home more than a year ago – stored on his recorder. “If anybody thinks I feel good about this, I don’t,” McCallum told me. “I don’t think I took things out of context. The Deadspin excerpt did, and I’m sorry about that. But I stand behind the quotes that are in my book.”
You can imagine Drexler’s response as he answered questions about his comments from friends and media Wednesday. “Jack is using me to sell his books,” he told me late Wednesday night. “I don’t get it. Every statement he made is completely false. I never said any of that. Not any of it. Not even close. Why would he make up statements? You’d have to talk to Jack about that.”