The sports world has always been a star-driven universe, the imaginations of its fans fueled by extraordinary performances under pressure: Joe Montana’s precision passing in the Super Bowl, David Beckham’s creative shot-making in the World Cup, Albert Pujols’ towering home runs in the World Series. The stars sell the tickets and the jerseys, and they drive television revenue through the ceiling in the process. Larry and Magic arrived when fan interest in professional basketball at an all-time low; their battles sparked the NBA’s Golden Age, and the league transformed itself into a global marketing machine thanks in large part to their epic rivalry. And the same can be said for individual sports – in golf there has always been an Arnold Palmer, or a Jack Nicklaus, or a Tiger Woods, their larger-than-life personas filling the galleries and attracting the sponsors. Imagine tennis without the historic achievements of players like McEnroe, Sampras, Agassi or Federer. Would we even care about the Tour de France without Lance Armstrong?
Roberts on finding his role with the Celtics:
I was able to play the 3 and 4, so there was some versatility in what they could do withme. I could get into the games a little bit more than the other guys on the bench. For me coming into this organization from the outside, I had an impression that the Celtics were a very tight-knit group. But once I got there, it sort of felt like there was an undercurrent that things weren’t quite right, that maybe there was some friction between Bird and McHale, and that there were some difficulties in getting the personalities to mesh. That’s not uncommon in the NBA. It happens. But there was an undercurrent that people weren’t quite happy, that maybe injuries and age was catching up with the team and there were going to be changes, and yet they were trying to hang onto the greatness that they had.
Roberts on Red Auerbach and Johnny Most:
I don’t think Red said a word to me the whole two years I was there [laughs]. I think he nodded at me once. But I was so impressed with the whole organization and everything about it. I was okay on the floor, but off the floor I think I was a little star struck. Johnny Most was a great guy, and a part of that Boston Celtic mystique and image. You’d hear his voice at 7AM in the morning, down in the coffee shop, screaming at the waitress. You just don’t forget stuff like that. He was always a gentleman to me, he was kind when I was traded. Whenever I came back he made it a point to say hello to me. Johnny had been announcing forever by the time I got there. And then I got there, and there was this gig where people could pay to have Johnny announce the end of a game with their name inserted. And one day I’m walking down the hall and he stops me, and he pulls me in the room and tells me that I have to hear this. And he records the last minute of a game, and he inserts a fan’s name at the end, with the fan receiving the pass from Bird and hitting the game winner. And when it’s over, Johnny smiles and says ‘And that’s five-hundred dollars for me!’ He was so excited, it was like he’d got a free cup of coffee [laughs].