When the Game Was War: The NBA's Greatest Season
The gritty, no-holds-barred account of the 1987 NBA season, a thrilling year of fierce battles and off-the-court drama between Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, and Michael Jordan—from New York Times bestselling author Rich Cohen.
“Cohen brings new life to these athletes and their legendary rivalries.”—Bob Ryan, sports columnist emeritus, The Boston Globe
AN ESQUIRE BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
Four historic teams. Four legendary players. One unforgettable season.
The 1980s were a transformative decade for the NBA. Since its founding in 1946, the league had evolved from a bruising, earthbound game of mostly nameless, underpaid players to one in which athletes became household names for their thrilling, physics-defying play. The 1987–88 season was the peak of that golden era, a year of incredible drama that featured a pantheon of superstars in their prime—the most future Hall of Famers competing at one time in any given season—battling for the title, and for their respective legacies.
In When the Game Was War, bestselling author Rich Cohen tells the story of this incredible season through the four teams, and the four players, who dominated it: Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics, Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers, Isiah Thomas and the Detroit Pistons, and a young Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls. From rural Indiana to the South Side of Chicago, suburban North Carolina to rust-belt Michigan, Cohen explores the diverse journeys each of these iconic players took before arriving on the big stage. Drawing from dozens of interviews with NBA insiders, Cohen brings to vivid life some of the most colorful characters of the era—like Bill Laimbeer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Danny Ainge, and Charles Oakley—who fought like hell to help these stars succeed.
For anyone who longs to understand how the NBA came to be the cultural juggernaut it is today—and to relive the magic and turmoil of those pivotal years—When the Game Was War brilliantly recasts one unforgettable season and the four transcendent players who were at the center of it all.
Rich Cohen is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football, The Chicago Cubs: Story of a Curse, and Pee Wees: Confessions of a Hockey Parent, among others. He is a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, the co-creator of the HBO series Vinyl, and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone. He lives in Connecticut.