Although fans remember Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jr., as the quintessential basketball rivals, their careers were bookended by brief periods of fantastic teamwork. With Jackie MacMullen, Bird and Johnson recount When The Game Was Ours (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26), describing how two men elevated their profession from a sports afterthought in the late 1970s to the height of the Olympic “Dream Team” in the early 1990s. What linked Bird and Magic, more than the games in which they competed, was the reflection of themselves they saw in each other. This bond held their friendship and respect together through difficult losses, racial tension, media hyperbole, and personal tragedy. Although they each had many great teammates, where winning was concerned, Bird and Magic spoke to each other in a language no one else on the court could understand.
One of Jon Krakauer’s many strengths as a writer is his ability to take two stories and weave them together to make one fascinating account. In Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman (Doubleday, $27.95), the tales of Afghanistan and Pat Tillman come together tragically at a small canyon near Pakistan’s border where Tillman was killed by friendly fire from his own platoon. Krakauer discusses the subsequent military cover-up of the details of Tillman’s death and how Tillman’s family forced the truth to be told. The reporting includes hundreds of interviews, on-the-ground research in Afghanistan, and excerpts from Tillman’s journals and letters. What shines through all of this, though, is the story of a thoughtful, dedicated, and exceptional young man driven by his moral compass in all things, and the effect his brief life had on so many.