Dream Team, Jack McCallum's exhaustive account of the life and times of America's 1992 Olympic men's basketball team, was already looking like the most anticipated sports book of the summer when we ran a brief excerpt yesterday, one that dealt with Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler and his comments on how the team dealt with Magic Johnson and his having HIV. Here's the passage straight from the book:
"Magic was always..." And Drexler goes into a decent Magic impression: "'Come on, Clyde, come on, Clyde, get with me, get with me,' and making all that noise. And, really, he couldn't play much by that time. He couldn't guard his shadow."
"But you have to have to understand what was going on then. Everybody kept waiting for Magic to die. Every time he'd run up the court everybody would feel sorry for the guy, and he'd get all that benefit of the doubt. Magic came across like, 'All this is my stuff.' Really? Get outta here, dude. He was on the declining end of his career."
Drexler had played exquisitely in the 1992 All-Star Game in Orlando, although the MVP award eventually went to Magic, who had been added by Commissioner Stern as a special thirteenth player to the Western Conference roster. "If we all knew Magic was going to live this long, I would've gotten the MVP of that game, and Magic probably wouldn't have made the Olympic team."
In the wake of that post, McCallum responded on his personal website yesterday in an attempt to give some further context:
Let me begin by emphasizing that the excerpt was accurate. But the lead-in was not. Deadspin says that "everyone on the Dream Team felt sorry for Magic because he was going to die." That was not the context. Clyde was talking about many people in the league, not specifically the Dream Teamers.
[H]ere's something else that was not in the Deadspin excerpt but is in the book:
When Magic came back to the NBA after the Olympics, he faced renewed controversy, some of it coming from a Dream Team mate-Karl Malone. And in that charged atmosphere–freighted with ignorance, misunderstanding and, frankly, a dearth of information about a disease that we still can't fully control–Drexler said this: "If Magic wants to play, I'll play against him."
There is a lot more in the book about Drexler's opinions on who should've been left off, his feelings about being the 11th man, and his take on the behind-the-scenes negotiating about Isiah Thomas. But since Drexler has been criticized for what he said about Magic, I want to make it clear that, two decades ago, the man stood the tallest of all the Dream Teamers in welcoming Magic back to the league.
Well, that clarification doesn't appear to have assuaged Drexler's concerns ahead of the book's July 10 street date. Tonight, Drexler released a statement through the Rockets organization, and he doesn't sound happy with how McCallum has characterized ... whatever it was he said regarding Magic.
"I have nothing but love and respect for Magic Johnson and all that he has accomplished in basketball and in life. I always took pride in being a great teammate throughout my career and I would never have made the statements that were reported in Jack McCallum's book. I was one of Magic's biggest supporters during that difficult period in his life and I take great exception to having such comments attributed to me. Magic and I have a friendship that goes back more than 28 years and I would never say such hurtful things. I have reached out to Magic to assure him that I did not say those things and to apologize to him and his family for even having to respond to something as baseless as this."
Only a couple of weeks until we can all read the book for ourselves. To preorder Dream Team, head here.)