About the Book
The fascinating account - part autobiography, part sports history - of a young New York sportswriter sent out to cover his favourite team, the New York Knicks, during the social unrest of the 1960s and 70s. WHEN THE GARDEN WAS EDEN is a multi-layered retrospective on the compelling Knicks championship era of the late 60s and early 70s. The book details and analyses the formation, triumphs and travails of a unqiue and beloved set of individuals who set the standard in New York City for collective excellence in American team sports - and did so in a period marked by extreme and much-discussed political and social divisiveness. The book is based on extensive research, interviews with surviving players, opponents and many others from inside and outside the sport. It is written from the unqiue perspective of a New Yorker who grew up a fan of this team but who later became a sports journalist and formed professional relationships with several of the principal characters, deepening his emotional connection. The book is not merely a re-creation of what was, but also follows the life arcs of the Old Knicks legends - walking the streets with Willis Reed in the small Louisiana town in which he grew up; roaming the tropical paradise on St. Croix created by Walt Frazier, separating the man from the one-dimensional character he created named Clyde; visiting with an introspective Earl Monroe in Harlem; talking life and politics with Bill Bradley, coaching with Phil Jackson, and poetry and literature with Dr. Dick Barnett. Cazzie Russell relives the worst moment of his professional life, when he called Reed - a child of Jim Crow laws - an "Uncle Tom" and somehow lived to tell of it. Basketball events are calibrated to individuals with a unique take on a particular event. We watch Game 5 of the 1970 finals with Reed, who was injured that night and never did see the Knicks miracle win unfold. Game 7 of that great series is watched with Frazier - the star of the game - providing his trademark commentary on the most memorable Knicks game of all. Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals - a rousing Knicks victory in Boston - becomes a fascinating study of a lifelong friendship between Dean Memimger and Earl Monroe. Opponents weigh in - Oscar Robertson on the night the Knicks staged a miracle last-minute comeback against his team, the Cincinnati Royals. Old rivals from the Bullets, Celtics and Lakers have their say. Celebrity fans like Woody Allen, Elliott Gould, Mario Cuomo, Bill Goldman and others lend their voices. There is some BOYS OF SUMMER WHEN THE GARDEN WAS EDEN and some BRONX IS BURNING. Above all, it is a book written by someone who wants people like him to better remember those glorious teams, and for younger fans to know what it was like when New York City was really the centre of the basketball universe.