Jeff Pearlman

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This cover haunted me

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Back when I was 8 and growing up in Mahopac, N.Y., my brother and I would spend our hours after school down the street, being watched for a couple of hours by Mrs. Walker.

It was a pretty fun gig. We’d show up, backpacks slung over shoulders, enter the house, grab a snack, then play with the four Walker kids. There’d be a lot of backyard football, a lot of sprinting up and down Emerald Lane, a lot of trash talk about the Mets and Jets and Yankees.

Like most childhood memories, much has faded. I don’t actually recall the specific food we were offered. I don’t know the color of the Walkers’ downstairs rug. Were there lamps? Not sure. Was the TV usually on? Maybe. Lotta blurry nuggets.

One thing I do recall, however, is the L.C. Greenwood cover of Sports Illustrated.

Unlike my family, the Walkers subscribed to SI. Which was awesome—because the magazine was a brick of gold to little me. It’d be there on a table, waiting to be read. So I’d sneak over, look left, look right, then dig through the pages. One by one by one. Did it inspire my career decision? Most definitely.

Anyhow, I have this vivid recollection of the above issue, because it scared the living crap out of me. I just remember thinking how … HUGE L.C. Greenwood seemed to be. Forehead covered in sweat, eyes glaring, black uniform with that big No. 68. I also thought it was beyond confusing. “Have the Steelers had it?” What? Of course not. The Steelers were the best team in football. They were Mean Joe and Bradhsaw and Swan and Lambert. There was no way the Steelers had it. Fuck, the Steelers were eternal.

That year they finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs.

They’d had it.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life