Life on the Run

Bill Bradley played for the New York Knicks from 1967 to 1977 and won two titles there. In “Life on the Run,” he provides insights into the inner workings of one of the most successful teams of the 1970s.

Life on the Run by Bill Bradley

Although the book was written by an active player, it is not an autobiography. Bill Bradley does writ eabout his own history, but this takes up only a small part of the book. Rather, “Life on the Run” is an account of the daily life of an NBA team in the 1970s. The author describes a span of a few weeks during the 1973-74 season. The title alludes to the hectic life of a professional player, the many flights, arriving at hotels in the middle of the night or early in the morning, frantically eating meals and training sessions.

It’s interesting to read how different the life of an NBA pro was back then. While the league has existed since 1946, some fans don’t consider the “true” start of the modern NBA until the arrival of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird (and later Michael Jordan). The 70s, on the other hand, are considered somewhat of a forgotten decade as far as the sport of basketball is concerned. These differences are evident, for example, in flights between different NBA cities. The Knicks’ players used normal scheduled flights and were sometimes not even recognized or mistaken for a circus troupe.

“Life on the Run” is nonetheless more than a matter-of-fact description of a season. Just like David Halberstam in The Breaks of the Game, Bradley uses various passages here to introduce his teammates and tell their stories. In addition to the star players Willis Reed and Walt Frazier, as well as Bradley’s friend and roommate Dave DeBusschere, Phil Jackson, who would later win 11 titles as coach of the Chicago Bulls and LA Lakers, played there, among others. But the most interesting personality is Jerry Lucas, who seemed to have almost a photographic memory and a fascination with numbers of all kinds.

In the article on Drive by Larry Bird, I wrote that Bird probably didn’t want to piss other people off while he was still active. Bradley was still active when Life on the Run came out, but it’s a bit more polarizing than Drive. For example, Bradley is relatively vocal in his criticism of Wilt Chamberlain. While he praises his individual abilities, which were beyond reproach, he also describes how Wilt’s focus on personal statistics often came at the expense of team success. Bradley is full of praise for Wilt’s big rival Bill Russell, whom he sees as the ultimate winner.

Bill Simmons ranks “Life on the Run” in the highest category for basketball books (Influential Must-Reads) in his book The Book of Basketball. The praise for Russell and criticism of Chamberlain likely played a role in this. Simmons quotes passages from this book in the chapter on Russell and Wilt. However, I can definitely understand this classification. Bill Bradley has written a really good book here that even more than 40 years later is still very interesting to read if you are interested in the history of the NBA.

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