Golden Days is the story of two basketball teams from very different eras but with a huge amount in common. The LA Lakers from 1971/72 and the modern-day Golden State Warriors share a California setting, the thrill of combing great players in one team, scarcely believable winning streaks and one very important man – Jerry ‘the Logo’ West.
McCallum centres the book around West – a legendary player for the Lakers in the 60’s and 70’s who after 50 years of being a leading player, coach and executive, was an important consultant and scout for the Warriors as they built a team that is reinventing basketball. In many ways, it’s a biography of two phases of West’s life – and it leaves you dying to read his own book, ‘West by West’ next. West comes across as the most modern octogenarian there is – refusing to bask in ‘back in my day’ nostalgia and determined to keep working at the very top of the NBA.
The book jumps between the two teams from chapter to chapter and tells the story of the key figures from both eras. Both tales are strengthened by the linkages drawn to the author. McCallum is a great writer whose love of basketball shines through on every page. His interview skills are the bedrock of his writing and he manages to get his subjects to open up in great detail.
The characters from the 70’s unsurprisingly stand out as more entertaining and fun – none more so than Wilt Chamberlain. It feels like the book is more about the Lakers than the Warriors – like McCallum really wanted to focus on those days but linking it to the Warriors and the Steph Curry phenomenon made the story much more saleable.
The material on the Warriors is interesting for a casual fan like me who hasn’t followed NBA too closely in recent years. I’ve enjoyed watching the Warriors but wasn’t familiar with the behind the scenes story of how the team was built. It will be fascinating to see can they repeat championship glory this year and prove that they differ from West’s Lakers in one major way – winning championships consistently.
McCallum has a very distinctive style – at times gossipy with plenty of asides from the author. It might not be for everyone but I like it lot. It flows well and is easy to read. I’ve been a McCallum fan since I first encountered his work in Dream Team his excellent book on the 92 Olympic team that captured the world’s attention. Overall I highly recommend Golden Days for any fan of basketball past or present.