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October 21, 1998|EARL GUSTKEY

What: "Larry Legend."

Author: Mark Shaw.

Publisher: Masters Press.

Price: $23.

Here's one to leave on the bookstore shelf--even if you're a hopeless, can't-get-enough NBA addict.

Ever read a year-old NBA game story? It's like eating hay. That's what Shaw asks you to do here, in his worshipful treatment of Larry Bird. He recounts game after tedious game, in Bird's first season as coach of the Indiana Pacers.

Even worse, he repeatedly calls him "Larry Legend."

Bad title, bad book.

Bad quotes too. How about this:

Pacer President Donnie Walsh, talking about Bird's retirement as a player:

"Donnie Walsh, when told of Bird's decision to hang up his sneakers and green-and-white uniform, said: 'It's kind of like when Alexander the Great decided he wasn't going to conquer any more countries.' "

Far more interesting would have been something, anything, on Bird's wife, Dinah, who is dismissed on the next-to-last page with this: "Only his wife Dinah saw his private side."

Nor will you learn much about Bird's first wife, Janet Condra, or of his daughter, Corrie Bird, ignored by her father since she was born in the 1970s. Bird refused at first to even acknowledge she was his child and years later refused to answer his daughter's letters.

Shaw says Bird was embarrassed about being included in a Sports Illustrated piece last May about deadbeat NBA fathers. But then, four paragraphs later, his subject is Larry Legend again:

"Through it all," Shaw writes, "Bird had acted like a gentleman, maintaining his composure and trying to lead by example."

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