Chicago author Rich Cohen releases book 'When The Game Was War' focusing on 1987-88 NBA season

ByHosea Sanders and Marsha Jordan WLS logo
Thursday, October 5, 2023
Acclaimed Chicago author releases book focusing on 1987-88 NBA season
Chicago sports author Rich Cohen is releasing a new book with stories from Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas on the 1987-88 NBA season.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Acclaimed Chicago sports author Rich Cohen is coming out with a new book focusing on stories of players from the dynamic 1987-88 NBA season, including Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas.

Cohen is an author who grew up on the north shore. He's a writer of acclaimed books about the Cubs, the Bears and The Rolling Stones.

Despite growing up in Chicago and witnessing the rise of Michael Jordan, Cohen has a deeper history with NBA legend Isiah Thomas.

"My interest in Isiah Thomas precedes Michael Jordan coming to the Bulls," Cohen said. "My father had been a basketball coach and loved the way Isiah played, and he loved that Isiah was a regular size guy in a game made for giants, but he didn't play like a regular size guy, he played like a giant. This thing happened where he became a big rival of Michael Jordan, his big dream was to play on the Bulls, and to be the big basketball player in Chicago and it became a personal thing over the love of Chicagoans, who was going to get it."

The young Thomas traveled three hours every day from Chicago's West Side to St. Joe's High School in the suburbs. Sports anchor Tim Weigel reported on the gifted teenager in 1979. He was playing a game that he learned on the streets. He focused on going inside and having a lot of contact.

Thomas suffered a double blow when it came to the Olympics. First there was a USA political boycott. The next blow was when he was frozen out by Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.

"You realize on that Dream Team he's very much erased from that picture," Cohen said. "He was the best player, on the best team in the NBA. Incredible intensity and a model for how you live the rest of your life. The one who wins is the one who gets up one more time when he's knocked down that's gonna be the winner."

Cohen has collected some memorabilia throughout his years covering Chicago sports.

"On the desk where I write, I have a brick that was once part of the Chicago Stadium," Cohen said. "It conjures a time when the game was better than it ever had been or will be."

The author said he recalls a lot of his own personal experiences when writing about the exciting sports memories.

"It might be more than basketball I am remembering," Cohen said. "It might be my childhood, when my parents were young and my life was new, and the players I loved were in their prime. It was a time when the games really mattered."

Cohen will hold an event next week, Tuesday evening at The Book Stall in Winnetka, where attendees can meet him and discuss his new book.