Sport: Masters of Their Own Game

On the ice and on the boards, always several moves ahead

Anyone even casually aware of professional hockey and basketball knows Wayne Gretzky and Larry Bird as shades of no one else, except maybe each other: two unexpectedly alike and amazingly unlikely straw-haired farm boys who are not only reigning at the top of their games but raising the ceilings of their sports. Confounding normal description, confusing standard measurement, Gretzky is not the slickest skater or hardest shooter, just as Bird is not the swiftest runner or highest jumper. One is frankly too frail for the business, the other simply too agile for his size.

Though neither is highly educated, in the...

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