Larry Bird and Joey Q

The other week Danny Ainge recalled how surprised he was when he first saw Kevin Garnett rebounding balls for Rajon Rondo during shooting practice. "Larry Bird would never have done that," Ainge said, suggesting that such behavior would have beneath the Legend.

Ainge was right. Bird typically didn't rebound basketballs for anyone during practice. But he certainly didn't take on airs either.

The guy who rebounded the ball for Bird during shooting practice was named Joey Quatato. Joey Q. was the assistant equipment manager. He was middle-aged, shorter, overweight, and lacking any density on the top of his scalp, if you know what I mean.

For 20 minutes before every game, Joey would stand under the net and feed Bird about 80 to 120 balls, with Bird often making seventy-five to eight percent of his shots. It wasn't unheard of for Bird to make 40 or 50 in a row.

Based on their interactions during the shoot-around, the average observer might have concluded that Bird didn't know who Joey Q was, other than some guy rebounding his balls and feeding him passes. A closer look, however, revealed Bird needling Joey, and Joey responding in kind.

The sessions always ended the same way. "I'm good," Bird would announce before he walked off the court.

Again, the casual observer might have been tempted to conclude that Bird was just being polite to his "helper," carrying on casual conversation as part of the business arrangement.

A tempting conclusion, and also an inaccurate one.

Bird kept a picture of Joey Q in his locker. It was a picture of Quatato from his glory days as a high school football player, back when he had a trim physique and a full head of hair.

Joey Q. was also one of a handful of people who attended Bird's wedding in the fall of 1989.

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