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Mindgames : Phil Jackson's Long Strange Journey Paperback – November 21, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Complex as he is colorful, Phil Jackson has led an improbable basketball life, marching to the tune of his own iconoclastic drummer and managing to win at every level along the way. He doesn't think like an average jock, nor does he approach his game like one: just ask Michael Jordan or Shaquille O'Neal, who've played better for him than for anyone else. Roland Lazenby couldn't have come up with a better title for his compelling exploration of what makes Jackson tick and how he evolved into one of the most successful and driven coaches in NBA history; for Jackson, the joy of his game is every bit as cerebral and psychological as it is physical. His aim, he says, is to help his players "strengthen the muscle of their minds."

Of course, Jackson--part shaman, part shrink, part mentor, part guide--has found some fascinating ways to strengthen his own, including LSD, meditation, Zen, Native American culture, William James's Varieties of Religious Experience, and the Grateful Dead. They are as much a part of Jackson's evolving core as pounding the offensive boards with the Knicks and warring with Bulls' management. If some of it seems contradictory, it is those very contradictions--more than the seven championship rings as a coach and two as a player--that make Jackson so interesting; they have helped him reshape and redefine the job. "Somehow," writes Lazenby, "Jackson has managed the very difficult feat of blending fun and discipline and spiritual exploration for his teams, sort of like combining a trip to the dentist with a carnival ride." No other coach has learned to walk that delicate balance so gracefully. But then, balance is Jackson's operating metaphor: keeping himself--and his teams--in balance while keeping opponents off theirs.

In Mindgames, Lazenby puts together a smart, solidly reported, and balanced portrait of a Zen master with a dark, driven side. He respects Jackson enough to not whitewash him. After all, innovators have a way of stepping on toes, and in basketball, the shoes, like the personalities, tend to be oversized. --Jeff Silverman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“A must for any serious student of basketball.”—Gary Dretzka, Chicago Tribune
(Gary Dretzka Chicago Tribune) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill; 1 edition (November 21, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071382089
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071382083
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,608,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Jordan saved my life once. It was during the 1995 playoffs, Chicago vs. Charlotte, after a practice at the arena in Charlotte. He was walking out of the building with a group of reporters following. Walking backwards, I was leading the pack, with my tape recorder in his face, interviewing as we walked. I was a foot from walking off the loading dock at the back of the arena, about a 10 foot fall onto concrete, when he reached out and grabbed my arm to stop me from going over the edge.
So when I say that I have an interest in Jordan, I mean it.
I've written a new biography, Michael Jordan, The Life, set to be released by Little, Brown on May 6, 2014. His is a very big life, and the book was an immense challenge to write but oh so fascinating, as was the Jerry West bio I wrote in 2010 for ESPN Books/Random House.
I like to write about competitive personalities, especially those in the NBA. I like to write about their families. Among the zillion questions I had about MJ, I wanted to know where he came from, who the Jordans were. They were moonshiners, making and selling illegal liquor on North Carolina's Coastal Plain. So that's where his hard edge came from, I thought upon discovering who they were. Just about all the farmers and sharecroppers were moonshiners back in the day. That was their cash crop, the one that kept the family fed. They were tough-minded people, just like Jordan himself.
I've written a book that builds his life from that background. Starting at the beginning, with the birth of his great grandfather Dawson Jordan, allows me to take the reader through the process of his family, his background, and the nurturing of his vast competitive nature. What's more, it's immensely fun to track his rise. I enjoyed writing about the sharecroppers on North Carolina's Coastal Plain, just as I enjoyed writing about the coal miners and frontier settlers in Jerry West's background in West Virginia.
I see it as connecting all of the important cultural dots in the backgrounds of iconic figures.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Constantine Ananiadis on February 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having always been intrigued by Phil Jackson as a coach and a person, I was thrilled to see that an account of his interesting career and life had been published. Being a coach myself, I had always wanted to find how this living legend's mind works and maybe try to apply some of his ideas/concepts to my coaching. That was the reason that I had devoured "Sacred Hoops" as soon as it came out back in 95-96.
I was also excited to see "the value" that the book offers: 400 pages..."Not bad" I thought, and I went ahead and ordered the book right away!
The content of the book did not disappoint me one bit. It is nicely structured (chronologically) and it gives quite an insight and quite a few details of Jackson's life. Usually a slow reader, I breezed through this nicely written piece of work by Lazenby. I especially enjoyed the quotes from interviews and informal discussions that either Jackson himself or people he was associated with had given in the past. I also really liked the fact that the book includes Jackson's first season in LA. I think this adds tremendous value to the book: it makes its publishing a lot more timely and therefore more appealing.
My only couple of concerns with this publication are the following: a) The book seems to repeat itself at times mentioning the same thing over and over maybe from a different perspective but the same information/idea none-the-less. I apologize for not having a good example of this handy, but I wasn't taking notes while I was reading... b) The book is a little too "superficial" for my taste. Jackson is such a complicated and unique person and I think this book makes little or no attempt to try and "decipher" him.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By MoneyB on March 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As someone who has read "Sacred Hoops" three times and follows Phil Jackson's coaching career very closely, I was very excited to see this on the shelf at my local bookstore. This was a good book. I breezed through it. I thought it was very well written, and it did have some interesting anecdotes. In my opionion, probably the most interesting part of the book wasn't even about Coach Jackson, but rather about the people who have worked with him. The short biopics of the Chicago Jerrys, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, and others were very interesting to me - and very fair (which is tough these days when you read anything about Krause).
On the other end of the stick, I would agree that the book did seem a tad superficial as far as Jackson is concerned. It promises to give you insight into one of the most complex figures in contemporary sports, but really does not do that. It only touches superifically on his connection to Buddhism, meditation, and his relationships outside of basketball. Indeed, the end of Jackson's second marriage - certainly one of the more important influences in his life - is entirely covered in one short paragraph of a few sentences.
All in all, this was a decent book. However, I won't be reading it again.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is an easy read... But you have to hash through a lot of common knowledge about the Bulls to get any interesting tidbits about Jackson. Sacred Hoops gives you much more perspective into Jackson than this book does. The author teases the reader with an opening story about how Jackson smokes two cigarettes and drinks a beer before he talked to the Bulls after a game... A great bit of informaion, but many true Bulls fans could have picked this up the the local papers or sports talk shows... The author gets most of his inside information from Tex Schram, Johnny Bach, and Skip Schaefer. The majority of the book is a general chronicle of the Bulls 8 year 6 title run offering few insights on Jackson. If you followed the Bulls, read Sacred Hoops, the only 'fresh' information comes from the last two chapters about Jackson's year off and some information about Jackson's first year with the Lakers. It reads quick, but do not expect learn any new in depth information about Jackson.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Victoria Mulhern on January 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I have always been intrigued by the work of the "Zenmaster," which is why I first decided to read this book. I had heard about Jackson's work in mending the rift between Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant and had wondered how he did it when others could not. The first 100 pages of this book delve into the mind of this phenomenal coach, but the rest of the book goes on to name his achievements. Yes, it was interesting to learn a little more about Michael Jordan, Pippen, Grant and Rodman but those guys were not the reason I picked up the book. If I wanted to learn about those players, I would have read "The Jordan Rules." Bottom line, I would rather pick up "Sacred Hoops" or "Maverick", which were actually written by Jackson himself.
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By William R. Drake on October 27, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoy NBA basketball and I have watched DVDs of a number of the Bull's and Michael Jordan's great games of the 90s, but my knowledge of the game and players is fairly basic and I am not a "fanatic" about the sport. From that perspective, Mindgames is a very readable and enjoyable book. It also has a lot of interesting information about Jackson, and Chicago and LA players, without being "overly detailed." The author based his book on an incredible number of interviews and he uses numerous quotes from important sources, which adds a lot to the story as it unfolds chronologically. The book is very thorough in covering Jackson's Chicago years and his first year at LA. It gives what seems to be a very honest and fair picture of Jackson that is very positive overall. The only thing I didn't like were the numerous stories of the conflicts Chicago VP Jerry Krause had with Jackson as well as with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. These are scattered throughout 100 pages of the 400 page book. They are part of the chronological history but I tired of them after awhile. Were it not for that, I'd probably give the book five stars.
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