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Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made Paperback – February 1, 2000

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Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made + The Breaks of the Game + The Jordan Rules
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press; 1st Broadway Books trade pbk. ed edition (February 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767904443
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767904445
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #286,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

One of the finest nonfiction writers in any lineup, Halberstam likes to alternate what he's deemed his serious work--books like The Best and the Brightest, The Fifties, and The Children--with his sporting interludes, though in his hands, sports are much, much more than fun and games. Books like The Breaks of the Game and October 1964 use sports as a prism. Culture, race, society, and history are all filtered through it, and Halberstam refocuses--and interprets--what comes out the other side.

That he would now turn his considerable abilities to exploring Michael Jordan is not surprising. Halberstam loves hoops, and Jordan not only defines the game, he defines an era. His fame crosses international borders as easily as he dribbles past half-court lines. In focusing on Jordan--as athlete and force of nature--and his osmosis from a young hoop dreamer to product pitchman to the world, Halberstam is really examining intangibles like myth and legend, celebrity and fame, wealth and image, excellence and genius, race and style, the qualities of heroism and the pursuit of perfection. "That there had been even one Michael Jordan seemed in retrospect something of a genetic fluke," he writes, "and the idea that anyone would arrive in so short a span of time and do what he did both on and off the court seemed highly unlikely." But the phenomenon that is Jordan did just that.

Understanding, even admiring, what he did, how he did it, and what it means in a basketball context and a larger one is Halberstam's goal, and, despite Jordan's lack of cooperation--or maybe because of it--Halberstam's muscular prose and thinking scores powerfully. Yet, there is a wistfulness, in the end, to Playing for Keeps; the game doesn't seem as much fun and collegial as it used to for Halberstam, and Jordan, great as he may be, emerges with less of the historic grace exhibited by Jackie Robinson, Ali, and Arthur Ashe than with a quality that Halberstam deems the athlete-explorer "in terms of going beyond previously accepted limits of what was humanly possible, and somehow by dint of physical excellence and unmatched willpower, pushing those limits forward that much more." Dazzling, certainly, but not necessarily heroic. Playing for Keeps is also available on audiocassette. --Jeff Silverman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Halberstam (The Children, etc.) has written an excellent book about the game of basketball and its greatest player. Readers familiar with Halberstam's customary insight into American life might think he pulls some punches. But this is an engrossing portrait?much edgier than the ballplayer's own current bestseller, For the Love of the Game. This is an examination of Jordan as athlete and media phenomenon, of the superstar's professional life and also of the NBA's coming of age. The focus is squarely on Jordan's astounding competitiveness and will power, qualities that, Halberstam argues, have as much or more to do with Jordan's success than even his remarkable talent. Meandering back and forth through time, Halberstam covers everything from the invention of ESPN to the genius of Spike Lee's Nike commercials?and every major playoff game Jordan played. With equal enthusiasm, Halberstam profiles the supporting cast: Bulls' coach Phil Jackson, whose job was to "maximize Jordan's abilities, without letting him suck the oxygen away from his teammates"; agent David Falk, who created "the idea of the individual player as a commercial superstar"; teammate Scottie Pippen. The book is filled with salty, informed hoops talk. It does not, however, give readers an intimate look at Jordan, who declined the author's request for an interview. Nor does Halberstam pursue difficult questions about Jordan's character, about the way he has decided to use (or not use) his celebrity and his wealth.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

David Halberstam, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, has chronicled the social, political, and athletic life of America in such bestselling books as The Fifties, The Best and the Brightest, and The Amateurs. He lives in New York.

Customer Reviews

If you're a fan of Michael Jordan or just basketball this book is a must read.
John C. Gerry
This is a nice read for those interested in sports and for those interested in Jordan's greatness as a player.
Kevin M Quigg
After reading this book, I can't agree with the other opinions that "it's all been told before".
Gary C. Nelson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Dave on November 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Especially in the early (pre-NBA) portion, this book shines. There are excellent stories about Jordan's singular desire and drive to win, absorb coaching, learn, and improve. And as any reader should expect from David Halberstam, it is literate, readable, and free of vapid gush.
It would be hard to read this book and not come away impressed at Jordan's willingness to push himself to do anything legal to be the best and to win.
What didn't I like about the book? There was no index and no footnotes. Much of it was derivative (I'd read The Jordan Rules and A March to Madness and recognized the portions pulled from them). This book sheds no light on Jordan's off-the-court life. It's not strictly chronological, making it confusing to follow at times. And Jordan's change from a wide-eyed and approachable young man to a sophisticated and more aloof man of the world, a worthy story in itself, just happens all of a sudden.
I'd still give the book four stars. The pre-NBA portion is in the same league with the excellent current Lombardi biography (When Pride Still Mattered), and the rest of the book, though flawed, is strong enough to merit the rating.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By rD Hawk on July 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
Quite simply the best book about sports written. Halberstam manages to captures the intensity of Jordan's drive, which permitted him to establish himself as the greatest basketball player of all-time; while, keeping an eye on the forces which allowed him to become an international icon.
This is not merely a book which focuses on the greatness of Jordan; although, it does that. What Halberstam does even better is capture and capsulize the events and influences that assisted in making Jordan the figure he became. What separates Halberstam from other sports' historians is his detailed attention to, and superb research of the supporting cast and societal influences.
Markedly as interesting as the continual rise and perfection of Jordan's own career are the other cultural and societal phenomenons, which simultaneously converged to elevate Jordan's career and change the culture of basketball and other professional sports. For instance, Halberstam fully develops the emergence of ESPN as a cultural and societal change. Not only did the coinciding emergence of ESPN influence and shape Jordan's career, but it changed the way popular America approached sports and reshaped the perception of American athletes. For better or worse, ESPN has changed athletes from mere sports heros into rock-stars. As interesting is the development of sports' agents and their influence on the players, and the resulting players' attitudes influence on the games that they play and we watch; not to mention, the evolution of Nike from merely a successful shoe company into a ubiquitous marketing presence.
And as interesting as the symbiotic societal developments are the stories of Jordan's supporting cast.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Gary C. Nelson on February 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
After reading this book, I can't agree with the other opinions that "it's all been told before". I think it's told more broadly and better by Halberstam who admires MJ very much and it's obvious why. Very little on the private side of MJ, only a paragraph on his wife and family. No attempt by Halberstam to destroy the hero that MJ is as he covers his reluctance to risk damaging his marketability by speaking out on social issues and the negative characterizations contained in Smith's The Jordan Rules (which I didn't think were that negative when you considered where MJ was coming from). Gambling cronies were a stain that MJ overcame and offshore Nike factories an issue that any endorser must deal with in these days of globalization. Great portraits of Jackson, Krause, Dean Smith, David Stern, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Pippen, Horace Grant, David Falk and the rise of big time agents and big time Nike and NBA contracts and spoiled young players. MJ's odyssey into baseball was a brave and wonderful thing which made MJ a more mature and appreciative person. Some sympathy for the devil in the portrayal of Jerry Krause, I thought. Would like to have seen Michael's mom and dad fleshed out a little further but how much can you cram into 400 pages? All in all a well balanced, fair minded book. Wish there was an index, though and how could only one paragraph describe MJ's great "flu" game?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 24, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Being from Chicago, I've waited for a book like this. Sadly, I've read every book there is on Jordan. There have been a few good moments here and there, but most have been highly forgettable paperbacks (Just to give you an idea of what I'm talking about: the syrupy hack Bob Green, of all people, has written TWO books on Jordan. Yet, I read both of them. I don't care; Jordan is so truly unique, such a dominant figure, that I've wanted to know as much as I could about the guy).
This book gives wonderful insight into Jordan. However, the book is much more about the entire panoramic story behind and around Jordan. The book centers on Jordan, but it is also about the NBA in general, the dominant teams over the last 20 year, the emergence of cable TV and the entertainment culture, as well as, the fundamental change between players from the time Jordan came into the league and now. It is truly the big picture, and it amazes me how easily Halbestam weaves the whole thing together.
If there's one thing I wish this book had, it's even more insight into the brilliant Phil Jackson. And, even though the entire book is about Jordan, it's still lacking in some way about the man's core. It's hard to put my finger on what's missing. Maybe if Jordan had consented to be interviewed - maybe then we'd undertand more.
Here's my favorite Jordan story from the book - I wish there were more. For some reason this one seems to get at the almost maniacal, pathological way that MJ thinks. And it makes sense; Jordan is so incredibly competitive, and pushes himself so hard, there must be something out of whack in there.
The story is about the deciding game 6 of the NBA Championship series against Phoenix.
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