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4.3 out of 5 stars
Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
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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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
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. Halberstam spends nearly equal time telling the individual stories of Jordan's supporting cast, who in-turn had a role in shaping the Michael Jordan that emerged. Absolutely fascinating is the tale of Jerry Krause and Jerry Reinsdorf and how their greed, envy and egos not only contributed to creating six world championships, but similarly destroyed the team they created. The light is shown on Jordan's teammates from high-school through the end of his career. We are treated to intimate tales of their relationships and interaction with Jordan, as well as the result that was produced. In particular, Halberstam's treatment of Jordan's high school career and the North Carolina mystique is worth the price of purchase alone. All of the role-players from Jordan's championship teams (including Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen, John Stockton, Steve Kerr, Horace Grant, Charles Oakley, Dennis Rodman, and Ron Harper) are discussed and introduced from an intensely human perspective.
This book is not only a must read for Michael Jordan and basketball fans, but fans of history who are interested in the societal and cultural developments that arose, from 1983-1998, out of un-equaled career of Michael Jordan and the rise in the international popularity of basketball.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 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. Halberstam pionts out that Jordan took special pleasure in playing Phoenix because he got to go against Dan (Thunder Dan) Majerle. It wasn't anything Majerle had done, it was about the Bulls GM Jerry Krause. Jordan hated Krause. Krause loved Dan Majerle and used to go on and on about how great he thought he was. Jordan, therefore, always took his game up a notch when playing Majerle. A Phoenix assistant, unfamiliar with the dynamic between Jordan and Krause, felt that Jordan attacked Majerle in such a way on the court that there must have been some vendetta there that transcended the game. After the Bulls won the game 6, and therefore the Championship, in very dramatic fashion, Jordan raced to the basket to get the ball. He held it above his head, and his teammates, many who knew that Jordan was contemplating leaving the game, thought he might say something poignant. Instead, Jordan yelled out, "Thunder Dan Marjerle A**."
Now that tells you something.
It is a very good book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
I never thought I would be interested in a sports story. Since I live in Chicago, the Bulls championship season was huge news here. In addition, Michael Jordan was such a roll model that few people did not admire his athletic ability or his decency. This books details Michael's rise to greatness from a skinny kid in North Carolina to his superstardom in Chicago. Along the way, people get to see why basketball became such a huge sensation not only here in the United States but worldwide. Other stars are also discussed, but Jordan led the rise of basketball and the Chicago Bulls to their heights. Along with these aspects, Jerry Krause and the murder of Jordan's father are also discussed.

This is a nice read for those interested in sports and for those interested in Jordan's greatness as a player. The author keeps the focus on Jordan and how it relates to basketball. A nice read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I was glad to read this book, because Michael Jrodan is a great alethle, and one of my favorite. I really enjoyed reading this book, it really helps me on my way to succeed. I think this book is a great book for young adults, who loves basketball. This book really points out of how to win things or lose things. The author did a great job by giving examples, which I really enjoyed reading it. The book doesn't tell much about Michael's life, but it really tells how his games were like. I think this book deserves four starts on it. When I first read this book, it was very boring for me, as I read more and more, it turned out to be an excellent book. This book would made a great gift to those out there, it covers some of the details about basketball, such winning games and big come-backs. I think after reading this book, I've got to know more about Michael Jordan, the world's best athlete.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2000
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I read this book in one day as the subject has great facination for me. It was very well organized and presented a nice chronology of Michael Jordan and his professional life. It did not delve into his life as a man and person, but I am guessing this was not the author's aim. An excellent factual redition of Mr. Jordan's career. I would reccommend this book highly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
When David Halberstam undertakes any subject, you can be absolutely sure that it will be exhaustively researched. Having read several other books by Mr. Halberstam I can tell you that once again that he maintains his excellent standards. He is more than fair to all parties concerned. Mr. Halberstam takes us to the board rooms, playgrounds, press rooms, restaurants hallways, corridors and offices where things were set in motion.
This book covers so much more than Michael Jordan and the Bulls. He brings to light so many different people and faithfully traces the current sports scene and it's precipators to the source. He does all this in a fascinating manner.
This was compelling reading. He covers angles missed entirely in other sports books. You are introduced to the major and the bit players, who are no less compelling.
If you enjoyed "The Fifties" and "Breaks of the Game" and are a sports fan. If you want to really know things got to where they are now. This is the book to read.
Mr. Halberstam is one of the literary treasures of our time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Out of the many, many, many Michael Jordan books out there, this is by far the best. David Halberstam does a great job not just capturing Jordan's life and career on paper, but the many people who were involved, such as Spike Lee, Jerry Krause, David Stern, and others. "PFK" is loaded with stories from Jordan's Carolina days, and obviously, his career with the Bulls. I think the best chapter in the book is the chapter which tells the story of a fabled scrimmage game at a Dream Team practice. That chapter was so good, they featured an illustrated version in a past issue of "ESPN Magazine". This chapter, and the entire book really shows the VERY competitve nature of Mr. Michael Jeffery Jordan, and I highly recommend this book to any MJ fan, or really any basketball fan, because as I mentioned above, this book goes above and beyond just Jordan, and is well worth the read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is a well researched, well written book on sports and the "Jordan" era. I don't feel Halberstam missed anything in the way of information and commentary on the game. Not being an avid basketball fan, I learned a great deal about professional sports and the pursuit of excellence. Too bad for those who came away from this read without gaining any insight into what it takes to be great. The author is a true investigative reporter, intelligent and thorough. Unfortunately, today all it takes to be thought of as great is the right "look" and a flare for writing tabloid type articles.
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