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HALL OF FAMEon August 29, 2002
With "The Jordan Rules," Sam Smith proves why he is one of the very best sportswriters in America. The book follows Jordan and the Bulls during their first championship season (1990-1991), before Jordan established himself as the most successful NBA player (in terms of championships) since Bill Russell. What is largely forgotten today is that in his first six years in the NBA was thought of as a selfish ballplayer who would never win a championship because he was not a "team player." Enter coach Phil Jackson, who in his first year would manage to convince his star player that in order for his team to win the championship, he would need to rely more on his teammates.
Great sports books are usually the case of the right writer (Smith in this case) being in a position to cover the right story at just the right time (Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air" is another example). That is certainly the case here. As a sports reporter for The Chicago Tribune, Smith had plenty of access to the team during that first championship run, and he interviewed all of the principals extensively. Fortunately, Smith pulls no punches. The book's title refers to the preferential treatment afforded to Jordan that was a constant source of irritation to his teammmates. Then-Bulls Center Bill Cartwright, for example, is memorably qoted as saying that Jordan is, "Maybe the greatest athelete ever to play any sport...He's just not a basketball player."
Overall, "The Jordan Rules" is that rare sports book that transcends the particular sport it covers and can be enjoyed by any sports fan.
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on May 9, 2007
This is one of the great books that I had a hard time putting down. Sam Smith plays with our intrigue and wins out, enticing us to keep reading as we ask, "Did Isaiah Thomas really say that?" or "How did the Bulls stand together when at least half the team was demanding trades in 1991?"

We see them as if we were a part of the team.

*Hopson weeping after the 1991 title due to a fleeting feeling of comradely.

* Michael Jordan's off-the-court feud with Isaiah Thomas.

*Pippen demanding to be traded due to contract negotiations.

* Jerry "Crums" Krause being ridiculed publicly by Jordan and his brown-nosing cronies.

* Alliances forged through empathetic teammates who viewed the team's other pockets of faction with distrusting, and sometimes vengeful eyes.

* Cliff Levingston's constant butt-kissing of "His Airness".

* Horace Grant physically standing up to Jordan in practice and bragging about it later.

* Scottie Pippen's inward fear of Dennis Rodman.

* Phil Jackson's craving to buy a gun after a private meeting with a then-psychotic Scott Williams.

* The Pistons' mental control of B.J. Armstrong, Scottie Pippen, and others.

* Stacey King and Michael Jordan's verbal wars.

* Literal fist fights between certain players in practice.

* Jordan's constant campaign to assume control of the team's decision-making processes and how Phil Jackson combated his egocentric, and often enigmatic star.

A priviledged look into the makings of one of sports' greatest teams ever, and a eye-opening look into the makings of sports' greatest hero.
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HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon February 23, 2001
Michael Jordan has transcended from the ranks of a mere athlete to a cultural icon. Between the shoes and clothing line, all the commercials, the image, the accolades, the title of ultimate champion, one can sometimes forget that before he won his first title in 1991, people viewed Mr. Jordan in a different light. He was looked at a tremendous scorer, but not a winner. People questioned whether he would tone down his scoring and become more of a team player in order to breakthrough and win a title. The name of the book comes from the Detroit Piston's rules against playing Jordan. Sam Smith was a beat reporter for the Bulls and his insights into the innerworkings of the team during their first title run in 1990-91 are revealing and entertaining. Though his views of Mr. Jordan sometimes cast him in a less than favorable light (in reading the book you get the feeling that Mr. Smith is not a big Jordan fan), what he does show is that Mr. Jordan had an intense desire to be the best at everything he does. It is this intensity that made him the greatest ever. Every fan of Michael Jordan or fan of the game of basketball should read this book as it is an interesting chapter in the career of the best ever to lace up the sneakers.
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on February 6, 2012
A detailed, journal like retelling of the Chicago Bulls 1991 championship season, their first of six in the 90s.

This was controversial because it gave a rare glimpse of Michael Jordan outside of a Nike commercial or NBA promotional video. And indeed, while there's plenty of drama to go around, Jordan comes off the worst, seeming selfish and mean spirited to his teammates. In the end (spoilers are hardly worth warning about in this book), he and the team come together and beat both the hated Pistons and the Lakers, but for kids growing up idolizing Jordan, these stories serve to shatter a well crafted image.

At the time, there were some denials by Jordan and some of the other players (Stacey King, who perhaps comes off worse than Jordan in places, compared it to "Mother Goose") but for me, these stories seem to ring true. The stories in here aren't that unbelievable, or uncommon in sports. Books like this serve to undo the narrative that we as fans (often with a willing press) build in our own heads, with our team, bearing our hometown's name and a distinctive logo as the good guys. The truth is that teams are made of individuals, human ones, some who if we met we'd like, and some we wouldn't. They have their own lives and concerns, and more often than not simply don't go through the vicarious identification we as fans do. It's easy to see why journalists, in private talk, tend to root for players they like instead of teams.

Sam Smith clearly has his favorites, the hard working Paxson, the beleaguered Cartwright. The weakness is that the book often reads more like a collection of anecdotes than a full narrative, with often awkward writing (as another mentioned, comparing Chuck Daly's sideline antics to Fred Astaire, then Bobby Knight). But for many fans of Jordan or the Bulls or of sports in general, those actually make the story enjoyable. Still, I'd recommend it to hardcore basketball and sports fans primarily. For a parental note, because I know to this day many extremely young fans who eat up anything with Jordan on it, I'll add that the language and subject matter delves often into mature subjects.
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on September 12, 2000
Michael Jordan has always been portrayed as picture perfect. This book slowly tears at that image until what you have is a very human man. Many people see this as an attack on Jordan and others think it depicts his airness as an arrogant S.O.B. but the truth of the matter is it brings him down to earth. He may not be the high flying super hero everyone makes him out to be, but it doesn't make him the anti hero. He is a man with faults like everyone. This book is special in that respect ... it dared to bring an icon down from its pedestal
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on September 23, 2014
Good view of the backstage of the first Bulls championship. Fun to read in retrospect after all that happened afterwards. The digital edition brings an interesting afterword written more recently. At times it may become a little boring on the game by game of the regular season. It is very interesting to read the doubtful and slow transformation that Jordan has - or tries to have - from an individual to a team player, and the role that Phil Jackson had on it. Probably my main discovery was about the smart personality of Jackson, it will probably get me to "Eleven Rings".
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on March 15, 2006
Sam Smith does a very good job describing how the personalities clash on this team. Jordan is revealed as an extremely intense individualist in a team sport, who is quick to identify and pounce on weaknesses in opponents, and more often, teammates. I enjoyed this book as a chance to get a better perspective on a team at the beginning of a historic run of championships. This book also illuminates the fact that it isn't necessarily chemistry that leads to championships, but balance. It's also interesting to see Phil Jackson lay out the nuances of the triangle offense with quotes by Native Americans and Rudyard Kipling. All in all, a great look at the construction and molding of a collection of strong personalities into a functional, cohesive championship team.
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on January 8, 2010
This is a very good look at the inner workings of a basketball team over the course of a season. This does not cover any basketball team, though. This covers a championship team led by perhaps the greatest basketball player in history along with another legend in Scottie Pippen and the greatest coach ever in Phil Jackson. This is the first such book I have read and the amount of turbulence experienced by the 1991 Bulls was a surprise. How could a team win 61 games and romp through the playoffs with such inner instability?

Smith primarily covers the 1990-91 season but provides background on the previous seasons. Common themes are Jordan clashing with his coaches, players clashing with management, Jordan's lack of faith in his teammates and his relationship with them, Jerry Krause's eccentric nature, and Phil Jackson's amazing ability to steward the team through such troubled waters to the championship.

The book is titled "The Jordan Rules" but it is not just about Jordan. Smith spends some time talking about practically every player on the team, Phil Jackson, Jerry Krause, and Jerry Reinsdorf. He provides a solid context for analyzing and understanding how players in this drama think.

When this book was published it was the subject of much controversy because of its does not always show Michael Jordan in a favorable light. From reading the book you can conclude that Smith does not love Jordan. However, how much of that is an inherent dislike of Jordan or simply being turned off toward Jordan based on what he was told by players and coaches, who were the sources for the book? While not hagiographic, the book is not a hatchet job. The facts are there and you can reach your own conclusion. You can interpret Jordan as a jerk or simply driven by a desire to win. Smith does show the positive sides of Jordan too, such as Jordan's tenderness with children and his passion to excel. All in all I consider this book an asset to basketball history.
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on September 6, 2012
A great read for any basketball fan who wants a view of a team beyond the court. That being said the Kindle edition of this book is poor. Repeating chapters and paragraphs, poor TOC. I highly recommend sticking to the hardcover.
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on June 1, 1999
a great sports book. I loved it
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