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First Rate Sports Journalism
on 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.