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Michael Jordan: The Life Paperback – May 19, 2015
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Lazenby, author of an acclaimed biography of NBA great Jerry West, correctly points out that there have been enough books written about Michael Jordan to qualify as a genre. So why another? In order to reveal, Lazenby says, more of Jordan’s true self, his complex, almost bipolar personality. Jordan, we learn, driven by his hypercompetitiveness, could go from being a gracious person off the court to a vicious antagonist to teammates and opponents. As Jordan’s fame grew, Lazenby shows, he became its prisoner, and his isolation worsened after his father, Michael’s anchor in a world of sycophants, was murdered. Lazenby also digs into the rest of Jordan’s family, noting that Michael was estranged from the family for a time over a dispute between his then-wife, Juanita, and his mother. Lazenby’s resources include the vast printed Jordan library as well as interviews conducted recently, along with gleanings from the author’s years on the NBA beat. Readers who have immersed themselves in the Jordan “genre” will be familiar with much of what’s detailed here, but MJ’s life is a movie worth watching again, and Lazenby adds enough deleted scenes to add some oomph to the familiar story. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Interest in Jordan remains high, and this biography will be heavily promoted and is sure to receive coverage beyond both book pages and sports sections. --Wes Lukowsky --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
One of Amazon's Best Books of the Year: Sports & Outdoors
One of Chicago Public Library's Best Books of 2014
A Goodreads Choice Award Finalist: History and Biography
"In his thoughtful, extraordinarily well-researched biography "Michael Jordan: The Life," Roland Lazenby... gives us the life and much more.... The exhaustive narrative of Jordan's basketball career is written with appropriate awe. But what makes this portrayal especially worthwhile is everything else."―Mike Greenberg, New York Times Book Review
"An utterly definitive biography.... The most comprehensive attempt yet made to explain the factors that have gone into producing the most famous basketball player and marketing phenom in the history of world sports....I don't know how it would be possible to write a more complete biography of him."―The Chicago Tribune
"When a world-class biographer writes about a world-class athlete, you have a biography for the ages. This is the ultimate study of Michael Jordan, and I know you will be as captivated as I was."―Pat Williams, Orlando Magic senior vice president, author of Coach Wooden's Greatest Secret
"Revelatory.... A fascinating examination into the lonely, prideful man behind the glimmering icon."―Publishers Weekly
"Roland Lazenby's new biography of Michael Jordan is as breathtaking as a dunk by 'His Airness.' ... A richly detailed, thoroughly researched book.... Lazenby expertly sifts through the myths to produce a definitive portrait of Michael Jordan."―Bob D'Angelo, Tampa Tribune
"Right from its early pages it's clear that Roland Lazenby's biography of Michael Jordan is in full-press mode to be the best volume ever written on perhaps basketball's greatest player.... Lazenby's a born researcher and some serious legwork went into gathering all of the quotes and facts here, which add up to a kind of Jordan-centric encyclopedia."―Colin Fleming, The Boston Globe
"Lazenby's thoroughly enjoyable biography is an impressive portrait of a man consumed by his competitive ambitions. It is also by far the most complete book on Michael Jordan to date.... Essential reading for all sports fans and particularly for those interested in American cultural history and popular culture."―Library Journal (starred review)
"A lot has been written about arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan, but Roland Lazenby's Michael Jordan: The Life is easily the definitive version. The journalist has covered Jordan's career for nearly thirty years and his knowledge of the game and of this miraculous player shows in what is one of the best sports biographies in years."―Parade
"What makes this portrayal especially worthwhile is the long trail Lazenby follows before the awesome career even begins."―New York Times Book Review's "Editor's Choice"
"It's not every day that I'm blown away by a book about a sports figure. But MICHAEL JORDAN: THE LIFE, by Roland Lazenby, ranks up there with the very best: The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn, Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissinger, and Joe DiMaggio by Richard Ben Cramer. The depth of reporting, his frequent ascent into poetry, and his intelligent analysis of the life of this complicated, fascinating American icon deserve Pulitzer Prize consideration. For the first time I understand what makes Michael Jordan tick. I was captivated, fascinated and beguiled from beginning to end."―Peter Golenbock, New York Times-bestselling author of George and In the Country of Brooklyn
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That's why going back and reading this comprehensive Jordan biography as an adult was both refreshing and insightful, even though it is difficult to find a more exposed or covered sports star in our time. What more could there possibly be to say? But that I think is the beauty of this book - it doesn't have any earth shattering revelations, or new exclusive, but it is comprehensive and brings all the stories together in one.
It meant that I could revisit Jordan's history, learn about the formative years before he was the global megastar (and while I was just a toddler on the other side of the world) and contextualize his accomplishments. In particular it gives great insight into the mythical tale of the high school coach who "dropped Jordan from his team" (so much more complex than it gets presented as and in fact that coach had a huge influence on Jordan and great relationship).
As a fan it's easy to look back on the six championships of the Bulls era and assume they were a highly performing, high achieving team celebrating each others success. They were in fact almost dysfunctional and at each other constantly. But it was that competitiveness, that feeling of being slighted that drove Jordan and in turn made Jordan challenge and push his teammates.
It's a wonderful insight into the personality of someone extraordinary. Jordan is regularly described as a difficult teammate, someone who couldn't understand people accepting less than the best or not working as hard as possible, someone who put in more time and effort than seemed sustainable, had no tolerance for fools and could generally be rude, introverted, untrusting and mercenary in dealing with people to get what he wanted. I could not help thinking afterwards the similarity in personality between Jordan and revered business figures of our time - Jobs, Bezos, Musk - who all demonstrate an almost identical personality.
It's certainly not all rosy - the gambling, the messy family situation, etc - but I think this is what makes it an even more important read for people like me who grew up with Jordan and still revere him as the greatest of all time.
In summary, I would say that I started the booking thinking whether I really need to invest in almost 700 pages of Jordan history but it didn't take long to develop into a compelling read and one that helped fill in a number of blanks beyond the mainstream memories of a generation and round out the story.
The book analyzes the importance of the system over the individual (even if the person is the best ever), how drive is more important than talent, the challenges that sudden success has on family and the individual, how a small running shoe company became a worldwide sports juggernaut, and how the leaders that hired Jordan all came to believe and long for a chance to show that their systems could be successful without him.
Jordan is a fascinating book about a man who is the best athlete of my generation that was smart, driven and lucky enough to make himself the symbol of sport. How he got there is worth the read.
This is the most comprehensive, up-to-date and impartial Michael Jordan biography I have read so far. A must-read for any Jordan fan.