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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
"Lazenby looks beyond the on-court exploits of a sports and cultural icon to find the complicated, and often contradictory, man behind the myth."―ESPN Holiday Gift Guide
"Studded with insights."―Kirkus Reviews
"Resplendent... A definitive, multidimensional portrait of a man and a legend, and a notable contribution to sports literature."―Miriam Tuliao, BookReporter
"Lazenby's book is impressive in its research. There are details bound to surprise even the most die-hard Bulls fan."―Mike McGraw, The Chicago Daily Herald
"The definitive portrait.... The dream of the non-fiction writer is to condemn future books on the same subject to irrelevance. It's possible Lazenby has achieved this lofty goal: nothing more needs to be written about Jordan."―Adrian Lee, Macleans
"A comprehensive look at the life and times of the man and the legend.... A great work for any sports enthusiast and B-ball fan to read about one of the best that ever came to the game."―Brook Stephenson, Ebony
"The wonderfully researched and thoughtful story of the six-time NBA champion and Olympic gold medalist, Michael Jordan: The Life, lives up to its hype."―Jill Krasny, Esquire
"Lazenby is one of the best, most thoughtful and thorough people writing books on the NBA today, which makes all his books fascinating reads and great looks at the psychology of teams and great players. His stuff is must read."―Kurt Helin, NBC Sports' Pro Basketball Talk
Lazenby is "the Michael Jordan of writing about Michael Jordan."―MSNBC's The Cycle
"Lazenby's prose soars as dramatically and excitingly as does his subject. Jordan appeared to fly through the air; Lazenby makes time fly as readers immerse themselves in an extraordinarily competitive life. Does any biography deserve 700 pages? When you read Lazenby's Michael Jordan: The Life you'll be hard-pressed to answer anything but yes."―Michael Levin, New York Journal of Books
"MJ's life is a movie worth watching again, and Lazenby adds enough deleted scenes to add some oomph to the familiar story."―Booklist
Top customer reviews
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 problem with writing about these very famous personalities is that what don't we not know about the subject. It would be like writing a book about Michael Jackson and we can make the case that in the 90's Michael Jordan approached Michael Jackson status in terms of being that famous, especially the Michael Jackson of the 80's. Both figures transcended race and were famous international figures. What new information could you really present on the life of a person that famous. What hasn't been written about them somewhere. I would probably love to see a researcher go deeper into maybe the period of Jordan's life from 1993 to his comeback in 1995. Delving into the death of his father which to me is still clouded and strange. I think books like that would be an interesting and fresh take on this very famous subject. The 30 for 30 film "Jordan Ride's The Bus" touched on that period along with Bob Greene who is a famous Jordan historian and author but once again Greene is one of those hagiographers and Jordan worshipers. Roland in contrast stated that Jordan wanted to be involved but Roland wanted to keep the integrity of the book. Jordan wanted to ommit some things that were controversial to him. Jordan most likely would have opted to ommit the narrative about the sexual abuse that occured at the hands of his father as he victimized his older sister. He would have probably put the pressure on Roland to leave out the legal misgivings and lack of business accumen exhibited by his father as well. I do wonder why Roland failed to bring out the extortion trial in which Jordan was a plantiff in the 2002 case where one of his former mistresses Karla Knafel tried to blackmail him for money by threatening to exspose him as someone who was cheating on his wife in 1991 and who was potentially the father on her child. Overall pretty decent well researched narrative.
Camps, and college games.
It fills in a lot of gaps that before were just touched on by "The Jordan Rules" through his time on the wizards with the book "When nothing else matters." It focuses much more on accomplishments and MJ's state of mind through interviews instead of how he treated people.
The book even covers gems like the Cleveland shot, dunk contests, all star snub, dream team, baseball, gambling, being a wizard, bobcats and the hall of fame speech. There are some amazing interviews laced throughout the book. Great read.