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When Nothing Else Matters: Michael Jordan's Last Comeback Paperback – November 1, 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
I thouroughly enjoyed the book. It paints a detailed picture of an NBA locker room and the dysfunctionalities that go on. I came away with a very clear picture of Jordan as a sad figure in a sense who is self-absorbed, immature and really has little understanding of life beyond the small and plastic world he inhabits. I actually felt somewhat sorry for him by the end of the book. The portrait came as no suprise given the surreal environment and idolic treatment these athletes (who in the big picture put a ball through a hoop for a living though God bless em for it) receive at a very early age. You can't really blame Jordan as he is a product of his stilted environment. On the other hand, it makes those ads and "Be Like Mike' endorsements ring hollow and ironic.
The book is also an interesting study on how fans need athletes to validate themselves. From the Wizards minority owner who basically buys Jordan's aquantance for a piece of his stake in the franchise to the reporters who feel privilaged to ask Jordan a 'staged' question even if they aren't doing any real reporting. To the Wizards (Collins)coach who is so enamored of Jordan that he is afraid to make a move without his approval to the detriment of the team.
This is a book for true NBA or Jordan followers or those interested in the distorted relationship between pro athletes and their fans. I have a lot of respect for this author for daring to accurately report a man-God. It should be noted that the author did not get into any 'sleazy' details of Jordan's life but striclty used his behavior/interactions in the locker room environment to define his subject. The book did make me appreciate the rare elite athlete who still manages to have strong values and character despite the temptations and obstacles in his way.
In short, there are no "winners" or "good guys" in this story, indeed, everyone comes out looking badly. Jordan is portrayed as a distant, arrogant, demeaning teammate who put his own self interest ahead of his team, even as he was holding the Coach's puppet strings and using the media to communicate not-so-thinly veiled threats at the very people he signed/drafted. Pollin comes across as a money-hungry owner who used Jordan to sell tickets and then tossed him overboard roughly 3.5 seconds after his final game. Ultimately, the relationship was one where both parties were USING the other, there was no trust, no sense of team, no sense of "we're all in this together", so why should be be surprised it blew up so quickly.
Leahy has received some heat in other reviews for injecting bias and/or reflecting his own opinion, but hey, THAT'S HIS JOB. He's providing an angle, an opinion, it's his book. MJ or his defenders are free to give their "side" of the story (the jabs at Wilbon are interesting, though not surprising).
The truth is, as an executive, MJ was mediocare at best (an opinion I think supported by the fact that he's received exactly ZERO GM/Pres. of Player Personnel offers since leaving DC) as an executive, made a lot of poor decisions (not trading the #1 for Elton Brand and a pick ... idiotic, any fantasy geek would have made that deal in a heartbeat, dealing for Stack and giving up a good young player in Rip Hamilton, useless signings like Oakley, Laettner, etc .. the list goes on and on). He did not move to DC, rarely was in town (sightings became media events they were so rare), seemed to have an entitlement and perogative about how he did things that hey, if I was an owner, I would be peeved about too. As Leahy points out, MJ had poor/little appreciation for Pollin and the importance he placed on loyalty. Did Pollin use MJ, clearly, and his motives were far from pure, but it's also his team, no one made MJ come to DC.
Before you start crying for MJ and his departure, consider that he got Coach Collins a $10 million severance, payouts for the rest of his personally hand picked lower management and still had his hundreds of millions intact. Indeed, the buzz generated by his return to basketball enriched him, I would think, far more in the long run, than Pollin. Finally, look at what has happened to the Wizards SINCE MJ left. They put in a guy, Ernie Grunfeld, who is actually a qualified/knowledgable GM, he has traded for Jamison, signed Arenas, and helped develop other guys and the team is now on the cusp of a playoff spot. MJ poisoned the well here, and it took people who actually studied and worked hard at putting teams together to fix it.
The perfect coda to MJ's stay in DC was the photo of him leaving MCI after Pollin showed him the door, it's a shot of MJ in his convertible, top down, from behind, you see the Illinois license plate. Very apt summry of his brief stay in Washington.