Michael Jordan: The Life

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"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...

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Michael Jordan: The Life

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"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

The definitive biography of a legendary athlete

The Shrug. The Shot. The Flu Game. Michael Jordan is responsible for sublime moments so ingrained in sports history that they have their own names. When most people think of him, they think of his beautiful shots with the game on the line, his body totally in sync with the ball — hitting nothing but net.

But for all his greatness, this scion of a complex family from North Carolina's Coastal Plain has a darker side: he's a ruthless competitor and a lover of high stakes. There's never been a biography that encompassed the dual nature of his character and looked so deeply at Jordan on and off the court — until now.

Basketball journalist Roland Lazenby spent almost thirty years covering Michael Jordan's career in college and the pros. He witnessed Jordan's growth from a skinny rookie to the instantly recognizable global ambassador for basketball whose business savvy and success have millions of kids still wanting to be just like Mike. Yet Lazenby also witnessed the Michael Jordan whose drive and appetite are more fearsome and more insatiable than any of his fans could begin to know. Michael Jordan: The Life explores both sides of his personality to reveal the fullest, most compelling story of the man who is Michael Jordan.

Lazenby draws on his personal relationships with Jordan's coaches; countless interviews with Jordan's friends, teammates, and family members; and interviews with Jordan himself to provide the first truly definitive study of Michael Jordan: the player, the icon, and the man.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Mike Greenberg
In his thoughtful, extraordinarily well-researched biography…Roland Lazenby…gives us the life and much more. His jaw is as wide open as anyone's; the exhaustive narrative of Jordan's basketball career is written with appropriate awe. But what makes this portrayal especially worthwhile is everything else. Lazenby begins before the beginning, in a shotgun shack in rural North Carolina some 70 years before Michael's birth, with a beautifully written account of the life of his great-grandfather. The long trail Lazenby follows is significant because it offers an explanation of how Michael developed the competitiveness for which he became legendary. And the psychology is worth the investment even if no new ground is broken…because with the foundation of Jordan's personality set, the rest of the life can be better appreciated: Michael Jordan not simply as a superhero, but as a Man in Full.
Publishers Weekly
Michael Jordan’s role as handsome pitchman/basketball champion belies a complicated life in this hefty, revelatory biography by veteran basketball author Lazenby (Jerry West: The Life and Legend of a Basketball Icon). Nearly branded a lost cause by his parents, Jordan turned his passion for hoops into a furious work ethic that included not stopping one-on-one games until he won and catching an early morning ride with his high school coach to the gym before school. As Jordan’s fame grew—hitting the game-winning shot for the University of North Carolina in the 1982 NCCA Championship, reviving the Chicago Bulls with his aerial artistry, winning six NBA titles—his world grew into a turbulent fishbowl. Fame became so overwhelming that he limited his circle of friends to a select few; his family, torn apart by accusations and bad business decisions, became irritants. The search for competition was almost toxic: he created feuds with players to elevate his game. And his corrosive relationship with Bulls general manager Jerry Krause, a blunt personality, helped hasten the break-up of a dynasty. Lazenby’s work isn’t definitive—Jordan, after all, is still alive—but it yields a fascinating examination into the lonely, prideful man behind the glimmering icon. (May)
From the Publisher
"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

"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

"MJ's life is a movie worth watching again, and Lazenby adds enough deleted scenes to add some oomph to the familiar story."—Booklist

Kirkus Reviews
An exhaustive—and exhausting—biography of the greatest player in NBA history. Countless words have been written about Michael Jordan since his NBA debut in 1984, to which veteran sportswriter Lazenby (Jerry West: The Life and Legend of a Basketball Icon, 2010, etc.) adds this exceedingly long biography. So much of Jordan's legend—his highlight reel, his logo, his six championship rings—is old hat even to non–basketball fans, yet the author purports to examine what makes "The God of Basketball" tick. Lazenby begins with an examination of Jordan's gene pool, going back to his great-grandfather's birth in 1891, and readers can be forgiven a sense of ennui (if not dread) when he doesn't get around to Jordan's rookie NBA season until a third of the way into the book. The author strives to reveal what he calls "the many tightly clasped secrets of the Jordan legend," but does lifting the veil—and in such depth—increase fans' appreciation of his extraordinary playing career? Lazenby offers solid insight into Jordan's renowned competitive fury, and there is a well-told story of how Nike came to endorse and build a brand around a rookie who had yet to play a single minute of pro ball. He also shares how Chicago Bulls head coach Kevin Loughery saw fit to implement an "all-Jordan, all the time" offensive strategy early in Jordan's career, which let the egotistical lion out of the cage, to the consternation of teammates as well as league veterans, who found the cocksure youngster arrogant and standoffish. Fortunately, Lazenby doesn't traffic in obsequious prose; although fairly dry, the book is dutifully and objectively written. However, though the author covered Jordan's college and professional career for decades, many readers likely won't share his single-mindedness. Studded with insights but unnecessarily long—though, given the continued aura of Jordan, likely to sell well.
Library Journal
★ 06/01/2014
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, covering every aspect of his life (b. 1963) from his North Carolina ancestors to his current ownership of the Charlotte Bobcats. The number of interviews Lazenby appears to have conducted is particularly admirable. Of special note are long quotes from former Chicago Bulls guard Steve Kerr and from longtime Bulls assistant coach Johnny Bach. Both men seem to understand Jordan very well and are alert to his foibles and his considerable charms, making for the most delightful reading. Lazenby also deserves praise for the attention he devotes to Jordan's impact on the economics of professional sports, endorsement contracts, and advertising. That much of this was owing to circumstance and Jordan's likable personality—not strictly his athletic skills and accomplishments—is not surprising but nonetheless revealing. The author's take on the story of Nike and Jordan is the most thorough and fascinating version yet. VERDICT Essential reading for all sports fans and particularly for those interested in American cultural history and popular culture.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316194778
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 5/6/2014
  • Pages: 720
  • Sales rank: 17,411
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Roland Lazenby

Roland Lazenby is the author of the critically acclaimed bestseller Jerry West: The Life and Legend of a Basketball Icon, among numerous other books. He has spent the past three decades interviewing NBA players, coaches, staff members, and other figures while writing about the league. He lives in Virginia.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2014

    Just sayin.

    Michael Jordan is one othe best players of all time. He is like my idol and so is Lebron james.. but they got some competition. Whos gonna be the best player of all time?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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