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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Over the course of an extraordinary writing career, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and historian David Halberstam has covered events and personalities that define significant moments in American history. In his latest book, Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made, Halberstam turns his insightful eye to not only the greatest basketball player ever but also a man who revolutionized the sport and in doing so became the most famous human being on the planet.
Written with the quality prose that is all but expected from Halberstam, Playing for Keeps chronicles how a skinny kid from Wilmington, North Carolina, went on to win an NCAA title with North Carolina, two Olympic gold medals, and an astonishing six world championships with the Chicago Bulls. But Halberstam also covers the formative years of the eventual world champion, the time long before Jordan, the son of a supervisor at a General Electric factory, was winning big on a national level.
The average fan probably isn't familiar with the facts of Jordan's early life. "Of the five children," Halberstam writes, "Michael was by his own account the laziest, or at least the one most skilled at talking his way out of doing his share of household chores, shrewdly leveraging his allowance to buy his way out if possible." Through his coverage of a young Jordan, Halberstam captures the foundation of an unparalleled competitiveness that would ultimately drive Jordan to athletic accomplishments never before seen. As great as Michael Jordan would become, Halberstam points out, he was still dominated onthebasketball court by his older brother, Larry, until late in his high school years, when Larry stopped growing and Michael continued, even through college, to get taller. "Every day the Jordan backyard saw some form of athletic combat: day after day the two of them banged against each other on the small court that James Jordan had built."
Playing for Keeps then takes readers through Jordan's college years, a formative time that would forever shape Jordan as a basketball player and as a man. While at the University of North Carolina, Jordan had the opportunity to play for the legendary Dean Smith. Behind all great athletes, there is always a great coach. From Dean Smith, Jordan learned to play proper defense on the court, but more important, as Halberstam shows, Smith's values and ethics would forever influence Jordan's life.
Once Jordan entered the NBA, his life would never be the same. As a college great and Olympic champion, Jordan saw the beginnings of what was yet to come, but it wasn't until he was drafted by the Chicago Bulls, in 1984, that he would start to become the legend that he is today. Halberstam demonstrates the skills for which he is so respected in his coverage of Jordan's brilliant professional career both on and off the court.
With portraits of the championship games and the teams Jordan and the Bulls beat to reach the top (the Celtics, the Lakers, the Pistons, the Jazz), as well as profiles of the players and people responsible for the evolution of the NBA (Bird, Johnson, and Thomas; David Stern, the architect of the modern NBA; David Falk, the agent who changed the nature of sports representation; Phil Knight, the unconventional head of Nike), Playing for Keeps reveals the people, the politics, and the economics that transformed the NBA and made Michael Jordan's 13-year career so unforgettable. Halberstam has written a book that helps define America in the Jordan era. More than just a sports biography, Playing for Keeps tells the true story of an American legend and his profound impact on not only his sport but also his country and the world.