BN.com Gift Guide

Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made

( 3 )

Overview

From The Breaks of the Game to Summer of '49, David Halberstam has brought the perspective of a great historian, the inside knowledge of a dogged sportswriter, and the love of a fan to bear on some of the most mythic players and teams in the annals of American sport. With Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls he has given himself his greatest challenge and produced his greatest triumph. In Playing for Keeps, David Halberstam takes the first full measure of Michael Jordan's epic career, one of the great American ...
See more details below
Paperback
$10.59
BN.com price
(Save 37%)$16.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (71) from $1.99   
  • New (12) from $9.46   
  • Used (59) from $1.99   
Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.49
BN.com price
(Save 30%)$14.99 List Price

Overview

From The Breaks of the Game to Summer of '49, David Halberstam has brought the perspective of a great historian, the inside knowledge of a dogged sportswriter, and the love of a fan to bear on some of the most mythic players and teams in the annals of American sport. With Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls he has given himself his greatest challenge and produced his greatest triumph. In Playing for Keeps, David Halberstam takes the first full measure of Michael Jordan's epic career, one of the great American stories of our time. A narrative of astonishing power and human drama, brimming with revealing anecdotes and penetrating insights, the book chronicles the forces in Jordan's life that have shaped him into history's greatest basketball player and the larger forces that have converged to make him the most famous living human being in the world.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The 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.

From the Publisher
"The best Jordan book so far."
--Washington Post

"A remarkable book . . . a must-read for basketball fans, admirers of Jordan, and anyone who seeks to understand sports in America today."
--Bill Bradley

"The single greatest sports book I've ever read."
--Dan Le Batard, ESPN Radio

"What David Halberstam delivers--and what the reader has come to expect from Halberstam--is insight, balance, analysis."
--New York Times

"A wonderful book, written by a remarkable journalist."
--Seattle Times

"Halberstam writes the story of Jordan in layers through unforgettable tales of his brilliant career . . . An insider's view of basketball, structured like a sports reporter's private journal."
--Dallas Morning News

Alex Tresniowski
...[A] thoughtful and fascinating study of Jordan's far-reaching impact on American culture, compiled byone of the most doggedly analytical authors around.
People Magazine
Michiko Kakutani
...[T]he volume is animated by the author's own passion for the game....[Halberstam] uses that knowledge to convey to the reader the extreme mixture of talent, will and old-fashioned hard work that went into Mr. Jordan's achievements....[as well as] how No. 23's success helped change the N.B.A. and how those changes, in turn, reflected larger developments in the world of sports.
The New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Halberstam (The Children, etc.) has written an excellent book about the game of basketball and its greatest player. Readers familiar with Halberstam's customary insight into American life might think he pulls some punches. But this is an engrossing portrait--much edgier than the ballplayer's own current bestseller, For the Love of the Game. This is an examination of Jordan as athlete and media phenomenon, of the superstar's professional life and also of the NBA's coming of age. The focus is squarely on Jordan's astounding competitiveness and will power, qualities that, Halberstam argues, have as much or more to do with Jordan's success than even his remarkable talent. Meandering back and forth through time, Halberstam covers everything from the invention of ESPN to the genius of Spike Lee's Nike commercials--and every major playoff game Jordan played. With equal enthusiasm, Halberstam profiles the supporting cast: Bulls' coach Phil Jackson, whose job was to "maximize Jordan's abilities, without letting him suck the oxygen away from his teammates"; agent David Falk, who created "the idea of the individual player as a commercial superstar"; teammate Scottie Pippen. The book is filled with salty, informed hoops talk. It does not, however, give readers an intimate look at Jordan, who declined the author's request for an interview. Nor does Halberstam pursue difficult questions about Jordan's character, about the way he has decided to use (or not use) his celebrity and his wealth. (Feb.)
KLIATT
To quote KLIATT's March 2000 review of the Recorded Books audiobook edition: Historian Halberstam writes a detailed history of Jordan and the business of professional basketball. His book is filled with dollar signs as he tells of the astronomical figures paid to players and coaches. The chapters alternate between Jordan's life story and his final season with the Bulls in 1997-98. Halberstam's history is laced with graphic details and graphic language, with the saints and sinners that comprise the world of pro basketball today. Highly recommended to fans of Jordan and the NBA. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1999, Random House/Broadway, 434p, 21cm, illus, 99-41931, $14.00. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Janet Julian; English Teacher, Grafton H.S., Grafton, MA, May 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 3)
Library Journal
What makes Jordan tick?
Ira Berkow
What David Halberstam delivers...is insight, balance, analysis, an assemblage of pertinent anecdotes, and the kind of digging you would get from...[a] band of archaeologists....provides a sense of the impact Jordan has had here and abroad....Halberstam's achievement is that he...writes as credible reporter...
The New York Times Book Review
L.S. Klepp
...[S]olid and compelling....zeroes in on Jordan's defining moments, on court and off....the whole book takes shape as a paradoxical parable.
Entertainment Weekly
Peter Cormorante
Halberstam is a master at creating dramatic tension, and his evocation of memorable big-game situations makes you wish he was a regular contributor to your local sports page. -- Biography
Kirkus Reviews
As astute and objective an examination as we're likely to get of the rise and professional career of basketball and media superstar Michael Jordan. Halberstam (The Children, 1998;The Fifties, 1993) hits the mark when he connects the phenomenon of Michael Jordan to both the ascendancy of Commissioner David Stern and the birth of ESPN.

Jordan left the University of North Carolina in 1984 after his junior year. According to Halberstam, it was Coach Dean Smith's idea — and decision — that he do so. Famously picked a mere third in the NBA draft behind Hakeem Olajuwon and the forgettable Sam Bowie, Jordan got the huge contract, and Nike had named a shoe after him before he'd played his first game, something that was unheard-of. No less a light than Larry Bird expressed awe at the young man's ability and predicted the greatness to come. While Jordan received plenty of notice, he also served notice in 1986 in a playoff game against the powerhouse Boston Celtics, embarrassing Dennis Johnson, the best defensive guard in the game, by scoring a record 63 points. As Halberstam notes, Jordan quickly became an international superstar, a product, in part, of Stern's genius in promoting a moribund league into international prominence. It is also significant that ESPN, purchased by ABC in 1994, came of age the same year that Jordan came into the league and Stern became commissioner.

The heart of the book is Halberstam's asides, tangents, and profiles of Coach Smith, Stern, Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, and general manager Jerry Krause, and others. His analysis of Phil Jackson's greatness as a coach and recreation of the Bulls' incredible march to six championships areamong the highlights. Given only limited access to his subject (he speculates that the ever-competitive Jordan "wanted to save his best stuff for his own book"), Halberstam, one of our premier social commentators, still manages to compose a transcendent sports biography.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780767904445
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/1/2000
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 176,778
  • Product dimensions: 5.24 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

David Halberstam is the author of fifteen books, including The Best and the Brightest, The Powers That Be, The Reckoning, The Breaks of the Game, Summer of '49, October 1964, and The Amateurs. He has received every major journalistic award, including the Pulitzer Prize, and is a member of the Society of American Historians.

Biography

A journalist, historian, and biographer, David Halberstam brought his idiosyncratic and stylistic approach to heavy subjects: the Vietnam War (in 1972's The Best and the Brightest); the shaping of American politics (in 1979's The Powers That Be); the American economy's relationship with the automobile industry (in 1986's The Reckoning); and the civil rights movement (in 1998's Freedom Riders).

His books were loaded with anecdotes, metaphors, suspense, and a narrative tone most writers reserve for fiction. The resulting books -- many of them huge bestsellers -- gave Halberstam heavyweight status (he won the Pulitzer for international reporting in 1964) and established him as an important commentator on American politics and power.

Halberstam was also known for his sports books. In The Breaks of the Game, which a critic for The New York Times called "one of the best books I've ever read about American sports," he took on professional basketball.

In The Amateurs, he examined the world of sculling; in Summer of '49 and October 1964, he focused on two pivotal baseball events: the Boston Red Sox's exasperating near victory over the New York Yankees for the 1949 pennant, and the 1964 season, when the Yankees lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1999's Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made, Halberstam documented the making of a legend.

Always happy to extend his reach well beyond the subject at hand, Halberstam packed his books with social commentary as well as sports detail.

His writing routine was as strenuous and disciplined as that of any of the athletes he wrote about. To sustain his steady output of extensively researched, almost-always-massive books, he allows no unscheduled interruptions: "Most of us who have survived here [New York] after a number of years have ironclad work rules. Nothing interrupts us. Nothing," he once wrote in The New York Times. "We surface only at certain hours of the day."

Good To Know

David Halberstam's first job was as a reporter for a small-town Mississippi newspaper.
Read More Show Less
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 10, 1934
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Death:
      April 23, 2007
    2. Place of Death:
      San Francisco, California
    1. Education:
      B.A., Harvard, 1955

Read an Excerpt

In the fourteen years that Michael Jordan played in the NBA, no one other than a handful of players benefited more from the league's rising affluence and the shift in power from owners to players than David Falk. A relatively junior sports agent in the beginning of the era, Falk was by 1998 not merely the most affluent agent ever to represent basketball players but one of the two or three most influential men in the sport of basketball, a man whose power was said to rival that of David Stern himself. If the legal, economic, and technological changes that took place in the eighties and nineties had been good for players, they were arguably even better for agents. Since he first surfaced as an agent, he had split twice with partners: Early on, even before he was part of Jordan's team, he and Donald Dell split from Frank Craighill and Lee Fentress, and eventually he split off from Dell in what was considered a rather bitter professional divorce. In 1998 he sold his company to a larger firm, one that specialized in producing live entertainment in arenas around the country. The price was an estimated $100 million, and as part of the deal, Falk stayed on to run his part of the company. A press release announcing the sale noted that Falk's old company, FAME (Falk Associates Management Enterprises), "represented an unprecedented 6 first-round draft picks in the NBA, negotiated over $400 million in contracts for its free-agent clients, and negotiated four of the five largest contracts in team sports history."

No one doubted David Falk's ability and intelligence, but if there was one thing that bothered people who cared about the league and the game in the broadest sense, it was whether he had any sense of a larger good, a belief that the greater good and health of the game was still something of an issue. Some felt that there was a danger that the size of some players' contracts exploited the vulnerability of varying franchises and threatened the long-range stability of the league. Falk seemed to enjoy his power as much as his wealth, the ability not to return calls and to make other people, particularly owners, feel vulnerable to him. "Be wary of David, and be particularly careful when he starts telling you how much he respects you," an owner once noted. "That's when you're going to either lose your wallet or your franchise player--it's his way of telling you he's more powerful than you are."

In the summer of 1998, as the league and the players' union prepared for a major battle over contract rules and the owners prepared for a lockout of the players, a number of Falk clients, including Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, and Alonzo Mourning, had risen (hardly by chance) to positions of leadership in the union. That did not mean that it was simply Falk against the owners, for there were a number of other agents equally active on the players' side, but the issues, particularly the question of a soft or hard salary cap, seemed more about the contract freedoms enjoyed by the elite of the league than the earning power of most players. Certainly a number of people knowledgeable about the NBA saw the lockout as something of a struggle between Stern and Falk, and certainly when David Falk spoke to reporters that fall, he implied that Michael Jordan might be willing to come back for one more season--if David Stern did not block the way. As the lockout continued, it became increasingly clear that Falk was a critically important figure on the union side and that the issues seemed to affect his handful of elite clients more than they did most of the players. In an unusually scathing column the influential New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica wrote, "There may be worse phonies in sports than David Falk, but it is hard to come up with one today." Falk was, Lupica wrote, "a Rasputin coming off the bench" in these negotiations, the rare person who could make a writer root for a sports owner.

As for David Stern, in the late summer of 1998, as labor tensions escalated and a lockout became ever more likely, he seemed to some of his friends to be significantly sadder, if not actually melancholy. It was as if he was lamenting the loss of a once-vital human connection to the league's players, what he thought of as a special partnership with them. He grew a beard, which he vowed he would not shave until a new labor agreement was worked out. At the same time, ever a world-class marketer, he opened a giant new NBA store on Fifth Avenue in New York City, filled with almost any kind of clothing and trinket that could carry an NBA logo. Soon to come are NBA restaurants in a large number of cities.

Stern was very much aware that his longtime critics, people who hated the way the game had evolved in recent years--with its Dream Team conquest of lesser mortals at the Olympic competition, its affluent corporate-sponsorship deals, its big television contracts, its fancy new arenas with their luxury boxes and mandatory deafening noise, its growing separation of players from the media--thought he was being hoisted with his own petard. They believed that the league, with Stern as its master image maker had become too marketing-oriented in its struggle for parity with other major sports. Worst of all, in the process of gaining such stunning success, it had inevitably helped create the attitude among altogether too many players that they were beyond traditional norms of accountability, economically and socially outside the reach and control of society, and that the NBA's phenomenal (and unlikely) growth of the eighties and nineties was not some benign technological and societal fluke but nothing less than their just due. As their salaries had grown at such a remarkable rate in the past decade, so had their separation from reality.

Stern sometimes joked privately with friends that he could be arrested for operating under false pretenses in having for so long minimized the warts and maximized the artistry of the players and the game and above all for having tried to diminish the idea that modern athletes were, well . . . greedy. He liked to talk nostalgically about his early days as a league executive, when he worked with an earlier generation of labor leaders and players, men who felt a sense of partnership and shared objectives. Everyone was learning the hard way that a shared partnership was a good deal more difficult in flush times than in hard times. What bothered him now, Stern told some associates, was that players' and agents' memories were so short--almost no one seemed to remember how recently the league could not get itself on prime time for playoff games.

What made Stern's sadness particularly poignant was the fact that he had never been simply the owners' man, as was so often the case in big-time sports. He loved the players and the game itself and was committed to both, and he always had a broad sense of the larger health of the sport, a health that he believed began and ended with the public's respect and emotional investment in the players. In the words of Bob Ryan, "In that critical period when the NBA was just beginning to become successful, and a critical ingredient of it was the labor agreements which the league worked out with the union, I could as easily have envisioned David Stern heading the union and Larry Fleisher [the head of the union] being the commissioner--because there was no real difference in their love of the game, and the vision they both had of what they wanted to happen."

That was certainly no longer true. It all changed under the weight of so much prosperity. Revenue and salaries had gone up in staggering increments in recent years, tearing asunder all kinds of partnerships. When Stern came into the league as a relatively junior executive in 1978, the total of all players' salaries was around $40 million; only twenty years later, Michael Jordan made close to that much himself in one year, his team's payroll was roughly twice as much, and the total for the league was around $1 billion annually. That meant that salaries had gone up roughly 2500% in the twenty-year period. But a new generation of players represented by a new generation of agents had little interest in the hoary stories from what seemed like another century about how far they had all come in so short a time. There was no small amount of irony in the fact that the agent who had pulled off the Kevin Garnett deal, which more than anything else united the owners in bringing on the lockout, was Eric Fleisher, son of the late Larry Fleisher, the first head of the union and an agent in his own right, a man once despised by the owners of his day but now regarded as the very model of decorum and fairness by a new generation of league owners and executives.

The negotiations between league officials and owners on one hand and players on the other moved slowly in the fall of 1998. It was a most unusual labor dispute: on one side a large number of billionaires, on the other, countless millionaires. Tony Kornheiser of The Washington Post said it was a strike between tall millionaires and short millionaires. And Sam Smith of the Chicago Tribune wrote that watching the strike was like watching a collision between two limousines. "One guy gets out of the backseat of one limo complaining that he spilled his glass of Château Lafite Rothschild wine in the collision. And the guy from the other limo gets out mortified that his gold Rolex was scratched." By 1998, the average player's salary was $2.5 million. David Stern himself made $7 million a year, a sticking point for many of the players and agents. And Patrick Ewing, the head of the union, was making $18.5 million this year as part of a handsome four-year contract, a sticking point with owners. The issues seemed less about how much money was being made at the moment than whether salaries would be kept open-ended in the future. Would there be any ceiling on a team's ability to sign its best players? Could some formula be engineered that justly rewarded very valuable players after a certain period of service and yet did not threaten the very stability and balance of the league? Did the issues at stake affect 80 percent of the players or just a small handful of elite players who might be worthy of giant salaries?

The truth was that with the salaries so large and getting larger, the players were inevitably the losers in a showdown like this. They had lost something crucial from their earlier public struggles with the owners: public support. Few young American sports enthusiasts, after all, had ever rooted for the owners or idolized them, and few American youths had grown up in their teens hoping one day to own a sports franchise. The owners had no popularity to lose. The players did. Out of touch with the world around them, strangers even to the better sportswriters who now covered them, encouraged by agents who had both a vested interest in their success and a fear of being candid with them, players rarely enjoyed the kind of dispensation granted a superstar like Michael Jordan. Theirs was hardly a popular cause even among those normally accustomed to taking labor's side in salary disputes.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

1. Paris, October 1997 3
2. Wilmington; Laney High, 1979-1981 17
3. Chicago, November 1997 23
4. Los Angeles, 1997; Williston, North Dakota, 1962 49
5. Chapel Hill, 1980 57
6. Chapel Hill, 1981 73
7. Chapel Hill, 1982-1984 97
8. Chicago, 1984 109
9. New York City; Bristol, Connecticut, 1979-1984 115
10. Chapel Hill; Chicago; Portland, 1984 135
11. Los Angeles; Chicago, 1984, 1985 149
12. Boston, April 1986 159
13. New York City; Portland, 1986 177
14. Chicago, 1986-1987 185
15. Albany; Chicago, 1984-1988 189
16. Chicago; Seattle, 1997 207
17. Hamburg and Conway, Arkansas; Chicago, 1982-1987 217
18. Detroit, the 1980s 235
19. Chicago, 1988-1990; New York City, 1967-1971 245
20. Chicago, 1990-1991 265
21. Chicago; Los Angeles, 1991 275
22. Chicago, 1997-1998 283
23. Chicago; Portland, 1992 291
24. La Jolla; Monte Carlo; Barcelona, 1992 295
25. Chicago; Phoenix, 1992-1993 303
26. Chicago, 1993 317
27. Birmingham; Chicago, 1994-1995 327
28. Chicago; Seattle; Salt Lake City, 1995-1997 337
29. Chicago, 1998 363
30. Chicago; Indianapolis, 1998 373
31. Chicago; Salt Like City, June 1998 383
32. Chicago, June 1998 405
Epilogue 407
Acknowledgments 419
Author's Note 423
Read More Show Less

First Chapter

EPILOGUE

In the fourteen years that Michael Jordan played in the NBA, no one other than a handful of players benefited more from the league's rising affluence and the shift in power from owners to players than David Falk. A relatively junior sports agent in the beginning of the era, Falk was by 1998 not merely the most affluent agent ever to represent basketball players but one of the two or three most influential men in the sport of basketball, a man whose power was said to rival that of David Stern himself. If the legal, economic, and technological changes that took place in the eighties and nineties had been good for players, they were arguably even better for agents. Since he first surfaced as an agent, he had split twice with partners: Early on, even before he was part of Jordan's team, he and Donald Dell split from Frank Craighill and Lee Fentress, and eventually he split off from Dell in what was considered a rather bitter professional divorce. In 1998 he sold his company to a larger firm, one that specialized in producing live entertainment in arenas around the country. The price was an estimated $100 million, and as part of the deal, Falk stayed on to run his part of the company. A press release announcing the sale noted that Falk's old company, FAME Falk Associates Management Enterprises, "represented an unprecedented 6 first-round draft picks in the NBA, negotiated over $400 million in contracts for its free-agent clients, and negotiated four of the five largest contracts in team sports history."

No one doubted David Falk's ability and intelligence, but if there was one thing that bothered people who cared about the league and the game in the broadest sense, it was whether he had any sense of a larger good, a belief that the greater good and health of the game was still something of an issue. Some felt that there was a danger that the size of some players' contracts exploited the vulnerability of varying franchises and threatened the long-range stability of the league. Falk seemed to enjoy his power as much as his wealth, the ability not to return calls and to make other people, particularly owners, feel vulnerable to him. "Be wary of David, and be particularly careful when he starts telling you how much he respects you," an owner once noted. "That's when you're going to either lose your wallet or your franchise player -- it's his way of telling you he's more powerful than you are."

In the summer of 1998, as the league and the players' union prepared for a major battle over contract rules and the owners prepared for a lockout of the players, a number of Falk clients, including Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, and Alonzo Mourning, had risen hardly by chance to positions of leadership in the union. That did not mean that it was simply Falk against the owners, for there were a number of other agents equally active on the players' side, but the issues, particularly the question of a soft or hard salary cap, seemed more about the contract freedoms enjoyed by the elite of the league than the earning power of most players. Certainly a number of people knowledgeable about the NBA saw the lockout as something of a struggle between Stern and Falk, and certainly when David Falk spoke to reporters that fall, he implied that Michael Jordan might be willing to come back for one more season-if David Stern did not block the way. As the lockout continued, it became increasingly clear that Falk was a critically important figure on the union side and that the issues seemed to affect his handful of elite clients more than they did most of the players. In an unusually scathing column the influential New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica wrote, "There may be worse phonies in sports than David Falk, but it is hard to come up with one today." Falk was, Lupica wrote, "a Rasputin coming off the bench" in these negotiations, the rare person who could make a writer root for a sports owner.

As for David Stern, in the late summer of 1998, as labor tensions escalated and a lockout became ever more likely, he seemed to some of his friends to be significantly sadder, if not actually melancholy. It was as if he was lamenting the loss of a once-vital human connection to the league's players, what he thought of as a special partnership with them. He grew a beard, which he vowed he would not shave until a new labor agreement was worked out. At the same time, ever a world-class marketer, he opened a giant new NBA store on Fifth Avenue in New York City, filled with almost any kind of clothing and trinket that could carry an NBA logo. Soon to come are NBA restaurants in a large number of cities.

Stern was very much aware that his longtime critics, people who hated the way the game had evolved in recent years-with its Dream Team conquest of lesser mortals at the Olympic competition, its affluent corporate-sponsorship deals, its big television contracts, its fancy new arenas with their luxury boxes and mandatory deafening noise, its growing separation of players from the media-thought he was being hoisted with his own petard. They believed that the league, with Stern as its master image maker had become too marketing-oriented in its struggle for parity with other major sports. Worst of all, in the process of gaining such stunning success, it had inevitably helped create the attitude among altogether too many players that they were beyond traditional norms of accountability, economically and socially outside the reach and control of society, and that the NBA's phenomenal and unlikely growth of the eighties and nineties was not some benign technological and societal fluke but nothing less than their just due. As their salaries had grown at such a remarkable rate in the past decade, so had their separation from reality.

Stern sometimes joked privately with friends that he could be arrested for operating under false pretenses in having for so long minimized the warts and maximized the artistry of the players and the game and above all for having tried to diminish the idea that modern athletes were, well...greedy. He liked to talk nostalgically about his early days as a league executive, when he worked with an earlier generation of labor leaders and players, men who felt a sense of partnership and shared objectives. Everyone was learning the hard way that a shared partnership was a good deal more difficult in flush times than in hard times. What bothered him now, Stern told some associates, was that players' and agents' memories were so short-almost no one seemed to remember how recently the league could not get itself on prime time for playoff games.

What made Stern's sadness particularly poignant was the fact that he had never been simply the owners' man, as was so often the case in big-time sports. He loved the players and the game itself and was committed to both, and he always had a broad sense of the larger health of the sport, a health that he believed began and ended with the public's respect and emotional investment in the players. In the words of Bob Ryan, "In that critical period when the NBA was just beginning to become successful, and a critical ingredient of it was the labor agreements which the league worked out with the union, I could as easily have envisioned David Stern heading the union and Larry Fleisher [the head of the union] being the commissioner-because there was no real difference in their love of the game, and the vision they both had of what they wanted to happen."

That was certainly no longer true. It all changed under the weight of so much prosperity. Revenue and salaries had gone up in staggering increments in recent years, tearing asunder all kinds of partnerships. When Stern came into the league as a relatively junior executive in 1978, the total of all players' salaries was around $40 million; only twenty years later, Michael Jordan made close to that much himself in one year, his team's payroll was roughly twice as much, and the total for the league was around $1 billion annually. That meant that salaries had gone up roughly 2500% in the twenty-year period. But a new generation of players represented by a new generation of agents had little interest in the hoary stories from what seemed like another century about how far they had all come in so short a time. There was no small amount of irony in the fact that the agent who had pulled off the Kevin Garnett deal, which more than anything else united the owners in bringing on the lockout, was Eric Fleisher, son of the late Larry Fleisher, the first head of the union and an agent in his own right, a man once despised by the owners of his day but now regarded as the very model of decorum and fairness by a new generation of league owners and executives.

The negotiations between league officials and owners on one hand and players on the other moved slowly in the fall of 1998. It was a most unusual labor dispute: on one side a large number of billionaires, on the other, countless millionaires. Tony Kornheiser of The Washington Post said it was a strike between tall millionaires and short millionaires. And Sam Smith of the Chicago Tribune wrote that watching the strike was like watching a collision between two limousines. "One guy gets out of the backseat of one limo complaining that he spilled his glass of Chëteau Lafite Rothschild wine in the collision. And the guy from the other limo gets out mortified that his gold Rolex was scratched." By 1998, the average player's salary was $2.5 million. David Stern himself made $7 million a year, a sticking point for many of the players and agents. And Patrick Ewing, the head of the union, was making $18.5 million this year as part of a handsome four-year contract, a sticking point with owners. The issues seemed less about how much money was being made at the moment than whether salaries would be kept open-ended in the future. Would there be any ceiling on a team's ability to sign its best players? Could some formula be engineered that justly rewarded very valuable players after a certain period of service and yet did not threaten the very stability and balance of the league? Did the issues at stake affect 80 percent of the players or just a small handful of elite players who might be worthy of giant salaries?

The truth was that with the salaries so large and getting larger, the players were inevitably the losers in a showdown like this. They had lost something crucial from their earlier public struggles with the owners: public support. Few young American sports enthusiasts, after all, had ever rooted for the owners or idolized them, and few American youths had grown up in their teens hoping one day to own a sports franchise. The owners had no popularity to lose. The players did. Out of touch with the world around them, strangers even to the better sportswriters who now covered them, encouraged by agents who had both a vested interest in their success and a fear of being candid with them, players rarely enjoyed the kind of dispensation granted a superstar like Michael Jordan. Theirs was hardly a popular cause even among those normally accustomed to taking labor's side in salary disputes. The owners wanted to put some significant limits on the Larry Bird exception in order to keep it within the agreed-upon boundaries of the salary cap. They were not, they said, trying to turn back the clock or move the pay scale downward, nor even trying to stop the ability of players to enjoy considerable freedom of movement. Instead, they were, in the period after Kevin Garnett's signing, trying to limit the ever-escalating madness-not just of the players but of themselves. If accepted, their offer would bring the total payroll to $1.2 billion in four years, roughly a 5 percent annual increase. Under the old shared-revenue agreement, the players were supposed to get 52 percent of gross revenues, but the annual increase in salaries had been so steep-roughly 15 or 16 percent a year-that the league now claimed that the figure had reached 57 percent and was still climbing. As Kevin McHale said when he finished up the Kevin Garnett salary negotiations, "We've got our hand on the goose which has been laying the golden egg, and we're already squeezing too hard."

That Michael Jordan was special because he had helped change the economics of the game, and that his big paydays had come quite late in his career, seemed to be concepts beyond the comprehension of many of the players. A player named Jerry Stackhouse was a good example, although there were many others like him. Stackhouse had come out of Carolina after only two years in the Dean Smith program, and he had seemed at first to have the potential for true greatness-he was a slasher, someone whose drives to the basket were hard to stop because of his power and speed. He had entered the league with a handsome new sneaker contract and all the other accoutrements of the modern celebrity athlete. But he was still an unfinished player, and he did not improve greatly in his first three professional seasons. In part because his outside shot remained suspect, defenses could drop off him, and that cut down on his ability to drive to the basket. In addition, his posse-that is, his group of followers-did not seem to get along with Allen Iverson's posse, and in time, in his third season, he was traded to Detroit. But he was also heard to say that he was thinking in terms of a big contract, at least $10 million a year: If Michael Jordan was worth $30 million, he said, he was at least a third as good a player as Michael. Who would ever know if that were true or not.

What was probably happening was that after a period of truly phenomenal growth in which all sides had benefited across the board beyond anyone's expectations, and the league had enjoyed a rise in popularity and a general growth unparalleled in sports history-in no small part because of profound technological change-and one great player had become the showcase for an entire sport, owners, commissioners, players, and agents were trying to define what the post-Jordan reality was-reality in a world that had no reality because it was driven, in all ways in the end, by fantasy.

No company enriched Michael Jordan more than Nike or benefited more from his career. Jordan had made around $130 million from Nike over his career by 1998. Given his baseball sabbatical, that averaged out to around $10 million a year from just one company. In turn, he not only made Nike literally billions of dollars, he helped it win a series of epic life-or-death battles against Reebok at the height of the great global sneaker wars. Nike had just begun to slip behind Reebok when it signed Jordan, and the Jordan line changed that equation dramatically. In their first year the Air Jordans grossed an unheard-of $130 million, and the Nike comeback had begun. In 1986, because of a number of earlier quite serious miscalculations at Nike, the Reebok share of the domestic sneaker market was far greater than that of Nike: 31.3 percent to 20.7. Four years later, in no small part because of Jordan's presence, Nike regained the lead and widened it steadily. Among the first companies to learn that Michael's presence both on and off-court was special, and not easily repeated, was Reebok. It had placed a huge bet on Shaq but had not prospered. Shaq, eventually cut loose from his five-year $15 million deal, had become, by 1998, something relatively new in American sports, a free agent in the sneaker world. Not every athlete, it was clear, no matter what the level of charm or ability, could replace Jordan either on the court or on the screen.

Not all of Nike's growth was attributable to Jordan's presence, of course, but in 1984 the company had revenues of $919 million and a net income of about $40 million, and by the end of 1997, Nike's revenues were over $9 billion, with a net of around $800 million, stunning annual growth rates.

Michael Jordan had never become very close to Phil Knight, the most iconoclastic and least predictable of American CEOs. Knight was self-evidently a visionary, but he often seemed extremely awkward socially, and he was by no means the kind of person Jordan felt at ease with. Over the years the small talk between them was quite limited. At one point Jordan came very close to leaving Nike to become a full-fledged partner in a new sneaker company that was going to be set up by Rob Strasser and Peter Moore, former Nike men with whom he felt a far greater sense of connection. The showdown meeting between Jordan and Knight had not been a pleasant one: Jordan had kept Knight waiting for several hours, someone involved in the meeting remembered, and arrived in a hostile, angry mood. He had clearly been primed for battle by the ex-Nike renegades, apparently made aware of how small his cut of the giant pie he had helped to create really was. But in the end there had been too much risk involved, particularly for someone whose career could end with injury at any moment, and the prospect of an enraged Phil Knight using all of Nike's not inconsiderable might and muscle to keep a new Jordan-driven company out of the world's biggest sneaker stores was not something Jordan or Falk wanted to take on. One thing that did come out of those negotiations was a far better cut in the revenues for Jordan, and by the early nineties, very quietly, without too much public fuss, he was making around $20 million a year from Nike.

Nike soon found that its success with Jordan was not lightly transferable to other athletes. To be sure, a campaign based around Charles Barkley had charm and wit and intelligence, in no small part because Barkley himself, whatever the egregious aspects of his behavior, was charming, witty, and intelligent. Danny Ainge, his onetime teammate, once noted that he had been around a lot of players who were essentially bad guys trying to pretend they were good guys, but Charles was the only person he had ever met who was a good guy trying to pretend he was a bad guy. But a good many other campaigns seemed to fall flat, most notably a campaign to promote a football-baseball player named Deion Sanders as a kind of comparable cultural hero. That Sanders was a gifted athlete was undeniable, but that he was any kind of cultural icon or even particularly likable to a broad spectrum of his fellow citizens was dubious. What was believed to be his charisma reflected all too accurately the aberrant quality of much of contemporary celebrity: It seemed to stem largely from his willingness to do wildly egocentric self-congratulatory dances in the end zone, as if each visit there was his first.

Part of the problem in Nike's larger public relations, in commercials featuring Sanders and a number of other athletes, was that these commercials tended to reflect an important part of the company culture, that of being mavericks and upstarts ready to take on the rest of the world. After all, Knight started the company in his home, using a waffle iron to make sneakers designed by his old track coach, and at first he had gone from track meet to track meet selling his shoes out of his car. That was still the way he saw himself-a little guy taking on the big guys. The Nike guys liked to see themselves as "outlaws with morals," as one consultant who worked with the company said. So when Deion Sanders poured a bucket of ice cold water on an unsuspecting and fully clothed baseball announcer, Tim McCarver, because McCarver had questioned Sanders's athletic loyalty as he jockeyed back and forth between football and baseball in the midst of baseball playoff games apparently encouraged by Nike, which paid for the helicopters that got him to and from games, no one at Nike seemed at all upset. In their opinion, Sanders was just a Nike guy doing a Nike kind of thing.

But by the late nineties Nike was no longer a little guy taking on big guys; it was a very big guy whose reach and logo seemed to be everywhere, not just a multinational giant, but more like a huge octopus with tentacles that reached everywhere into the sports world. Its swoosh symbol seemed to be omnipresent, and its power-the immense sums it paid college coaches in order to be the sneaker and uniform provider of choice, caused a great deal of uneasiness among traditionalists in sports. Inevitably, because of its own high visibility and the singular visibility of its athletes, it became the ideal target for critics concerned with the broader issue of the labor practices of American multinationals in poor, third world countries. Charges of unacceptably low pay, unsafe working conditions, and exploitation of child labor were aimed against the company in general, and against Jordan in particular as the Nike poster boy. The Nike factories in Vietnam, where wages were said to be under two dollars a day, came under special criticism.

The furor seemed to bewilder Jordan, who, like other celebrities caught in the name brand apparel game, never thought that the easy affluence his endorsements brought him would or should have that kind of a downside, nor that he would become a target of pickets for allegedly exploiting children in some far-off country. A series of cartoons mocking both Jordan and Nike soon appeared in the comic strip "Doonesbury." There was talk in the spring of 1998 that Jordan might visit the Vietnam factories in the summer with a select media entourage, a trip that would produce great television footage and comparable pro-company spin. By the early fall that trip seemed to be postponed indefinitely.

If there was anyone more bewildered than Jordan by the furor it was Knight himself. Asia had long fascinated him. Long ago he had sensed the rising importance of that region not just as a market but, more important, as a challenger to traditional Western economic hegemony. He saw himself as both pioneer and visionary in a new world order in which the importance of Western Europe declined and that of Asia and the Pacific Rim ascended, someone who had seen the future before anyone else, or at least long before most other American CEOs. He did not respond well to charges that he was less a visionary of the future than he was an exploiter of the present. His early responses to these charges were remarkably insensitive, in no small part because he was so sure that Nike was good for these countries. In time, he made the mistake of granting an interview to Michael Moore, the irreverent filmmaker. Perhaps Knight thought they were fellow mavericks, soulmates who wanted the same thing. The segment, in a film called The Big One, was a disaster for Knight and Nike. Among other things it featured Moore inviting Knight to open a factory in Flint, Michigan, one of America's most depressed former industrial sites, rather than opening yet another factory in some village in Asia. In May 1998, realizing finally that much of the world did not see his company or his economic practices the way he saw them, he announced significant changes in Nike's overseas production. Its Asian factories would meet American health and safety standards, and the minimum age for new workers would be moved to eighteen from sixteen. He did not mention any increase in pay for workers, a likely future sticking point.

When Michael Jordan hit that final jump shot against Utah in June, many of the people closest to him, like Roy Williams, believed that it was the final act of a brilliant career. The assumption was that the curtain had at last come down on his remarkable tour with the Chicago Bulls, despite the fact that in some ways he was playing as well as ever, and despite the fact that his taste for the game had not declined at all. He remained as hungry as ever. Still, Phil Jackson was gone, and could barely wait to clean out his desk at the Berto Center. Jordan had sworn that he would not play for a different coach, although there was some evidence that he might overcome that particular vow; even more important, it was unlikely that Scottie Pippen, the most critical of the dominoes now, was going to return. Furious at the Bulls organization, apparently burning with a desire to go elsewhere, Pippen appeared almost certain to depart, thus leaving Jordan unusually vulnerable to the assaults of would-be contenders. The 1997-1998 season had been hard enough and there was ample evidence that the Bulls as a team were wearing down. But a full season without Pippen as his alter ego, even with the ability of the Bulls to add other free agents, might expose Jordan as an aging star able to do only so much on the court.

But the lockout changed all equations. Suddenly not only was all player movement limited, but players could not even talk to management. No one, as December 1998 started, knew when the season might start, or whether there would even be a season. Pippen remained frozen in place, seething with rage at the injustice of a world that, when it was finally his chance to have a big payday, had placed yet another obstacle in his way. The possibility of a short season, however, might, some people close to Jordan believed, affect Michael's attitude and might make him more inclined to come back. Perhaps, this thinking went, Michael and a patched-together team might be able to make the playoffs, where, by the power of his will, he would be able to dominate once again.

If the answer by December was not yet in whether or not he would play again, there was plenty of evidence upon which to make an estimation of what his special role had been in American sports. He was not in any classic sense history's man, not one of those men like Jack Johnson, Paul Robeson, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, or Arthur Ashe whose own complicated lives and painful struggles against long-established prejudices and racial barriers revealed a great deal not merely about sports but about the history of race in America. He was not the first as Robinson, Ashe, and Johnson were, for example, nor did he end up by making a broader and on occasion more torturous political challenge to the white establishment as Robeson and Ali did. The timing of his entrance upon the American educational, athletic, and commercial scene was impeccable and precious little had been denied him because of his race. To the degree that his career reflected anything larger than sports in historical racial terms, it was the willingness of corporate America, however reluctantly, to understand that a stunningly gifted and attractive black athlete could be a compelling salesman of a vast variety of rather mundane products. Not that Jordan had not faced prejudice in this area at first. When he had first started out as a pitchman and David Falk had pushed him at a number of large American corporations, a representative of one multinational had suggested Jordan might be perfect to push Beanie Weanies, a sausage and beans product popular with poor blacks in the South, an offer in commercial terms not unlike the Harlem Globetrotters trying to sign him when he left Carolina after being college player of the year. Falk and Jordan had politely declined, and in that first year, to everyone's amazement, the Air Jordan line had broken all existing records for an endorsed product. With that the gap was breached, and he had transcended racial barriers in the world of advertising. In time he became a record holder in this area as well, for it was almost certain that no American salesman of any color had ever entered more homes, here or abroad, or successfully sold more products; in the summer of 1998, Fortune magazine undertook a detailed study of Jordan as a figure of modern capitalism, and estimated that he had helped generate $10 billion in revenues for the game, its broadcasters, and for his varying corporate partners.

If he was not a figure from the pantheon of athletes as were such historical figures as Ali and Robinson and Johnson, men whose racial travails were at least as compelling as their athletic deeds, then what the average fan was left with was something less than a series of remarkable images of him as an athlete: a human comet who, miraculously enough, did repeat performances, and whom we were privileged to see flash through the night again and again and again, the most charismatic player ever in his sport-brilliant, balletic, and, of course, fierce. He possessed in the highest proportions all the requisite qualities for greatness; in addition, it was as if some geneticist had injected a magical solution for supercompetitiveness into his DNA, and he came to represent, more than any athlete of recent years, the invincible man, someone who simply refused to be defeated.

He seemed sometimes to be as much explorer as athlete, explorer in terms of going beyond previously accepted limits of what was humanly possible, and somehow by dint of physical excellence and unmatched willpower, pushing those limits forward that much more. That, for the millions who watched him over the years, was no small gift.

Read More Show Less

Interviews & Essays

On Thursday, February 25th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed David Halberstam to discuss PLAYING FOR KEEPS.


Moderator: Welcome, David Halberstam! Thank you for taking the time to join us online this evening, and congratulations on the tremendous success of PLAYING FOR KEEPS. How is everything in Seattle today? Are Sonics fans still mad at Jordan for squelching the Sonics' hopes for a ring three seasons ago?

David Halberstam: No, I think the Sonics fans are trying to figure out how, like other teams in the post-Jordan era, to sort of move into the vacuum that he left behind. There is not much anger toward him, more admiration because he was such a great player and because he was such a great competitor. I think the Sonics fans are more worried about their own team. It was last year that they were swept by L.A., who were promptly swept by Utah. I think they are more concerned about their semi-chaos -- a coach is out, we don't know what the future holds, there is an abundance of talent, and can it be fused together to become a great team? To be continued.


Charlie Rapson from Cleveland, OH: I think you captured the essence of Michael Jordan magnificently in this book. Congratulations on such a great book. My question to you, is how do you respond to those who disagree with me and think this book is too much of a "star worship" biography? I personally think you covered his gambling woes to a satisfactory degree, but many folks I have spoken to think that you didn't.

David Halberstam: Generally, people think the book is nicely distanced from him and appreciative of him as a great player but catches a lesser side of him appropriately enough, and the main thing that I have been able to accomplish is in getting all the great changes in society, like commercials. I think that is generally the critics' thoughts. I realize that in Cleveland, there is a reservation of resentment toward Michael because the Bulls and Michael beat a great Cleveland team: Nance, Hot Rod Williams, Mark Price et al. And if it weren't for Michael, that team could have gone to the finals. But generally the book has been applauded for how I admire him but keep my distance from him.


Soozan Baxter from New York City: First, I want to tell you that THE FIFTIES is one of my all-time favorite books. Secondly, I wanted to ask you if you think the current NBA without the charisma and character of Bird, Johnson, Thomas, and Jordan can keep up the character and enjoyment level that we have grown so accustomed to. Are Allen Iverson, Chris Webber, Latrell Sprewell, and Shaquille O'Neal the new Bird, Magic, and Michael?

David Halberstam: The answer is obviously no. All of the new players have great talent, but whether they can show that they have toughness of mind and character to lift their teams and to become champs is a question. Are they great team leaders, or are they overpaid members of Generation X that don't get much better once they get in the league? Players are getting from the start what an older generation got at the end of their careers. Although Webber is showing that he is a different player this year, the jury is still out. When I was doing the book, one of the things that Chris Ford (the Clippers coach) said was, "The one thing that Bird and Jordan had in common is that when they first signed with their teams each thought that part of their contract was to lift their team to a championship," and he thought that many new players don't have that anymore. Obviously the talent is there, but will the character and the desire to excel and the ability to let fans know that there is a love of the game show as well? That is the question.


Pac87@aol.com from XX: Did you sit down and interview MJ at all for this book?

David Halberstam: Not for this book. I sat down and interviewed him six or seven years ago for a piece I did for Sports Illustrated when they made him Sportsman of the Year. There was talk that when he did a book I would write it with him. When I did this book he was media-ed out, and we had an agreement that he would see me after the season, but he backed out of it because he was too exhausted from the season.


Mike from Springfield, VA: Can you think of another contemporary athlete that is as clutch and performs under pressure with the execution of Jordan?

David Halberstam: I can think of others, but they don't dominate their sport quite the way he does. In basketball there are only five players on the floor, and they play offense and defense. He was able to transcend the sport in an unusual way. I think of him as the best big-game fourth-quarter player I have ever seen, but all you have to do is think of Bob Gibson pitching a big game -- but a pitcher only plays every four days. Also Joe Montana rose to the occasion in big games. Basketball allowed Michael to showcase himself. He did it from an unusual position, in a big man's game when he wasn't a big man. Being an off guard made his dominance of the game all that much more remarkable. In the Utah series in '98 in the fourth quarter, he averaged 13 points and Karl Malone averaged 3, because Michael can create.


Rik from USA: Are you excited about the fact that the main character in the movie "Rushmore" with Bill Murray is reading a David Halberstam book in a scene where he is trying to act more sophisticated and intelligent than he is?

David Halberstam: I think it sends a great tribute. My daughter, who is a freshman in college, called me and told me that I was now really making it. It was bound to happen, I guess, that I would become a major figure in popular culture.


Henry R. from Oak Park, IL: What were a few surprises you discovered while researching this book, that you didn't know going into this project?

David Halberstam: I think the importance of Dean Smith and forging him -- the discipline and the endless drills. I sort of knew, but I didn't know to what degree. I knew he was competitive, but I didn't how competitive. I knew he was a good practice player, but I didn't know he was a killer in practice -- he drove his teammates to greatness through his practice habits. I knew he was tough of mind, but I didn't know how tough. I knew that these were true, but I didn't know to what degree. I think it was in confronting these things that I found out how extraordinary he was.


John from JWC901@aol.com: How key do you think Dean Smith was in the maturation of Michael Jordan as a person and a basketball player? Do you think current NBA youngsters like Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant are missing something key by bypassing college and entering the NBA as teenagers?

David Halberstam: The answer to the second part is obviously yes. It is a chance to grow up and make mistakes. You get a lot of money in the NBA, and you can make the point that instead of college Kobe will have $20 million. But they are missing the chance to be taught by good coaches and to do things that are fun, to grow and to have intellectual interests. I think it is terribly important. I think Michael greatly benefited from the Dean Smith program, and I think one of the points of the book was how much Dean Smith was to him. People like Michael Jordan because he is a grown-up, and at Carolina he became a grown-up. He had great coaches at North Carolina teaching him how to be a man. He had great teammates who didn't let him get a swelled head. James Worthy once said, "There are many, many things that Dean Smith could teach you, and at the bottom of the list is basketball." Dean taught Michael basketball well, but there was a good deal more. He taught him how to fend off ego, not to be selfish, to respect coaches, to respect teammates, and to respect all things being equal and dealing well with the media. Playing on the court was only part of it. Michael had a very strong family, and the Dean Smith program built on that.


Steve from Short Hills, NJ: Does your book cover Jordan's baseball days? Also, what do you think were the physical restrictions that held Jordan back from becoming a successful major league hitter? Also, do you think if he concentrated on baseball similar to how hard he worked on his basketball skills, he would have been a successful baseball player?

David Halberstam: Yes, I do deal with it at some length. The things working against him were being away from the sport for 13 years. If an athlete as talented as Michael had tried baseball earlier, I think he would have been a success. But his height would have worked against him. There aren't many great six-foot-six baseball players, because their strike zone is too big. He didn't have a baseball body. Baseball players get power from their thighs and hips and their asses. Michael had a basketball body -- thin thighs, powerful upper body. His lower trunk wasn't as thick as most baseball players' trunks. The interesting thing is that even when he had a decent batting average, for someone as strong as Michael, the ball just did not pop off the bat.


Tate from Gary, IN: I know this has nothing to do with Michael Jordan, but I was wondering if you think Indiana has the best shot at the post-Jordan ring?

David Halberstam: I don't know. They were an awfully good team last year, and they gave the Bulls as hard a run as any team has done in their six championship runs. They are tough, and they have a depth to their rotation that was extremely difficult for the Bulls to deal with, particularly later in the games, when starters like Chris Mullin and Mark Jackson were out and Travis Best and Jalen Rose were in. The Bulls were not deep, and late in the fourth, the Bulls got tired and the Pacers were rested. I would think that Indiana right now is a team that could be very good in the playoffs. How much longer they can be held together I don't know. They have some restrictions -- Jackson has good floor vision but he is not quick, Rik Smits has limitations. The Indiana team that finished up last year was really playing better than the Bulls at the end; they won three of the seven games, and the Bulls won the final game with a shoe shine and a smile. I am not sure how they will match up against some of the younger teams. Bird used that rotation very well. Jalen Rose gave Jordan a tough time. Jordan was not prepared for him.


Hareem from Newark, NJ: What do you foresee in the near future for Michael Jordan? Do you think he would ever take the Larry Bird route and become a coach?

David Halberstam: It doesn't strike me as likely. He doesn't need the money, and I don't think he would fancy coaching younger players today, many of whom wouldn't listen. But I didn't think Bird would coach. The truth is, we don't know. For the moment it doesn't seem likely. There are other things he wants to do. I think it is hard for someone that good to be a good coach. I think Bird is unusual to be able to coach players not as good as him.


Steve from Seattle, WA: If you didn't have to worry about money ever again, would you still be doing what you're doing for a career?

David Halberstam: Sure, it is what I love to do. I might do something slightly differently but it is not simply what I do, it is who I am. I like the people I meet, and I like the intellectual challenge, and I like the pleasure it gives people. It is a gift to be able to do this. If I had money, sure I would still do it. I feel lucky to have done it.


Dave Anderson from New York City: Are there any current NBA players whose game Michael Jordan seriously respects?

David Halberstam: He liked Joe Dumars's game. I think he thinks Kobe has talent, but he doesn't know what is going to happen with him; he is young and he hasn't had time to go to the next level. I think he is mostly weary of the Generation X players. He liked Juwan Howard at first. I think he liked his work ethic. I think at one point he wanted to get Jayson Williams for the Bulls, but that didn't work out. Beyond that I don't want to put words in his mouth. In general I think he is underwhelmed by the Gen X players; they don't work hard enough, their games are incomplete, and they got too much too quickly.


John from New York City: Do you think Michael Jordan had a personal dislike for the Riley-era Knicks teams that led him to step up his play? I certainly thought his obvious dislike for players like Starks and Greg Anthony was evident, and he really increased his game...

David Halberstam: I think you are probably right. I think he didn't like the Riley teams; it wasn't just Starks and Anthony, it was the physicality of their play. He thought they were bullying. He didn't like the X-Man. X was trying to push Pippen around, and Michael went right into X's face, and Xavier backed down. There is a great photo of Michael right in the face of Ewing, absolutely fearless, and he was saying lay off my teammates. He didn't particularly like Starks and Anthony, but he also really didn't like how the Knicks were trying to beat the Bulls with physicality, not basketball.


Paul Crichton from Pcrichton@book.com: The only contemporary athlete ever compared to Michael Jordan in terms of significant social impact is Muhammad Ali. However, comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges, as Ali's story played out under enormous political and social stresses. How similar do you think Jordan and Ali are as people?

David Halberstam: Well, I used that same phrase -- apples and oranges -- when somebody asked me about the two earlier today in an interview. They have certain parallels: winning smiles underneath a desire to excel, incredible athleticism. They are very different in that Michael was much more privileged. He was born a year before Ali got the championship, and Jordan went to integrated schools and went to the best college program in the country with great care and nurturing, and nothing had been denied to him. Ali, on the other hand, barely graduated from high school -- the school pretty much graduated him knowing they had to graduate him because he was going to become the most famous alumni of the school -- but it was a much harder life, and he was very bright. Reading was hard for Ali, it was all street smarts. He was much more political because much more was denied. The rage to excel is there for both of them, but one is a kid from the streets, and one is an upper-middle-class guy who went to the best college in the state. Ali didn't get the financial benefits, and he did it in such a brutal sport, boxing, which had much less appeal to women. Many more women liked Jordan and his basketball. Ali was much more political with his strong stance against the Vietnam War.


John from Marlboro, MA: Has Michael Jordan seen the book? Have you heard anything about his reaction to your depiction?

David Halberstam: I have sent him a book, and I think I will hear from friends of his. Phil Jackson used to give all his players a different book to read on the road, but I don't think Michael did that much reading for recreation. I think I will hear eventually from him, and I think he will like it.


Vance from Columbia, SC: Are you currently writing another book?

David Halberstam: I obviously will have to, because that is how I make my living, and New York City is very expensive. I have recently written THE CHILDREN and now this one. I am thinking about a book on the Korean War. I will keep writing, and I hope to sign a three-book contract soon.


Scott Ehlers from Hollywood, CA: In your opinion, is Michael Jordan the most recognizable man on this planet?

David Halberstam: Yeah, I think so. I think he is arguably the most famous person in the world. One thing I wrote is that he was the first great athlete of the wired world. Ali and Pelé were in a time when the satellite wasn't as powerful, and in addition Michael got all those commercials. I think he is the most famous person in the world; also he is six foot six and he is so attractive, it is not like the can blend into a crowd.


Moderator: Thank you, David Halberstam, and best of luck with PLAYING FOR KEEPS. Do you have any closing comments for the online audience?

David Halberstam: It has been fun doing this chat, and it was fun writing the book, and it was fun promoting it. It is nice to write about a happy story. There is a lot out there that is not very pleasant, but this is a story that has a nice beginning and end. He is really good at what he does. Goodnight.


Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 9, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A Book Worthy Of Its Subject

    David Halberstam was one of the great cultural historians of the 20th century. This book explores the links between sports TV, sneakers, celebrity, college basketball, and NBA owners and Players. Halberstam loved basketball and wrote about it with a clear eye. He mourned the loss of the earlier NBA he chronicled so well in the Breaks Of The Game while he realized it had to grow and change or die. Michael Jordan is front and center but other icons including Phil Jackson and Larry Bird are deftly sketched. Halberstam also compassionately portrays oddballs and outcasts like Dennis Rodman and the other Detroit Nasty Boys. After reading this book, I wish I had paid more attention to Jordan and the Bulls during their great run. Halberstam will never write another book and that is a loss to readers of both history and sports writing

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

    Posted December 5, 2006

    MJ

    I throughly enjoyed this. Being an athlete but not a basketball player i still found this book inspiring, and very interesting. Who wouldn't want to read about the arguably best athlete ever?

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

    Posted April 19, 2006

    Great

    This was a great book to read on Michael Jordan. I am using it to write a Biography on Michael for school. It has a ton of great details.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)