Michael Jordan will more than likely always be regarded as the best basketball player ever.
In Radford University Professor and NBA Beat Writer, Roland Lazenby’s latest book, “Michael Jordan: The Life,” he looks at the world’s superstar in a much different context than other Jordan biographies. His family, his life, his relationships with others are all examined from those who knew the six-time NBA Champion.
It all starts with his background almost a century before Michael was born. Lazenby researches his great-grandparents and their upbringing telling us the history of his family and helps us analyze him from a young child, to now a 51-year-old father and husband.
The book tells a great deal of history throughout Michael’s home state of North Carolina and puts “His Airness” in the context of his family, something Lazenby said had not been done by other Jordan biographies. This one did just that.
It follows his mother and father and their emotions along with his siblings throughout Michael’s adolescence and his journey to Chapel Hill and into basketball greatness.
From the early days of his recruiting process to his stardom at UNC and giving Dean Smith his first National Championship, Lazenby looks at Jordan from a basketball perspective and simply a college student. He mentions the game Jordan played against Ralph Sampson and The University of Virginia in Charlottesville, a game I found highlights of in the WDBJ archives covered by the late, Roy Stanley, one of many deceased Lazenby dedicated this book to.
For me, the most interesting part was breaking down Michael’s rocky (putting it nicely) relationship with Jerry Krause, the Bulls General Manager along with Head Coaches Phil Jackson, Doug Collins and longtime assistants, Tex Winter and Johnny Bach.
Krause, a two-time NBA Executive of the Year, butted heads with Jordan and the Bulls at one point were offered by the now infamous Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, to move Jordan to the Clippers in exchange for a slew of draft picks. Jerry Reinsdorf, the Bulls Owner, considered moving MJ to Los Angeles. However, with the White Sox financial troubles, Reinsdorf didn’t want to move the White Sox out of the Windy City to Florida and trade MJ in the same year.
Upon finishing this book, many people will probably ask about a number of things. One being Jordan’s journey into professional baseball and whether his father’s death drove him into ballparks. His gambling addiction and whether David Stern forced him to retire the first time after winning his third NBA Championship. Those are questions someone like myself who was a toddler at the time of Jordan’s first title, have heard about for years from those that have followed the game and the life of Michael Jordan.
The end of the book touches on Jordan and his current role with the now Charlotte Hornets. He appears to be settled into his new life with twins and still seems to enjoy a round of golf and cigar. An extremely private guy, Jordan, is finally showing signs of progress as an owner after many years of being maligned as inept. From failed drafts to the Kwame Brown disaster in Washington, Charlotte made the playoffs in 2013-14 season and shows a lot of progress to the future.
This nearly 700 page mammoth of a book, tells far more than I just wrote in this 500-plus word review. It’s in-depth, it’s honest and the access Lazenby has to former coaches, beat writers, teammates and front office personnel is unparalleled by any other sportswriter. For the hoops junkie or for the guy who wants to relive the hoops glory of the 90’s, this is a must read. After all, there’s nothing like reliving great moments of the past, especially when you can have it in your hands told to you like no one else has.
I highly recommend reading this. Especially from a local guy who has been a staple in college classrooms throughout the Valley.