Michael Jordan may be the most analysed sportsmen of all time. He is already the subject of one of the all time great sports books Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made by the late, great David Halberstam. The darker side of his personality had already been brilliantly exposed in The Jordan Rules by Sam Smith. And countless other books have told the story of his career and his life.
I must admit, that given this extensive coverage, I wasn’t sure there was much to interest me in a full Jordan bio. Michael Jordan: The Life sat on my shelf unread for more than 3 years. Once I picked it up however, I couldn’t put it down.
While most other books tend to focus on a specific season or specific aspect of his life, Lazenby does a great job of telling the fuller picture of his life and playing career.
The first part of the book detailing his background, the history of his parents and ancestors is particularly strong with Lazenby’s skill as a biographer shining through. The strength of the book is the intense focus on Jordan’s relationships – with his coaches, family, friends, other players and the numerous other people whose crossed his path. The story is told largely through the stories of those who accompanied Jordan through the various phases of his life..
His parents are presented as complex characters and the darker, but still unproven, side of the Jordan family history is touched on. In particular, I was left with even greater admiration for Bulls coach Phil Jackson’s leadership and management ability. Getting Jordan to work for the greater good of the team took a special coach and Jackson was clearly the right man for the job.
It’s a big book yet I would have liked a bit more on Jordan’s life/career post playing. Being a run-of-the mill owner isn’t quite as interesting as winning 6 rings, but it felt like the book ran out of steam a little bit.
It’s a study of Jordan the man as much as Jordan the icon yet Lazenby wisely avoids over analysing Jordan or guessing as to his motives. But by the end of the book, I was left with a pretty negative view of the man yet the a recognition that such unimaginable wealth, fame and public pressure would be hard for anyone to emerge from unscathed.
I highly recommend Michael Jordan: The Life. Be careful though, it’s a book that can easily send you down a YouTube rabbit hole of Jordan clips.