Michael Jordan: The Life
"The rarest talent is like a comet streaking briefly across the sky, captured only by the trailing flash of its brilliance." In his resplendent biography of Michael Jordan, veteran sportswriter Roland Lazenby carefully chronicles the Hall of Famer's journey from his humble beginnings in Teachey, North Carolina, to his startling transformation to "His Airness."
"Personality-wise, he's a study," said former Chicago Bulls assistant coach Tex Winter of the six-time NBA champion. Lazenby offers nuanced insights into the basketball phenom's character through soulful and, at times, wistful family narratives. To understand the full force of MJ's wondrous life, Lazenby opens with the poignant story of Dawson Jordan. Born at the turn of the 20th century in a shotgun shack on the banks of North Carolina's Coastal plain, Michael's great-grandfather was a looming authority figure who possessed immense physical strength. In his youth, Dawson engaged in dangerous forestry, taking down trees, then bundling and floating the logs downriver to Wilmington's shipyards. In his lifetime, he was a lumber mill worker, logger, sharecropper, moonshiner, hunt club cook and determined survivor.
"Comprehensive and well-researched, Lazenby's biography offers an impressive detailed account of Jordan's storied basketball, Olympic and baseball careers, as well as his wide-ranging business interests."
Lazenby portrays James and Deloris Jordan as thoroughly devoted parents, preparing their five children to become citizens of the world. "The greatest impact of their parenting came in the constant shaping of the children's attitudes," Lazenby writes, "they preached a constant refrain: Work hard. Achieve. Set goals. Think ahead. Don't be denied. Be considerate. Don't dwell on race."
Jordan's ability to listen was among his most impressive attributes, and his relationship with his mother made him receptive to coaching. Lanzenby notes that Jordan would come to call Dean Smith his second father and found Chapel Hill a safe harbor largely because of the family atmosphere that the Tar Heels coach built.
There are many tender episodes of familial love sprinkled throughout the book, including father-and-son basketball trips and backyard baseball games. But Lazenby also sheds light on the myth of Jordan's perfect upbringing, such as a home plagued with marital discord, money problems and allegations of abuse.
Daily heated one-on-one games with his stronger, older brother, Larry, resulted in constant thumpings. These physical backyard battles informed MJ's approach to the game both as an amateur and as a professional. Whether donning the uniform for Laney High School's Buccaneers, North Carolina's Tar Heels or the Chicago Bulls, Jordan's m.o. was to seek out the best player and try to dismantle them. Lazenby says, "Each opponent loomed as a Larry to be conquered."
Comprehensive and well-researched, Lazenby's biography offers an impressive detailed account of Jordan's storied basketball, Olympic and baseball careers, as well as his wide-ranging business interests. MICHAEL JORDAN: THE LIFE is a definitive, multidimensional portrait of a man and a legend, and a notable contribution to sports literature.
Reviewed by Miriam Tuliao on May 16, 2014