The Life

Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby

It is not groundbreaking.  It is not breathtaking. It is everything you have ever heard about Michael Jordan, although possibly magnified a bit with a few previously misconstrued or well-kept details.  A journalist’s dream book, maybe, but “masterpiece” would be an overstatement.

Call it what you will, but there is one thing that this book most certainly is:  A conversation starter. At least I thought it was until I realized that no one cared.

Reading is something I do quite often.  Honestly, it might be my hobby of choice.  I love books, and I love the chance to read them.  Until I read this biography of Michael Jordan, I did not realize how much I enjoyed discussing books with people.  I also did not realize how much people did not enjoy discussing books with me.

Therefore, I did what every other normal, down-to-Earth, law-abiding, American citizen would do in such a situation:  I started a blog.

For a while now I have had the idea to start an American group of Inklings.  When Tolkien and Lewis were together at Oxford, they met together regularly with other writers.  They would read from their own writings, often critiquing one another (not always constructively), and possibly hang around until 2 in the morning in order to bring one another closer to Jesus.

These were the original Inklings.  From that group alone, two giants were born.  Why not try the same thing in little ol’ Birmingham, Alabama?

Well… a few reasons.  First, I don’t know very many writers who aim to publish their works and appeal to a vast audience of readers, so the process for bringing writers together would not be easy.  Second, gathering strangers together who share an affinity for writing is sure to become really weird really fast. Hear me, now. I love books, and I love writers, but writers are weird.  It’s fine that they are; I’d just like to avoid extra weird.

Therefore, the New Day Inklings look like this:  An unpublished, 5-books-on-his-bucket-list, living-in-obscurity, thirty-two year old, book junkie writing book reviews for a non-existent audience while every now and then recording a podcast with ametuer equipment and the perfect radio face.

John Ronald and Jack may be turning in their graves at the mere thought.  Be that as it may, welcome to the New Day Inklings!

Who would have thought that Michael Jordan would fit right in?

I fold pages when I come across something I’d like to remember or at least like to be able to come back to quickly.  Usually, a read book has many folds, and it is even thicker than before. This nearly 700-page memoir about Jordan has surprisingly few folds.  However, there were many worthwhile folding spots.

For instance, the story of Jordan’s “one and only paycheck stub of his entire working career, a slip from Whitey’s for $119.76” made the cut, but any story of Michael’s outrageous gambling or career highlights are lost in a sea of words.  I would have to search them out. Maybe Lazenby’s writing style was so broad that I found it difficult to zoom in on any of his one-liners and high points. It was almost like reading a newspaper from cover to cover.

There are a few things I will likely never forget, though, page folds or not.  The main idea I took from this book is that, aside from his willingness to be great and his anti-Iverson approach to practice, I do not want my kids to be like Michael Jordan.  If you have ever found yourself in disagreement with such a statement, I encourage you to read the book. Confidence is fine; honestly, it is encouraged in most instances, but Jordan was stricken with self.

What can be expected from the face of Nike and Looney Tune co-star? It is an unfair question.  I do not find it inconceivable that we should expect much from the athletes we idolize from youth.  There is an image of Dee Gordon burned into my memory where he states, “I would never question my manager.”

Sure, Dee had issues with steroid use and should not be compared to Jordan’s career, regardless of the discrepancy in sport.  Be that as it may, Michael Jordan was really no different than today’s egocentric personalities that overpopulate Sportscenter, and he found it quite impossible to comply with his advisors or coaches.

Unless, of course, that coach was Phil Jackson, the man mostly responsible for Jordan’s championship rings.  Jackson was (and probably still is) an interesting fella, but wow, can he coach! In three different instances before his retirement, he won three straight NBA championships, twice with Michael Jordan in Chicago and once with Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles.  Another time with Kobe, he won back-to-back titles for a total of ELEVEN rings. Incredible.

Sandwiched in between the two runs of three-peats at Chicago was Jordan’s 30th birthday.  The thirtieth year is something I am completely intrigued by, and Jordan’s was no different.  Shocked by his father’s sudden death, Jordan retires from basketball and signs a minor-league deal with the White Sox, all over the course of four months.

Wild?  Crazy? Perhaps it is, but year thirty will mess with you, friend.  This may have been the first time Michael had ever pondered his life’s purpose.  Of course, who are we to say he was foolish for attempting such a feat? Terry Francona believed he could play baseball at the professional level.  That would have been enough for me.

This book is more than basketball; it is a detailed history of Michael Jordan, the man.  You do not have to be an NBA fan to enjoy it, but it might help to be at least intrigued by Jordan.  Some basketball lingo was over my head, particularly offensive schemes, but even with my limited basketball IQ, I was able to comprehend well enough.

The book is not short, but it never felt like work.  Sports fans should read it. Biography fans should read it.  Otherwise, it could hit or miss.

I have always liked practice, and I hate to miss it. It’s like taking a math class. When you miss that one day, you feel like you missed a lot. You take extra work to make up for that one day. I’ve always been a practice player. I believe in it.

— Michael Jordan

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