Roland Lazenby | 2014| 720 pages
Roland Lazenby, one of sports journalism’s most respected long-form practitioners, turns in a magnificent effort in Michael Jordan: The Life, a biography published just last year which has already been widely adopted as the definitive history of one of the world’s most consequential cultural figures. Lazenby deftly weaves plenty of in-game and competition-related information from Jordan’s spectacular basketball career with well-sourced analysis of Jordan’s role as one of the 20th century’s most defining celebrities.
Throughout, Lazenby examines Jordan’s legendary competitiveness and the role this uniquely potent personality characteristic played in both his brilliant athletic and business success and in his self-destructive gambling addiction and fast lifestyle. He takes the reader through Jordan’s upbringing and first taste of athletic superstardom at North Carolina, his six NBA championships, his two-year diversion into minor league baseball following the murder of his father in 1993, his painful two-year post retirement #2 stint with the Washington Wizards, and finally, his ownership of the Charlotte Hornets [a majority stake which earned Jordan a spot on the Forbes Billionaires List for the first time this year] and second marriage. Many of the career landmarks Lazenby describes are familiar to any reader alive in the 1990s, but he provides each with rich context and previously-unreported facts and sources.
Sports biographies are often empty calorie affairs, either pure star worship or career assassination, but Lazenby avoids this trap by presenting a unique take on one of the best and most closely-managed personality brands the world has ever known to reveal a man brilliant in his craft who nearly lost it all on more than one occasion. Recommend.