Midweek Books: A different side of Michael Jordan

On Wednesday I highlight noteworthy new sports books, with links to reviews, interviews and other information about the subject and/or author.

Many more biographies of Michael Jordan are certain to be published, but Roland Lazenby’s new account of the Chicago Bulls and American sporting icon is already being placed in the “definitive” category.

JordanLazenby“Michael Jordan: A Life,” published in early May, takes a more in-depth look at Jordan’s African-American, small town Southern upbringing to explain his ultra-competitiveness on the court and compulsiveness away from the game, including his huge gambling losses.

These traits, and many of the stories retraced by Lazenby, are familiar ones, but the expanded lens offers even rabid Jordan fans a new way to understand what makes him tick.

Lazenby, a former journalist who’s written biographies of Phil Jackson and Jerry West, didn’t gain access to Jordan for the book. But he interviewed many former Bulls figures and drew from interviews he conducted with Jordan for previous books on the Bulls. He goes deep into Jordan’s family history, researching back several generations:

“I didn’t really feel the context had ever been there. I think family often provides context. There were a lot of things I wanted to look at there. I just wanted to explain him.”

Here’s an excerpt in Esquire that explains a notable competitive episode involving the then-12-year-old Jordan playing baseball in his hometown of Wilmington, N.C.

Reviewing for The Chicago Tribune, Allen Barra calls Lazenby’s book “the most comprehensive attempt yet made to explain the factors that have gone into producing the most famous basketball player and marketing phenom in the history of world sports.”

Other reviews here from The Tampa Tribune and The Boston Globe.

Lazenby’s also been making plenty of media rounds, including a podcast interview with Pro Basketball Talk, and on the Keith Olbermann show below:

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