Tag Archives: Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan Books, Part III: Driven from Within

 

Jordan fans will love hearing from the man himself.

Jordan fans will love hearing from the man himself.

 

We’re here with Day III of the Michael Jordan Hall of Fame Induction build up.

Today’s book is his own: Driven from Within.

Jordan has actually written a couple of books, each of which chronicled his family-oriented and middle-class roots in Wilmington, North Carolina, his being cut from the varsity team as a sophomore at E.A. Laney High School, his gradual emergence and burst into prominence at North Carolina, his dominance in the 1984 Olympic Games, and his gradual and relentless quest for greatness in the NBA that led him to six NBA titles and general acclamation as the greatest player ever.

Driven from Within is a multi-colored, fully-illustrated book with text of varying sizes, colors and layout guaranteed to delight Jordan and Bulls’ fans.

Jordan’s voice and commitment to excellence is a constant throughout the work.

He writes about the divisions that occurred within the first run of Bulls championship teams-he lays a lot of responsibility for this on Horace Grant-his own admittedly excessive gambling, his sojourn into baseball and his eventually triumphant return for a second three-peat during the 1996-1998 years.

Jordan’s well-documented dislike of former Bulls General Manager Jerry Krause comes through clearly, as does his desire to go beyond his predecessors Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and be known as an outstanding defensive as well as offensive player.

As we all know, he did that and more. 

Driven from Within gives insight into the forces that shaped and drove Jordan to become a basketball genius and consummate winner.  It’s also a reminder to Bulls fans who have gone 11 long years since his retirement of happier days when a championship in June seemed like the natural order of the universe.

Jordan Books, Part II: The Jordan Rules.

 

Sam Smith's book gives the backstory on the Bulls' first championship.

Sam Smith's book gives the backstory on the Bulls' first championship.

It’s hard to remember now, but Michael Jordan was not always a six-time champion with an impeccable resume on his way to this weekend’s Hall of Fame induction.

In fact, he and the Chicago Bulls did not break through and win a championship until his seventh season.

Their major barrier: the Detroit Pistons.  Masterfully coached by the late Chuck Daly, the “Bad Boys” from the Motor City defeated Jordan’s squad three consecutive years from 1988 to 1990. 

Daly devised a special defensive strategy, called “The Jordan Rules.”  The goal was to ensure that Jordan did not beat the Pistons by frequently double teaming him and thereby getting the ball out of his hands and by wearing him down physically.

For a time, it worked. 

In 1991, though, Jordan had a vastly improved team featuring an emerging Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, center Bill Cartwright and the steady John Paxson in the backcourt.

This squad swept the Pistons and went on to beat Magic Johnson’s Lakers in five games in the finals. 

The victory led to the iconic image of Jordan holding the trophy in tears as his father James lovingly massaged his neck and shoulders. 

Chicago Tribune sportswriter Sam Smith chronicled the first championship season, as well as many before and after, and gives a behind-the-scenes look at the action in The Jordan Rules.

Smith’s title has a double meaning.  

In addition to the defense that Daly devised and his team implemented, it refers to the two sets of rules for Bulls during Phil Jackson’s tenure: one for Michael, and one for everyone else.

Smith’s book has a gossipy and prescient feel, as Jordan’s supernatural talent is depicted in descriptions and anecdotes guaranteed to bring a knowing smile to the face of Bulls’ fans.  

One such nugget has Jordan dunking on the far smaller John Stockton of the Utah Jazz, prompting a fan to yell at him to pick on someone his own size.

The next trip downcourt, Jordan flushed the ball over the 6’11″, 270-pound Mel Turpin.  

On the way back on defense, he turned to the fan and asked, “Is he big enough?”

The book also has a gossipy and prescient feel, as Smith shows Jordan already being somewhat of a prisoner of his immense fame and often treating teammates unkindly.  

Some of the less appealing moments come when he flashes a bunch of tickets in the faces of teammates who are unable to get any.  He psychologically destroys Brad Sellers, whom he deems unfit to play in the NBA.  His cruelty toward General Manager Jerry Krause, who contributes to his own humiliation by not understanding the boundaries between players and front office workers, comes through, too. 

The Jordan Rules is not pure snark, though.

Smith shows Jackson trying to expand his team’s horizons by talking about the first Gulf War-one that the former Craig Hodges opposes.

The book is also the story of team coming together and accepting their coach’s triangle offense and underlying message that they must trust each other in order to reach their ultimate goal.

One of the book’s most memorable scenes comes during a timeout in the final game of the championship series.

Jackson repeatedly asking Jordan, each time with increasing force and volume, who is open.

“Pax,” Jordan finally answers.

“Then get him the fucking ball,” Jackson replies.

Jordan does.  Paxson knocks down four jumpers down the stretch.  The Bulls become champions. 

The Jordan Rules is neither great literature nor even particularly high quality sportswriting.  Still, for fans preparing for this weekend’s induction and hungering for some memory of the days when the dynasty began, it may be just what they need.

Michael Jordan’s Presenter, Books About The Legend

 

David Thompson will present Michael Jordan for induction into the basketball Hall of Fame this weekend.

David Thompson will present Michael Jordan for induction into the basketball Hall of Fame this weekend.

 

David “Skywalker” Thompson?  

Really? 

Michael Jordan’s decision to have the highflying North Carolina State legend present him at this weekend’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony has the Twitterati in a frenzy.

Comments range from Lakers’ fan Michael Nolledo saying, “Wow – Michael Jordan picks David Thompsonto induct him into the HOF – says he was the only player to ever inspire him!” to Coach Steve Finamore  of Jackson Community College writing, “David Thompson will present MJ at the Hall of Fame http://tinyurl.com/l3zj64 This selection by MJ surprised me…”

The upcoming week will be like the preparations for a coronation.  

People hungry for some of Jordan’s most spectacular moments can check out ESPN’s countdown of 23 highlights,.  starting with his college days of torching the Bobby Cremins-led  Rambling Wreck of Georgia Tech.

During the rest of the week, I will write each day about one book about the man ESPN named The Athlete of the Century.

Michael Leahy’s When Nothing Else Matters: Michael Jordan’s Last Comeback is the first and least appealing of the books on the list.  Leahy paints a highly unflattering of the Jordan who played his final two years for the Washingon Bullets as a verbally abusive, power hungry, homophobic gambling addict of a teammate who was even less effective as an executive.

To some degree, the darker sides of Jordan’s personality had been explored before in Sam Smith’s The Jordan Rules, which will be the subject of another post, and Leahy’s portrait goes far beyond Smith’s account.  

I recommend reading it either if you are a Pistons’ fan or if you want to be reminded that we are all human and, in some ways or another, have feet of clay.  

Even if you don’t agree with Leahy’s assessment, Jordan’s choice of Thompson over any teammate or former coach is curious, at the least.

Story Behind LeBron James and the Cavaliers’ Resurgence

Brian Windhorst and Terry Pluto have great material that they don't completely utilize in The Franchise.

Brian Windhorst and Terry Pluto have great material that they don't completely utilize in The Franchise.

Life is good for the Cleveland Cavaliers these days.

Coming off a franchise-record 66 wins in the regular season, the 2007  Eastern Conference champions have earned the overall top seed in the league and accompanying home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

In the first round, they are on the verge of sweeping the once-mighty Detroit Pistons, with a possible collision against the battered but proud defending champion Boston Celtics looming in the conference finals.

Attendance has continued to climb since the beginning of the decade, and superstar LeBron James’ jersey is the top selling item in the league.

It has not always been this way.

Despite a solid period in the early to mid-90s, where the Brad Daugherty, Mark Price, Larry Nance, Ron Harper and Hot Rod Williams-led teams coached by Lenny Wilkens gave fans plenty to cheer about and Michael Jordan’s Bulls a worthy adversary, the Cavaliers had generally had a dismal history.

As anyone who has ever heard of a pick and roll knows, the Akron-born James is at the heart of the Cavaliers’ improvement, popularity and championship prospects.

Just 24 years old, the muscle bound MVP favorite continues to elevate his game and to add previously unseen dimensions to his seemingly limitless abilities.  This year, he has gained mention for Defensive Player of the Year after having a more casual approach to defense earlier in his career.  

In The Franchise: LeBron James and the Remaking of the Cleveland Cavaliers, sportswriters Terry Pluto and Brian Windhorst chronicle the Cavs’ history, how they landed James, and the process by which general managers Jim Paxson and Danny Ferry and owners Gordon Gund and Daniel Gilbert assembled the team that challenged the San Antonio Spurs for the 2007 NBA title.

For hoops fans, much of the information contained in The Franchise will be review-the Cavaliers’ dark years under owner Ted Stepien, the bright spot in the 90s, the questions about whether they tanked during James’ senior year so as to get a high position in the lottery and thus have a better chance of landing-and there is some new material. 

The negotiations with Nike about a contract that eventually totaled $100 million was informative and entertaining.  So, too, was reading about Gilbert’s 21 aphorisms for business success that he initially struggled, but ultimately was able to apply to the basketball. 

The book falls flat in its writing.  

It opens with what to this point has been James’ defining performance-his “Jordanesque” performance against the Pistons in Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference finals in which he scored 29 of his team’s last 30 points on an array of dunks, drives, three-pointers and jumpers to lead his team to an overtime victory.

James’ performance is a gift to any sportswriter. 

Not only was it one for the ages, not only was it his official emergence as a transcendent superstar, not only did it bring his team all the way back from an 0-2 deficit, and not only did it show the team surpassing its former tormentors, but James scored his points in the flow of the game. 

Little of this comes through in The Franchise.  Instead, the description of the action reads more like the recounting of a box score than providing the color, drama and excitement that the moment created.

Still, if you are looking for a quick informative read rather than on a search for inspirational writing, The Franchise could be the right read.  It will take most readers about as much times as James and the Cavaliers will need to dismantle the Pistons this afternoon.

Derrick Rose’s Breakout Game, Michael Jordan’s Rules.

Sam Smith shows a less attractive side of Michael Jordan in The Jordan Rules.

Sam Smith shows a less attractive side of Michael Jordan in The Jordan Rules.

Chicago Bulls rookie Derrick Rose had his playoff debut today, and it was a sensational one.

The Simeon Career Academy graduate sliced and carved and dished his way to a record-setting 36 points and 11 assists as the Bulls defeated the defending champion Boston Celtics in overtime, 105-103.

Rose’s spectacular outing is likely to spark comparisons with another Chicago great, Michael Jordan.  Twenty three years ago, Jordan poured in 49 and 63 points, respectively, in the first two games of a three-game series with the Celtics, who would go on later to win their sixteenth championship.

Jordan has been the subject of many books.  One of the more gossipy is Sam Smith’s The Jordan Rules.  A long-time basketball writer for the Chicago Tribune, Smith went behind the scenes of the Bulls’ first championship in 1991 and paints an unflattering picture of Jordan as a supreme basketball talent, but far less of a man. 

One of my favorite scenes in the book depicts Phil Jackson confronting Jordan in the waning moments of Game 5 in the 1991 Finals. 

A major sub-plot of the book was Jordan’s unwillingness, often with good reason, to trust his teammates with the ball in crucial moments.  His profane insistence that Jordan do so at this critical moment is humorous and memorable.

The series resumes on Monday.

March Madness, Larry Bird’s Drive

Larry Bird’s play 30 years ago contributed to starting what we now know as March Madness.

 

Drive: The Story of My Life is his autobiography.

March Madness has struck.

During the next four weekends, billions of dollars will be spent and countless work hours lost to office and other pools predicting which of the 65 teams who qualified for the NCAA tournament will emerge as the national champion.

It has not always been that way.

In fact, some trace the origins of college basketball fever to 1979, when Larry Bird’s undefeated Indiana State Sycamores met their match at the hands and feet of Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans, 75-64.

The game, which was highlighted by Magic throwing the then-innovative alley oop pass to Greg Kelser, ended with the dejected Bird covering his head and weeping in a towel.

Bird’s tears came from his deep passion.  As anyone who has followed pro basketball knows, he and Johnson, along with Michael Jordan and with plenty of marketing savvy from Commissioner David Stern, led the NBA to unprecedented heights.

The battles between Bird’s Celtics and Magic’s Lakers were the stuff of legend.  The teams met three times in the final, with the Celtics taking the first contest but the Lakers coming back to win the final two frames and take the series.

Last year’s final, which again pitted the league’s most venerable franchises, saw a revival of YouTube clips of the 80s teams as well as the old rivals saying, in split screen, “There can only be one.”

Bird tells the story of his humble beginnings and fierce passion for excellence in his autobiography, Drive: The Story of My Life.

Some have criticized media portrayals of Bird as representing a simpler, idyllic, enter whiter time.  In truth, as David Halberstam notes at the end of The Breaks of The Game, his family background was actually more similar to that of many other black players in the league than Johnson, who came from a stable two-parent family in which his father worked and his mother stayed at home with Johnson and his other siblings.

Bird recounts the poverty in which he grew up, the grit his father showed-he talks about having to peel ill-fitting boots off his feet-and his deep love for his mother Georgia, who was left to lead the family after her husband killed himself (Bird does not write about his marriage as a teenager or his fathering a child with whom for many years he did not have a relationship.).

Bird also writes about how he came to basketball relatively late, but quickly was hooked and played and practiced endlessly.  Hoops aficionados will learn the cautionary tale of Beezer Carnes, whose failure to practice free throws ended up costing Bird’s Springs Valley High School team dearly in the state tournament.

His years at Indiana State and his loyalty to his home state are duly noted-Celtics fans may remember that Bird, after the victory over Johnson and the Lakers in 1984, marked their earlier struggle by saying, “This one is for Terre Haute.”

Bird also writes about his seemingly uncanny ability to register everything that happened on the court and even in the stands while he was playing.

Written in the early 90s, the book straddles the question of whether Magic or Jordan was a greater opponent, and one doubts whether any would put Magic about Michael after the latter’s six championships in eight years and six NBA Finals MVPs.

The book is also tinged with irony as Bird speaks with optimism toward the end of the book about the 1991 drafting of Dee Brown.  The signing gave him hope that the team would return to the pinnacle.

This, of course, did not happen until last June, when we Celtics fans could finally stop saying, “Wait ’til 22 years ago!”

Still, for fans wondering where the madness that grips the nation around this time every year should consider checking out this straightforward telling of one of basketball’s brightest lights.

And the winner is …

Davud Russell tames more than animals. He won the Black History Month Quiz, too.

David Russell tames more than animals. He won the Black History Month Quiz, too.

David Russell!!!!

David took first prize in the Black History Month Quiz.

For his victory, David will get one of the following:

a. A Kombucha drink of his choice.

b. A beer of his choice.

The prize is redeemable within a year at any location in which David and I are in the same place!

Congratulations, David!   And well done to Bob Yovovich, who earned honorable mention!

Here are the answers:

  1. Who founded Black History Month? Carter G. Woodson.
  2. Who was the first African American to receive a PhD. from Harvard University? W.E.B. DuBois
  3. Name two major events in black history that occurred on August 28. 1963. March on Washington, Obama receives the Democratic nomination in 2008, and Emmett Till’s murder.
  4. Who was the first black woman to receive the Nobel Prize in literature? Toni Morrison.
  5. Who was Chicago’s first black mayor?  Whom did he defeat in the general election?  What was the voter turnout percentage in the general election? Harold Washington, Bernard Epton, 79 percent.
  6. Which recently deceased Chicago author was a member of the black and gay lesbian writer Halls of Fame? Studs Terkel
  7. How many NBA championships have the Chicago Bulls won?  Name two black players who were on all of the championship teams. 6 championships. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
  8. Which famous black abolitionist was born Isabella Baumfree? What is her most famous phrase? Sojourner Truth. “Ain’t I a woman?”
  9. Who was born 200 years ago yesterday?  Why is his birthday significant in terms of black history?  Abraham Lincoln. He signed the 13th Amendment.
  10. Name three black editors and publishers of The Chicago Reporter. Alden Loury, Laura Washington, Alysia Tate.
  11. Who was the first black U.S. Supreme Court Justice? What is his most famous case? How many times did he argue in front of the Supreme Court?  How many times did he win? Thurgood Marshall. Brown v. Board of Education. 32. 29.
  12. Which Chicago female poet became the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1950?  Gwendolyn Brooks.
  13. Name five African Americans who have won Academy Awards for either best actor or best actress. Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Hattie McDaniel, Lou Gossett, Jr., Sidney Poitier, Forest Whitaker and Jennifer Hudson.
  14. What is the one-drop rule and why is it significant for black people in American history? One drop of “black blood” meant that the person was considered black.  It was used as the basis for enforcing segregation’s laws.
  15. True or false: The first black people to come to America were slaves. False. They were indentured servants.
  16. Name two of the three places in the U.S. Constitution where slavery is included but not mentioned by name. Extra credit: Name all three places. 3/5ths clause. Non-importation of slaves after 1808. Fugitive Slave Clause.
  17. Which three post-Civil War Amendments all dealt with African Americans?  What did they say? Amendments 13, 14, and 15.  Amendnent 13 deal with freeing slaves.  Amendment 14 discussed equal protection under the law. Amendment 15 addressed voting rights for black men.
  18. Who was able to vote first in U.S. elections: black women or Native Americans? Black women. Native Americans did not get the right to vote in national elections until 1924.
  19. Which black female talk show host became the first black woman billionaire?  What year did that first happen? Oprah Winfrey in 2004.
  20. What was the inspiration for Jay-Z’s name?  Who is his wife?  The subway lines in Brooklyn.  Beyonce Knowles.