Sunday, 26 October 2014
LIFE & TIMES-An Interview With Roland Lazenby, Author Of 'Michael Jordan-The Life'
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Like Mike? Then you're going to love this! Reams and shelves have been written about the greatest basketball player of all-time Michael Jordan. From articles by friend, Chicago native and THE basketball journalist Scoop Jackson to our own humble catalogue 'The Jordan Series'. Still, there's nothing quite like this. After creating a Laker legacy for himself from writing about everyone from Kobe Bryant to former Bulls coach Phil Jackson, when it comes to M.J., the word on court Roland Lazenby has literally wrote the book on him. No longer most famous for his Jerry West book (and after that book the logo followed with his own wonderful 'West By West' autobiography, so lets hope the greatest follows suit), Roland's been getting rave reviews for his biography that's as big as Mike's trophy cabinet. This is a writer and readers hardware hoop dream. Not only does Lazenby reminisce about the golden era of the NBA in the 90's that Jordan and his Chicago Bulls owned with their two three-peats and six titles, he also looks at the early family times of a man that grew to be not only the best player of all time but the most competitive too. Now there's no competition when it comes to this book.It truly is the life of Mike. So we just had to catch up with the man himself (no, not Mike...we wish right) before we read all about it. Here's what the man has to say when we talked about 'Life'.
24/48/82: Roland! Thank you for your time. Congratulations on all the success for your book 'Michael Jordan-The Life'. How does it feel?
Roland Lazenby: It doesn’t feel all that different, really. It is nice to have critics recognize your work. But I still have to do the dishes.
What made you start writing this book and could you describe to us the process?
I had spent a major portion of my career covering and writing about the Bulls and Jordan. It was fun as I moved into my sixties to begin to review not only his life but my own. So many of the major events in his life had an impact on mine. Lots of great memories of those Bulls games and Tex Winter too.
You capture how family was an important factor in Michael Jordan's competitiveness and we all know the greatest player of all time is also the most competitive. Can you tell our readers who are looking forward to reading your book more about these family influences?
Sure. I love writing about the great competitors I’ve gotten to know a bit and spent so much time covering. Looking at the cultural and family influences on their lives is a big part of that study. What makes guys like MJ and Kobe and Jerry West so competitive? What makes them so different from everybody around them? How can Jordan be in such close competition with his brother Larry and then just eclipse him?
Could you say family and how it influences the story of our own lives is a reason why you write?
Sure. Jordan’s story got me to thinking about my relationship with my own old man, how his disapproval has driven me all these years, how the disapproval Jordan felt from his father drove him. There are often these family forces pulling strings in our lives, often without our realizing it or understanding it.
As a fan what would you say is your earliest memory of Michael Jordan?
The first play I ever saw him make is still probably the greatest. He was a sophomore at Carolina and I was covering a game at the University of Virginia with Ralph Sampson. The Wahoos had a long home winning streak, but Carolina had a big lead. Then Virginia started coming back. They cut the lead to six with two minutes to got and had the ball on the break. Sampson was shooting from the left elbow and Jordan came across the lane from the right block to slam the ball down with great ferocity. He came all the way across the lane and swatted the jumper from the 7-4 Sampson with such force that the block made people on press row jump in surprise. Fifteen years later I was sitting with MJ in Charlotte before a game. He was sipping a cup of coffee when I asked him about that play. It surprised him too, he said, that he could do that. I’ve never seen a defensive play to match it. Jordan told me that was the beauty of his career. He surprised himself in the things that he did.
How much of a joy was it to write about the golden era of Jordan's championship Bulls in the 90's that in your book fans can read back into with fond nostalgia?
It was lots of fun, just as it was fun to write about the legendary days of yore in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Jordan’s college career as well as his high school career were great fun to write about.
A deep and diverse book how important is it to present all sides of the story as a writer and journalist all whilst being respectful to the subjects public and private world?
Well, it’s both important and difficult. You have so many people who love Jordan and quite a few who dislike him intensely. The Chicago Tribune said I was maybe harsh on him and the New York Times said I used the requisite awe. So I guess I was somewhere in the middle. I always tried to treat Mike as just another guy when I talked to him. I was trying to do the same thing in the book. He is a famous and brilliant athlete, but he’s also human. Humans have lots of flaws, make lots of mistakes. People get angry if their heroes aren’t super. They often have gotten angry when Jordan shows just how human he is. I really just tried to portray him as human while being honest about it.
Which was your favourite and also most difficult part of the book to write?
The part about the sexual abuse allegations his sister made against their father was very tough. But if you’re doing a biography you have to include all major issues. I just tried not to hype it. I think I succeeded at that.
Michael Jordan has had a hand in writing a few short books, but with a lot of people wanting a horse of mouth autobiography that may never come, your book may be the closest thing. Kind of like the 'Bruce' Springsteen biography recentely with the revelation that the Boss himself may not write his story. How does it feel to have this type of influential word on an American and global icon? Sports Elvis!
Well, writing the book almost killed me physically, drained me mentally and about broke me financially. So I was glad it was met with approval.
From your hugely popular Jerry West book to your Kobe Bryant one which of your other books are your personal favourites?
I like both the West book and The Show, the oral history of the Lakers. I like Mad Game, my book about Kobe, but he was just 19, 20 years old at the time. So it was a look at his complicated life adjusting to the NBA.
What advice would you give aspiring young writers looking to follow in your bookmark steps?
Interview lots of old timers. They tend to offer a lot more truth, a lot less PR and BS. But interview as many people as you can. Get to know them. It’s the fun part of this grinding work.
Roland we thank you so much for your time. We truly appreciate it and wish you all the success for your book.