Sunday, 26 October 2014

LIFE & TIMES-An Interview With Roland Lazenby, Author Of 'Michael Jordan-The Life'

The Book Of Mike.

By TIM DAVID HARVEY

#TheJordanSeries

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.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

DRAZEN PETROVIC Feature-DRAZEN

In Loving Replay.

By TIM DAVID HARVEY

"I consider myself the best shooter of all-time! But there's one guy who tops me..."-Reggie Miller.

Reggie Miller, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olaujawon, David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley, Gary Payton, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Scottie Pippen and of course the greatest of all-time, Michael Jordan. These are some of the best players of the golden NBA era of the 90's that many people consider to be the greatest of all times in professional basketball. Toni Kukoc, Dirk Nowitzki, Pau and Marc Gasol, Peja Stojakovic, Manu Ginoboli and Tony Parker. These are just a hoop handful of the international players that have helped export this great league to a worldwide platform and helped change the court culture of this great game. Still all these players, all these names, the golden era of basketball and all the foreign imports this game has had signed, dribbled and delivered would be nothing...NOTHING without one man. That man was Drazen Petrovic. Forget the greatest international player of all-time at one point this guy was considered up there with Jordan and like Mike all Drazen wanted to do was win. In his time the face of the game was changing...to look like him! Tragically though at approximately 17:20 on June 7, 1993, a car Petrovic was sleeping in was struck by a truck that crashed into it after losing control and crossing the roads median after trying to avoid another collision. Drazen would never wake up again. As he rests peacefully in loving memory lets open our eyes to one of the associations best members of (Inter)National Basketball. This is for you Drazen! We miss you!

"This is for you. He was my big friend and I hope he is up there watching me". It's 2001 and wild-card Wimbeldon winner Goran Ivanisevic lifts his gold trophy to the sky and the heavens his close compadre now resides in. The Croatian tennis ace winning gold in some part for all the Larry's Petrovic should have lifted. It's almost been a decade since that fateful night of tragedy. Still ten years on its all still too real and raw tears. A year later Drazen will have been elected into the Naismith Hall Of Fame, where his memory belongs. If only a grey haired number 3 was there to be inducted himself...he was, in spirit. In New Jersey a Nets team who never really had success like the powerful potential of Drazen (just to think they and the NBA where at risk of losing him), where finally taking championship pretending shape through Jason Kidd leading Kenyon Martin, Keith Van Horn/Richard Jefferson, Kerry Kittles and Todd Maculloch to two NBA Finsls. Proving a point upgrade that set the playoff bracket eating table, from his trade partner Stephon Marbury. Still even with the Kidd era, even with its Vince 'Dunk Mixtape' Carter remix redux and then this new age of B.K. nights with the Nets moving to Brooklyn, nothing has been greater for their legacy than this one legend of a time in basic, baby blue and white old jerseys for N.J. He bloomed in the Garden State when some didn't even think Jersey City existed, but like Joe Budden said, "it was gifted". The Springsteen blue collar work of this boy reborn in the U.S.A. was tougher than the rest. Always painting himself in the perfect position and unlocking perfect shots from the key like running a practice drill, this man was purist purity all wrapped up in perfect poetry of the game. He could score sneaker to toe with Mike and even leave Reggie clutching for shots. Seconds out. He brought magic to the Meadowlands. He brought a global game to a league in America that claimed to produce the world champions after 82 and a few more rounds. Losing him to a tragic automobile accident was to the NBA what losing Senna was to the Formula 1.

This game has lost too many, potential unfulfilled or not. To all too bitterly tragic events. Len Bias, Bobby Phills, Malik Sealy, Bison Dele, Eddie Griffin. We remember and honour them all in loving memory. Not just remembering them for sport, but the life they lead. Sure we all wish we had more playing time for these greats but what would be more and of upmost importance is more family time for these men. That's where our true thoughts reside. Born in Sibenik, Croatia to a police officer father and librarian mother, basketball was the branches of Petrovic's family tree. His brother Aleksander laid roots in hoops first and the basketball player Dejan Bodiroga is Drazen's second cousin. Petrovic then spent time playing with Sibenka, where he hit free throws that won cups...after the opposing team refused to show up for a controversial match-up. Still, he was even clutch back then and after a mandatory year serving in the military,Drazen would move to Cibona and relocate to European basketball stardom. A rise that today sees him voted as the greatest European ballplayer of all-time. Drazen's game was brazen, opponents petrified of Petrovic. Following in his older brothers sneaker steps the perfect pair became the best backcourt duo around winning the Yugoslav Cup, then the National Cup. 36 points later against Real Madrid came the European Cup and then a repeat a year later as Cibona defeated ┼Żalgiris of Kaunas, and their legendary big man Arvydas Sabonis. The Portland Trail Blazers great may have entered the league a little too late as a veteran (albeit still top tier), but Drazen Petrovic wouldn't, soon to be drafted by the City of Roses team. It's all just too tragic he would leave this game and world too, too early, before he and his great competitor Sabonis could reunite in the NBA's greatest contest fight.

More glory came with the Cup Winners Cup, but the real victor was D. 'D' for domination. 'D' for Drazen. To a tune of 37.7 points per and an in game, personal best of 112. One hundred and TWELVE!? Club 112! Take that Wilt! It may not have been the NBA (does that matter though? Plus he's a guard (albeit with an extensive reach) not a dominant big man), but it soon would be. Portland, Oregon drafted him as their newly adopted son with the 60th pick in the third round. Now THAT is a criminal sleeper! Still before hitting the big leagues the super skilled player would keep it real in Madrid suiting up in Spanish colours like Christiano Ronaldo or more appropriately Ricky Rubio (the next wonder kid) in Barcelona's sister of soccer. Portland brought this kid they drafted in '86 out to the tune of a million and a half. All so they could give their pick more than a draft cap. Still uniform was replaced with practice sweats as they paid platinum plus to keep him benched in garbage time. You could even see Magic Johnson's behind the scenes, "it makes no sense", almost disgusted dismay when then Laker teammate Vlade Divac told him Drazen wasn't playing. He would have made a great big three with Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter but I shrug! His departure from the Rose Garden to the Garden State was more abrupt than his one from the Euro League but just outside of New York be was ready to go against the ultimate compeitor of a lack of playing time (which he knew would be his 'DNP-CD' Achilles heel) and show his game was Mecca mega. With young studs of the league Kenny Anderson and Derrick Coleman, 'Petro' played his heart out. Soon averaging 20, from minutes to then points and then achieving the respect he already should have had. First name terms on household teams like Reggie in Indiana and Michael in Chicago could really see beyond box-score, on court what Drazen was doing to the Nets, team and opposing. It was almost too tragic that he didn't enter the association earlier, but the Euro is a real league too. Still a cruel All-Star snub and some difficulties with envious teammates led him to consider departure from the Nets and retirement from a league where still he remains one of the best ever players. Tensions with Serbian NBA friend Vlade Divac over their countries conflict was also too tragic, although the two will always be great friends in loving memory. Always brothers. Then with a lot on his mind and club offers from Greece pending, Drazen had already played his last game in the NBA as he and his basketball playing lady friend took a drive as he rested his head and burdens...

"It was a thrill to play against Dra┼żen. Every time we competed, he competed with an aggressive attitude. He wasn't nervous; he came at me as hard as I came at him. So, we've had some great battles in the past and unfortunately, they were short battles."-Michael Jordan.

"It's hard for you to imagine here in America, because you have so many great players, but we are a country of four million; without him, basketball takes three steps back."-Aleksander Petrovic

He was 28 years old.

COURTSIDE COLUMN-Throwback Court

The Purple & Golden Years.

"Motherf###### Ass####"! That's how Steve Nash sums up his Los Angeles Laker backcourt mate Kobe Bryant as reported by top Sports Illustrated writer Chris Ballard of 'The Beautiful Game' in his latest Mamba Long Form. Truer words have never been spoken right?! What on paper is the worlds worst insult is actually a crazy compliment to one of the greatest basketball players of all time and still one of the best in the Association of National Basketball. That's right Kevin and LeBron...and that's right you guessed it! Kobe couldn't love Steve's comment any more, because just like Bryant replied, Nash is an ass#### too! Real recognises real and a motherf##### knows another motherf##### when he sees one. Originally this column was reserved for the instant vintage like a Saadiq C.D. How this was the league and maybe histories served best backcourt ever on paper. The best Point since Magic and the best player since Mike in the same backcourt, suited up in purple and gold for the same time. Just imagine what it could have been like when they had the best international player since Dirk and the most dominant big man since Shaq! You saw the 'Sports Illustrated Kids' superhero Justice League comic-book cover. Now its just Flash and the Batman. Now Pau Gasol's Green Lantern and Dwight Howard's Superman are gone...and lets not begin to get into the Cyborg of Metta World Peace.

In the dusk of justice (I promise that was another nixed Chris Paul swipe...honest) we miss this assembling of characters for one of the greatest teams ever...again on the dry-erase. Having Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher was actually championship certified better though. You don't have to believe it! The history books wrote it. Still with Kobe and Nash's oldest and greatest backcourt you better believe they still have something. Especially with the Fantastic Four new academy of heroes to marvel at in Nick Young, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson and Jordan Hill. Along with the All-Star veteran and worldwide insanity famous big names of Carlos Boozer and Jeremy Lin respectively. Plus the post future of Wildcat big man Julius Randle from Kentucky makes this team look a hell of a lot better than what is read in critical ink. Especially with former Showtime fastbreak finisher Byron Scott running show. Clipper superstar Blake Griffin is right. In this battle for Los Angeles, the Lakers are still the alpha team with the history behind them and the whole world in front of them. Originally we said this column was going to be like a eulogy. An epitaph article of apprehensive appreciation to two legends and modern day idols about to lace them up one last time together before they hang them up. Still its not over yet for this throwback court. Not with a hardwood classic show on a preseason in Denver that was truly an exhibition. It's not over yet!

Just look at that photo for example. The smiles, the jokes. The chemistry, the camaraderie. I know! What a bunch of A-holes right?! That knowing glance like that knowing smile between Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan as they passed each other like this in the 2002 All-Star game where Kobe owned his hometown Philadelphia as a dunk missing Jordan told him, "don't be taking over the whole game now", smiling. To which Bryant beaming even more at his idol, winked, "don't talk me to death" (don't you just love it when they mic All-Star games?)! This look between Steve and Kobe that they know something that we don't. They've still got it, despite injury or father time! Nerve damage or Achillies be damned. Not only are these two of the associations greatest competitors, playing together instead of dunking and dribbling over and around each other. They are two of the most dedicated. Kobe Bryant tore his Achillies and then tried to excruciatingly push it back into place before hitting what where two mere consolation free throws before walking off court to show they really meant something. This guy, not injuries decides when he's done. Then if you thought that was painful Nash's extensive nerve damage, still playing professionaly at 40 was like a root canal for the whole body. You cant see it, but boy if you where in his sneakers you would feel it. Yet he's still playing all to honour a contract that the Lakers could have simply put to amnesty for the Canadian international. Yet they wont. Now that's dedication. Isn't that right Dwight? Sure the afro and floppy hair may be gone but the heart and souls still there as they run and run all the armchair fans social media hate out of trend. You may have seen our last articles on Kobe and Steve Nash 'The Winter Soldier' with pictures of them walking back into the tunnel lie they are done, but no. They are not. I still believe in Kobe Bryant and I still believe on Steve Nash. If only they had more Denzel time these men on fire would be one of the greatest Laker duos like Magic and Kareem, the fire and ice of Baylor and West and of course Shaq and Kobe. Still with Bryant saying he's got more years in him then the 'S' ends of his Mamba 'Ringsss' t-shirt and Nash even contemplating staying on another year there's more Hall Of Fame moments to come before the corridor calls. Yes these guys are crazy and maybe these ass##### will have even more time together. After all they deserve each other. I know the rest of the league right? It's a motherf#####! TIM DAVID HARVEY