Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made

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He also discusses Jordan's first retirement when he took a shot at playing minor league baseball. It did not well and he returned to play on 3 more championship Bulls teams. Jordan's on court exploits are the stuff of legend. The stats, however, do not do justice to Jordan's soaring and sensational style. He was born to play basketball.

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Best part of story, including ending: It was interesting to see how Jordan changed his sport and how he interacted with other people. Best scene in story: The finals when an injured Jordan made the game winning shot.

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On Thursday, February 25th, barnesandnoble. Moderator: Welcome, David Halberstam! How is everything in Seattle today? Are Sonics fans still mad at Jordan for squelching the Sonics' hopes for a ring three seasons ago?

Playing For Keeps: Michael Jordan And The World He Made

David Halberstam: No, I think the Sonics fans are trying to figure out how, like other teams in the post-Jordan era, to sort of move into the vacuum that he left behind. There is not much anger toward him, more admiration because he was such a great player and because he was such a great competitor. I think the Sonics fans are more worried about their own team. It was last year that they were swept by L. I think they are more concerned about their semi-chaos -- a coach is out, we don't know what the future holds, there is an abundance of talent, and can it be fused together to become a great team?

To be continued. Congratulations on such a great book. My question to you, is how do you respond to those who disagree with me and think this book is too much of a "star worship" biography? I personally think you covered his gambling woes to a satisfactory degree, but many folks I have spoken to think that you didn't. David Halberstam: Generally, people think the book is nicely distanced from him and appreciative of him as a great player but catches a lesser side of him appropriately enough, and the main thing that I have been able to accomplish is in getting all the great changes in society, like commercials.

I think that is generally the critics' thoughts. And if it weren't for Michael, that team could have gone to the finals. But generally the book has been applauded for how I admire him but keep my distance from him. Secondly, I wanted to ask you if you think the current NBA without the charisma and character of Bird, Johnson, Thomas, and Jordan can keep up the character and enjoyment level that we have grown so accustomed to. David Halberstam: The answer is obviously no.

Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made by David Halberstam

All of the new players have great talent, but whether they can show that they have toughness of mind and character to lift their teams and to become champs is a question. Are they great team leaders, or are they overpaid members of Generation X that don't get much better once they get in the league? Players are getting from the start what an older generation got at the end of their careers. Although Webber is showing that he is a different player this year, the jury is still out.

When I was doing the book, one of the things that Chris Ford the Clippers coach said was, "The one thing that Bird and Jordan had in common is that when they first signed with their teams each thought that part of their contract was to lift their team to a championship," and he thought that many new players don't have that anymore. Obviously the talent is there, but will the character and the desire to excel and the ability to let fans know that there is a love of the game show as well?

That is the question. Pac87 aol. David Halberstam: Not for this book. I sat down and interviewed him six or seven years ago for a piece I did for Sports Illustrated when they made him Sportsman of the Year. There was talk that when he did a book I would write it with him. When I did this book he was media-ed out, and we had an agreement that he would see me after the season, but he backed out of it because he was too exhausted from the season.

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Mike from Springfield, VA: Can you think of another contemporary athlete that is as clutch and performs under pressure with the execution of Jordan? David Halberstam: I can think of others, but they don't dominate their sport quite the way he does. In basketball there are only five players on the floor, and they play offense and defense. He was able to transcend the sport in an unusual way. I think of him as the best big-game fourth-quarter player I have ever seen, but all you have to do is think of Bob Gibson pitching a big game -- but a pitcher only plays every four days. Also Joe Montana rose to the occasion in big games.

Basketball allowed Michael to showcase himself. He did it from an unusual position, in a big man's game when he wasn't a big man. Being an off guard made his dominance of the game all that much more remarkable. In the Utah series in '98 in the fourth quarter, he averaged 13 points and Karl Malone averaged 3, because Michael can create.

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Rik from USA: Are you excited about the fact that the main character in the movie "Rushmore" with Bill Murray is reading a David Halberstam book in a scene where he is trying to act more sophisticated and intelligent than he is? David Halberstam: I think it sends a great tribute. My daughter, who is a freshman in college, called me and told me that I was now really making it. It was bound to happen, I guess, that I would become a major figure in popular culture. Henry R. David Halberstam: I think the importance of Dean Smith and forging him -- the discipline and the endless drills.

I sort of knew, but I didn't know to what degree. I knew he was competitive, but I didn't how competitive. I knew he was a good practice player, but I didn't know he was a killer in practice -- he drove his teammates to greatness through his practice habits. I knew he was tough of mind, but I didn't know how tough. I knew that these were true, but I didn't know to what degree.

I think it was in confronting these things that I found out how extraordinary he was. John from JWC aol. David Halberstam: The answer to the second part is obviously yes. It is a chance to grow up and make mistakes. But they are missing the chance to be taught by good coaches and to do things that are fun, to grow and to have intellectual interests.

I think it is terribly important. I think Michael greatly benefited from the Dean Smith program, and I think one of the points of the book was how much Dean Smith was to him. People like Michael Jordan because he is a grown-up, and at Carolina he became a grown-up.

He had great coaches at North Carolina teaching him how to be a man. He had great teammates who didn't let him get a swelled head. James Worthy once said, "There are many, many things that Dean Smith could teach you, and at the bottom of the list is basketball. He taught him how to fend off ego, not to be selfish, to respect coaches, to respect teammates, and to respect all things being equal and dealing well with the media.

Playing on the court was only part of it. Michael had a very strong family, and the Dean Smith program built on that. Also, what do you think were the physical restrictions that held Jordan back from becoming a successful major league hitter? Also, do you think if he concentrated on baseball similar to how hard he worked on his basketball skills, he would have been a successful baseball player? David Halberstam: Yes, I do deal with it at some length.

The things working against him were being away from the sport for 13 years. If an athlete as talented as Michael had tried baseball earlier, I think he would have been a success. But his height would have worked against him. There aren't many great six-foot-six baseball players, because their strike zone is too big. He didn't have a baseball body. Baseball players get power from their thighs and hips and their asses.

Michael had a basketball body -- thin thighs, powerful upper body. His lower trunk wasn't as thick as most baseball players' trunks. The interesting thing is that even when he had a decent batting average, for someone as strong as Michael, the ball just did not pop off the bat.

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David Halberstam: I don't know. They were an awfully good team last year, and they gave the Bulls as hard a run as any team has done in their six championship runs. They are tough, and they have a depth to their rotation that was extremely difficult for the Bulls to deal with, particularly later in the games, when starters like Chris Mullin and Mark Jackson were out and Travis Best and Jalen Rose were in. The Bulls were not deep, and late in the fourth, the Bulls got tired and the Pacers were rested.

I would think that Indiana right now is a team that could be very good in the playoffs. How much longer they can be held together I don't know. They have some restrictions -- Jackson has good floor vision but he is not quick, Rik Smits has limitations. The Indiana team that finished up last year was really playing better than the Bulls at the end; they won three of the seven games, and the Bulls won the final game with a shoe shine and a smile. I am not sure how they will match up against some of the younger teams.

Bird used that rotation very well.

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Jalen Rose gave Jordan a tough time. Jordan was not prepared for him. Do you think he would ever take the Larry Bird route and become a coach? David Halberstam: It doesn't strike me as likely. He doesn't need the money, and I don't think he would fancy coaching younger players today, many of whom wouldn't listen. But I didn't think Bird would coach. The truth is, we don't know. For the moment it doesn't seem likely. There are other things he wants to do.

I think it is hard for someone that good to be a good coach. I think Bird is unusual to be able to coach players not as good as him. Steve from Seattle, WA: If you didn't have to worry about money ever again, would you still be doing what you're doing for a career? David Halberstam: Sure, it is what I love to do. I might do something slightly differently but it is not simply what I do, it is who I am. I like the people I meet, and I like the intellectual challenge, and I like the pleasure it gives people.

It is a gift to be able to do this. If I had money, sure I would still do it. I feel lucky to have done it. David Halberstam: He liked Joe Dumars's game. I think he thinks Kobe has talent, but he doesn't know what is going to happen with him; he is young and he hasn't had time to go to the next level. I think he is mostly weary of the Generation X players. He liked Juwan Howard at first. I think he liked his work ethic. I think at one point he wanted to get Jayson Williams for the Bulls, but that didn't work out. Beyond that I don't want to put words in his mouth. In general I think he is underwhelmed by the Gen X players; they don't work hard enough, their games are incomplete, and they got too much too quickly.

I certainly thought his obvious dislike for players like Starks and Greg Anthony was evident, and he really increased his game David Halberstam: I think you are probably right. I think he didn't like the Riley teams; it wasn't just Starks and Anthony, it was the physicality of their play.

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He thought they were bullying. He didn't like the X-Man. X was trying to push Pippen around, and Michael went right into X's face, and Xavier backed down. There is a great photo of Michael right in the face of Ewing, absolutely fearless, and he was saying lay off my teammates. He didn't particularly like Starks and Anthony, but he also really didn't like how the Knicks were trying to beat the Bulls with physicality, not basketball.

Paul Crichton from Pcrichton book. However, comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges, as Ali's story played out under enormous political and social stresses. How similar do you think Jordan and Ali are as people? David Halberstam: Well, I used that same phrase -- apples and oranges -- when somebody asked me about the two earlier today in an interview.

They have certain parallels: winning smiles underneath a desire to excel, incredible athleticism. They are very different in that Michael was much more privileged. He was born a year before Ali got the championship, and Jordan went to integrated schools and went to the best college program in the country with great care and nurturing, and nothing had been denied to him. Ali, on the other hand, barely graduated from high school -- the school pretty much graduated him knowing they had to graduate him because he was going to become the most famous alumni of the school -- but it was a much harder life, and he was very bright.

Reading was hard for Ali, it was all street smarts. He was much more political because much more was denied. The rage to excel is there for both of them, but one is a kid from the streets, and one is an upper-middle-class guy who went to the best college in the state. Ali didn't get the financial benefits, and he did it in such a brutal sport, boxing, which had much less appeal to women. Many more women liked Jordan and his basketball. Ali was much more political with his strong stance against the Vietnam War. admin