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Book Summary: Michael Jordan by Roland Lazenby

My Personal Summary

This book is a biography of Michael Jordan, arguably the best basketball player of all time.

Over the course of his career, Jordan won six championships with the Chicago Bulls.

He will be remembered as one of the fiercest competitors in basketball history.

Book Notes

  • Michael’s great grandfather was born in 1891 in rural North Carolina during a time when electricity and running water were rare. He worked as a farmhand. Each successive generation of Jordan’s would reside in North Carolina as well.
  • Michael’s father and mother traveled to New York in 1963 so his father could train with hydraulic equipment under financial aid from the GI bill after serving in the Navy in World War ll. Michael was born in Brooklyn in 1963. Shortly after, the family returned to Teachy, North Carolina.
  • The family then moved to Wilmington, NC for greater economic opportunity. When Michael started kindergarten in 1968, the civil riots movement was in full swing and his classroom was still segregated by race.
  • As a kid, Michael’s father James Jordan used to taunt him and say “go inside with the women” when Michael didn’t know which tools to hand him while he worked on cars. His father always seemed to like Michael’s brother Larry more. This instilled a competitive drive in Michael that made him feel like he always had to prove himself.
  • At age 9, Michael’s father put up a basketball hoop in their backyard. Michael would play his one year older brother Larry every single day.
  • Michael played in little league baseball and basketball leagues growing up.
  • In 9th grade, Michael played on the freshman basketball team at his local high school and was by far the best player on the team.
  • In 10th grade, Michael tried out for the varsity basketball team and didn’t make it mostly because he was 5’10” and not as tall as the seniors and juniors who tried out. He ended up playing JV and averaged 28 ppg even though quarters were only 6 minutes long. He was known for his intensity on the court, playing his heart out every minute whether his team was winning or losing.
  • Jordan became obsessed with growing taller and would hang for hours on bars in his backyard to try to stretch himself taller.
  • Fun Fact: Dunking was banned in high school and college basketball from 1967 to 1976 (likely because Kareem Abdul Jabbar dominated using dunks at UCLA in 1966), which meant dunking was legal just in time for Michael starting to play in high school.
  • By junior year, Michael had grown to 6’3” and had the height to match his work ethic. He made the varsity team and averages 24 points and 12 rebounds per game. His team ended the season at 13-11.
  • Between junior and senior year, Michael was invited to a summer camp hosted by UNC head coach Dean Smith, who began to scout Michael. The coaches at the camp noticed that Michael kept sneaking into training sessions even after his own sessions had ended. He just loved to work.
  • That same summer, Michael then attended a camp known as the Five-Star camp in Pittsburgh where only the best high school players in the nation were invited. Mike smoked them all even though nobody knew his name at the time. Coaches there also noticed Michael going through shooting drills by himself well after training sessions had ended.
  • In 1980, heading into senior year, seven foot Patrick Ewing was the only high school basketball player getting as much attention as Michael. Ewing almost went to UNC too until he saw a Klan demonstration just off campus when he visited and decided not to go there.
  • His senior year, Michael averaged 28 ppg and 12 rpg and led his team to a 19-4 record, but his team lost in the district tourney and didn’t even make it to the state tourney that year.
  • Michael then went to UNC for his freshman year of college. The coach Desn Smith noted that Livhael was an incredible listener. “I had never seen a player listen so closely to what the coaches said and then go and do it.” Roy Williams, an assistant coach at the time, noted that he once told Michael that he could be working harder. “Williams was struck afterward by the fact that it took only one conversation with Jordan. No one would ever outwork him again.”
  • In his freshman year, Michael played at UNC with future NBA players James Worthy and Sam Perkins. He averaged 13.5 ppg on 53% shooting.
  • Michael’s parents attended 32 out of the 34 games that year, literally traveling all over the country to see Michael play.
  • Michael hit a jumper now known as “The Shot” in the national title game with 15 seconds left to beat Georgetown and Patrick Ewing 63-62 in 1982.
  • One of Jordan’s teammates at UNC, Buzz Peterson, had won the award of Mr. Carolina as a high school senior over Michael but once he got to UNC he adopted a party lifestyle and never averaged more than 7 ppg any year at UNC while Michael never partied and was 100% focused on basketball.
  • Michael greatly improved his game during the summer between freshman and sophomore year and returned 2 inches taller and faster as well. He averaged 20 ppg and 5.5 rpg his sophomore year, although UNC lost in the regional finals of March Madness that year. The team really suffered from losing James Worthy, who had been picked number one overall in the NBA draft the year prior.
  • His junior year, Michael averaged 19.6 ppg but UNC lost in the sweet sixteen to Indiana and coach Bobby Knight.
  • After his junior year, Michael opted for the NBA draft in 1984. The Rockets drafted Hakeem Olajuwon first, the Blazers drafted Sam Bowie second, and the Bulls drafted Jordan with the third pick.
  • Michael played with a group of recently drafted players and won the 1984 Olympic Games under coach Bob Knight.
  • In the 1980s, a well connected guy named Sonny Vacarro had a deal with Nike where they’d give him money to sign college basketball coaches to Nike contracts and give them free shoes so their players would all be wearing Nike shoes during games. Before Jordan’s rookie season, Vacarro signed a Nike deal with Jordan where they would sell a new show called Air Jordan’s and Michael would get a 25% royalty on each shoe they sold. Nike sold $125 million Air Jordan’s in the first three seasons alone.
  • In the summer of training with the Bulls before his rookie season, teammates said he treated each practice like it was “game 7 of the NBA finals” and that he’d frequently show up to practice early and stay late to keep doing drills.
  • In his rookie season, Michael averaged 28.2 ppg and led the Bulls to the playoffs, although they lost to the Bucks 3-1 in the first round.
  • Michael made the all-star game as a rookie but there was an alleged “freeze-out” where other all stars refused to pass him the ball much. Michael would never forget this and would use the incident as motivation against players later.
  • Jerry Krause then joined the bulls as the general manager and would clash with Michael for the rest of his career.
  • In his second season, Jordan broke his foot and only played 18 games. Jordan came back late in the season and the Bulls snagged the 8th seed in the playoffs. They faced Boston and Larry Bird in the first round. Jordan put up 49 points and 63 points in two of the games, but the Bulls got swept.
  • After Jordan put up 63, Larry Bird said “That’s God disguised as Michael Jordan.”
  • In his third season Jordan averaged 37.1 ppg, leading the Bulls to a 40-42 record. They got swept by Boston in the first round again.
  • Jordan was known for being brutally competitive at practice, constantly trash-talking teammates to see who was tough enough to compete alongside him.
  • Jordan started making far more money from endorsements, sponsorships, and show deals than he did from his NBA salary.
  • In the 1987 draft, the bulls drafted Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant in the first round.
  • In his fourth season in 1988, Michael averaged 35 ppg and won league MVP and Defensive player of the year. The Bulls went 52-30 and beat the Cavs 3-2 in the first round of the playoffs but lost to the Pistons in the second round 4-1.
  • The Bulls struck up a serious rivalry with the “Bad Boys” Detroit Pistons in the late 1980s who played physically with Bill Lambheer, Joe Dumars, Isaiah Thomas, and Rick Mahorn.
  • By 1988, 40% of all NBA merchandise sales were solely from the Bulls.
  • In his fifth season, Jordan averaged 32.5 ppg and the Bulls went 47-35. The Bulls beat the Cavs in the first round 3-2 on a Michael Jordan buzzer beater. The Bulls then beat the Knicks 4-2 to advance to the Eastern Conference finals but lost to the Pistons 4-2. The Pistons went on to sweep the Lakers and win the 1989 title.
  • After the 1989 season, Phil Jackson took over as head coach. He had previously been the assistant coach for three years. He emphasized a focus on defense and he increased the intensity at practices beyond what the Bulls were used to. He also implemented a new “triangle offense” devised by assistant coach Tex Winters, which involved more ball movement and less isolation basketball by Jordan.
  • In his sixth season in 1990, the Bulls finished 55-27. They beat the Bucks in the first round, beat the 76ers with Charles Barkley in the second round, but lost to the Pistons again in the conference championship in 7 games. The Pistons went on to win the title again. After that season, Michael decided to start lifting weights so he could compete with the physical play style of the Pistons.
  • In his seventh season in 1991, the Bulls finished 61-21 and Jordan won league MVP for a second time. The Bulls beat the Knicks in the first round, beat the 76ers in the second round, and swept the Pistons in the conference finals. The Bulls went on to win the NBA finals in 5 games against Magic Johnson and the Lakers.
  • One of the most memorable moments in game 5 of the finals was when Phil Jackson called a timeout late in the game and asked “Michael who’s open?” 3 times in the huddle until Michael finally responded “Pax” and Jackson said “then pass him the fucking ball.” Jordan ended up assisting four buckets to John Paxton in the final five minutes, which gave the Bulls a commanding lead and eventually the win.
  • In his eighth season in 1992, the Bulls finished 67-15 and Michael won his third league MVP award. Pippen had become a star by that point too and made the all-defense first team. The Bulls beat the Blazers to win their second NBA Finals in a row.
  • In 1992 Jordan played in the Olympics on the “dream team” and team USA won gold easily. Their smallest margin of victory was 32 points.
  • “Jordan had been surprised to learn how lazy many of his Olympic teammates were about practice, how they were deceiving themselves about what the game required.”
  • In 1993, the Bulls went 57-24. However, the Knicks and Patrick Ewing won 60 games that year and were up 2-0 in the Conference finals until the bulls rallied and beat them 4-2. The Bulls went on to beat the Suns and Charles Barkley (who won MVP that year) in the finals 4-2 for their third straight championship.
  • In 1993, Jordan’s dad was killed under mysterious circumstances involving a roadside robbery.
  • Jordan had developed a reputation as a gambler, frequently betting up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in games of golf.
  • Michael announced his retirement from the Bulls in October 1993. He proceeded to play on a double-A baseball team in Alabama. As one coach noted, “baseball is really just about reps” and Michael simply hadn’t had enough reps in the sport to make it to the major league. Meanwhile, the Bulls made the playoffs in 1994 but lost to the Knicks in the conference semifinals. Hakeem Olajuwon and the Rockets beat the Knicks in 7 games to win the finals that year.
  • Jordan returned to the Bulls for the 1995 season. They made the playoffs but lost to Horace Grant, Shaq, and the Magic in the second round. The Magic went on to lose to the Rockets in the finals.
  • In 1996, the Bulls brought in Ron Harper and Dennis Rodman. Rodman was a freak at rebounding, averaging 15 boards per game. The Bulls went 72-10 and swept the Magic in the conference finals. A big factor was Rodman outmuscled Shaq despite being six inches shorter. The Bulls went on to beat Gary Payton and the Sonics in 6 games to win Michael’s fourth championship.
  • In 1997, the Bulls went 69-13 and beat the Jazz 4-2 in the finals to win Michael’s fifth championship.
  • In 1998, the Bulls went 62-20 and beat the Jazz again 4-2 in the finals to win Michael’s sixth championship.
  • Michael retired but returned to play two more seasons in 2001 and 2002 with the Wizards. He averaged 20+ ppg both seasons.
  • Jordan then became majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats who put up some of the worst records in NBA history.
  • Note: Most of Michael’s wealth didn’t come from his NBA salary, but rather from his Jordan brand of clothing, shoes, cologne, underwear, etc.

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