The extended time spent at home as the world grapples with the coronavirus crisis calls for some hobby reading with Quarantine reads becoming increasingly popular.
For sports fans, the dearth of live action is a chance to explore a lesser-pursued side of the game – reading non-fiction books. In this series, we look at the books about sports and athletes that can be read during this time of physical distancing. This list serves the dual purpose of keeping us connected to the sports we love and spend time by indulging in a hobby we may not always have the time for.
David Halberstam’s ‘Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made’
As The Last Dance, the Michael Jordan documentary currently on Netflix, nears its end, take the time to read this book about one of the greatest NBA players to get a better understanding of what he meant to the sport.
Written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam, The Washington Post called it “the best Jordan book so far” when it was first published in 1999 and as you read it, you understand why.
What it is about?
The book came out only days after Jordan’s departure from the NBA and only weeks after the end of the league’s six-month lockout. It chronicles the story of Michael Jordan’s legendary years with the Chicago Bulls, capped by the 1998 NBA Finals and the team’s second three-peat. In a way, it sounds a lot like The Last Dance but it isn’t just that. The book goes beyond just basketball and gives great insight into the business of sport as well. Halberstam’s book will give you an appreciation of how Jordan’s success helped change the NBA and how those changes, in turn, triggered a wave of change in the world of sports.
What makes it special?
Jordan did not grant any interviews for the book – which in a sense is good. It means the writer can come out and say the story as it should be said without any bias. Jordan’s own production company, Jump 23, is among the co-producers behind The Last Dance, and that in a way taints the story-telling of a documentary a bit.
But the book shines by revisiting compelling but familiar stories fleshed out with new reporting. Halberstam’s eye for detail ensures that nothing is missed out and the stories will give you a new respect for the beat reporter. Indeed, such is the depth that it makes one wonder how he sourced it all.
The iconic moments that made Jordan a legend are all covered – his winning shot, as a freshman, against Georgetown in the 1982 NCAA finals, his record 63-point masterpiece (after coming back from a broken foot) against the Boston Celtics in the 1986 playoffs; the wall that was the Detroit Pistons, his acceptance of the triangle offense, his heroic 38-point performance in Game Five against Utah in the 1997 NBA finals while suffering from a debilitating fever, and, of course, his game-winning shot in the 1998 finals.
Why you should read it?
If you are a Jordan fan, you should read it. If you are a Chicago Bulls fan, you should read it. If you want to understand the rise of the NBA, you should read it. At the end of the day, this book is a celebration of everything Jordan – a player whose talent was never in doubt, but also a player who despite his talent worked his socks off to make it to the very top.