cover image Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made

Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made

David Halberstam. Random House Inc, $24.95 (426pp) ISBN 978-0-679-41562-6

Halberstam (The Children, etc.) has written an excellent book about the game of basketball and its greatest player. Readers familiar with Halberstam's customary insight into American life might think he pulls some punches. But this is an engrossing portrait--much edgier than the ballplayer's own current bestseller, For the Love of the Game. This is an examination of Jordan as athlete and media phenomenon, of the superstar's professional life and also of the NBA's coming of age. The focus is squarely on Jordan's astounding competitiveness and will power, qualities that, Halberstam argues, have as much or more to do with Jordan's success than even his remarkable talent. Meandering back and forth through time, Halberstam covers everything from the invention of ESPN to the genius of Spike Lee's Nike commercials--and every major playoff game Jordan played. With equal enthusiasm, Halberstam profiles the supporting cast: Bulls' coach Phil Jackson, whose job was to ""maximize Jordan's abilities, without letting him suck the oxygen away from his teammates""; agent David Falk, who created ""the idea of the individual player as a commercial superstar""; teammate Scottie Pippen. The book is filled with salty, informed hoops talk. It does not, however, give readers an intimate look at Jordan, who declined the author's request for an interview. Nor does Halberstam pursue difficult questions about Jordan's character, about the way he has decided to use (or not use) his celebrity and his wealth. (Feb.)