Monday, 10 January 2011

The Jordan Rules

The Jordan Rules

It’s rare you pick up a book that engages your interest so much you literally can’t put it down, but this was a beautiful exception. What a book! Sam Smith seems to have been able to uncover every single high and low experienced by the Chicago Bulls during their turbulent 90-91 season. From Jordan and his gambling & golf issues, to his team mates (or his supporting cast) and their problems with contracts, playing time, involvement in the “give the ball to Jordan and get the hell out of the way” playbook and so, so much more!

Smith really manages to take us into the atmosphere of the players and the trouble they had forming a cohesive unit. It’s very easy to think of all of these players as a group of spoilt athletes bickering about petit jealousies and differences, but as you learn about the way some of them were treated, you begin to understand why some of them acted out in the way that they did.

Let’s start with Jordan. Carrying the weight of not only his team on his back but the weight of the league itself, Jordan manages to bring his team together in time for the playoffs whilst also gradually isolating himself from the league and its exploitation of his image, talent and competitive drive. He is caught between a rock and a hard place at times and although you certainly see the point of view of players who, at times, have had enough of Jordan, you also realise what sacrifices it requires for a player of Jordan’s stature to dominate almost every night that he decides to.

Pippen, Grant and especially Paxson all show remarkable patience with Krause and his obsession with recruiting Toni Kukoc. I happen to love Kukoc, he was one of my favourite players, but I had no idea of how long the Bulls had their eye on him for. Pippen and grant were consistently performing All-Star’s and John Paxson, who won player of the game in the Final game of the finals, was an extremely reliable shooter during clutch time. All of these players had their contracts delayed longer and longer in the hope of signing Kukoc who seemed put off by the intimidating presence of Jordan and all of the controversy that seemed to surround him.

Scott Williams and Will Perdue were among the many brave bench members who kept their heads up during all the stress and strife. Bill Cartwright is portrayed as the soft and kind hearted gentleman that we all knew him to be. Cartwright seems to be an illustration of a player who is both frail and powerful at the same time. He is the starting centre but with his age and injuries he always seemed one bad fall away from retirement.

BJ Armstrong is the player who would probably go on to improve the most. Eventually becoming an All-Star in seasons to come he would replace John Paxson in the starting line-up and earn his position as well as his pride.

Phil Jackson is an enjoyable character to learn about. His philosophising and eagerness to coax his team into one of the greatest Dynasties of all time are matched by his patient ability to test his players and ignore a lot of potentially damaging issues amongst his players.

Such an enjoyable book. To see your favourite players struggle with their own “human” issues off the court is a revealing process that teaches us that Sportsman should not always be role models. I’m tempted to pick up a copy of Phil Jackson’s book about the Lakers.

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