"Q&A With Roland Lazenby: Michael Jordan: The Life

Author Bio:

"Roland Lazenby is an American sportswriter and educator.

Lazenby has written more than five dozen nonfiction books, mainly about basketball and American football. These include Fifty Years of the Final Four: Golden Moments of the NCAA Basketball Tournament (1987), The Lakers: A Basketball Journey (1993), Bull Run! The Story of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (1996), Blood on the Horns: The Long Strange Ride of Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls (1998), Mad Game, The NBA Education of Kobe Bryant (2000), Mindgames: Phil Jackson's Long Strange Journey (2001), Johnny Unitas: The Best There Ever Was (2002), Tom Brady: Sudden Glory (2002), The Show: The Inside Story of the Spectacular Los Angeles Lakers in the Words of Those Who Lived It (2004), Jerry West: The Life and Legend of a Basketball Icon (2010), Michael Jordan: The Life (2014), and Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant (2016). He has also contributed articles to magazines and newspapers."

1.  Coming off your critically acclaimed book, “Michael Jordan: The Life”, you came back with another classic book, “Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant”. What did you admire most about Kobe on the court and what did you admire most about Kobe off it

On the court, I admired his tremendous confidence and drive, especially for one so young. I met him at the start of his rookie year. He always seemed older than he was mentally. Off the court, it was his determination. He didn't want to waste a minute in his effort to be the greatest. He was unafraid of declaring that he wanted to be the greatest. 


2.  These two basketball legend’s careers have always overlapped largely because of Kobe’s love for the game and his love for Jordan. In your research, what made Kobe uniquely different than MJ? 

As my friend, longtime assistant coach Tex Winter talked about how the coaching staff of Phil Jackson discussed the many similarities, as well as the differences. Jordan's hands were larger, and Jordan was stronger in holding position in the post. But they basically played the same position in the triangle and attacked in the same ways. 


Kobe learned the offense inside and out; however, Phil Jackson would not allow Kobe the same freedoms and the same access to the offense that he allowed Jordan. This frustrated Kobe considerably.


3.  In retrospect, was there anything you wrote in this book that you wish you hadn't or is there something you wish you had included?

These are two huge lives, and I wrote more than 1100 pages about the two men. Jordan's family life had a huge impact on him and on the Bulls, especially after the murder of his father and the publication of his sister's book. I wish I hadn't had to write about those dark things. I wish they hadn't happened.


4.  Now that LeBron James has captured his fourth NBA title and he’s in the second half of his career, would you ever be interested in writing his story one day, and what intrigues you most about his life thus far? 

I am under contract to write a book about him, but I'm not going to do it. It is too hard writing these books, it takes up too much of my life. I've just finished spending almost three years on my Magic Johnson book. In many ways, I've been a ghost in my own life due to my work.


5.  You have been around the sport of basketball for decades, who is the best team you have ever witnessed play and why?

Those Chicago Bulls, both editions of them. Each won a three-peat; each executed with such tremendous discipline. But I also loved those Celtics teams with Bird, the Lakers with Magic; and the grit of Isiah's Pistons. Also Kobe's Lakers, although there was so much conflict with Shaq it was sad to see.


6.  What did you think of the ESPN documentary of the Chicago Bulls, “The Last Dance”? Having written a book about the life of Michael Jordan, how much crossover was there between what you wrote and what was depicted in the docu-series?

Jason Hehir, the director, publicly called my books, both MJ The Life, and my book on that season, Blood On The Horns, as his "bibles" for the series. Jordan was furious with my biography of him and blocked me from appearing. I don't know Mr. Hehir, but he did a fabulous job. 


I spent a lot of time interviewing Krause, and I think I could have helped them present some of his side more. I also depicted the incidents on the team bus in the 1997 Finals in Utah that helped explain Krause's fury that next season and his determination to rid the Bulls of Phil Jackson. I had gotten between the two men inadvertently in 1994 while interviewing him for the team history I was writing.


7.  What do you think Kobe Bryant’s legacy is and will continue to be?

No one paid a greater price for greatness. There wasn't anything he wouldn't do in terms of work to be great. Thus he never never cheated the game or the fans.


8.  Was there anything specific that you hoped readers learned about Kobe that they could apply to their lives?

Of course, his determination and tremendous work ethic. I once said that if all humans were like Kobe, we'd be building condos on the moon by now.


9.  From your research and studying of Kobe Bryant, did you find a specific reason he was able to become so universally and globally loved and admired?

Well, he could be a major prick. So people didn't know him personally or were willing to overlook evidence of his arrogance because he worked so hard, was so talented, yet his greatest talent was his inhuman ability for hard work and focus.


10.  Who is an up-and-coming NBA player whose career you are excited and interested to watch unfold?

Dončić is interesting, as is Trae Young in Atlanta. But there are many of them. It's always fun to watch the young players and see which ones emerge.


11.  If you have to choose one player to make a game-winning shot, with the fate of the entire planet’s existence depending on them making or missing the attempt, who would you choose and why? 

Either Kobe or MJ, for obvious reasons. Maybe Steve Kerr, because he's such a conscious inhabitant of the planet himself, and he can flat out shoot.


12.  What’s your best advice for getting over writer’s block?

Keep working. If you're blocked, it's because there's something that you haven't cleared up with your research.


13.  What’s the best book you have read this year so far?

I've been working on my Magic Johnson book for three years, so there hasn't been a whole lot of time for pleasure reading. It has been such a grind. But if I want to read for pleasure, I'll often turn to the work of the great Larry McMurtry


14.  What’s the best advice you have ever received on happiness?

I am a happy person by nature. Always have been. It's a gift from God. I've always done pretty much what I wanted to do, but I've always been blessed and immensely lucky in my life, from my gorgeous, wonderful wife of 46 years to my children and grandchildren. So I don't offer advice about happiness, just as I don't offer advice about marriage. So often, it can be a matter of blind luck. However, I do know people who are amazingly fortunate and lucky who are not happy. I guess I'm always very appreciative of every little thing in my life. So many blessings.


15.  Do you plan on writing more books in the future?

I'm 69 years old and working away seven days a week on my Magic book. I may do a project beyond this one. But I'm not focused on that now. I have an 850 page manuscript on Magic that needs to be cut down to a more publishable size. So that is my focus now.


My wife wants me to retire from writing books. She has been so supportive of me over the years, it's ridiculous. So it's more about easing up on the work schedule these days.

 

Places To Find More From This Author:

Twitter: @lazenby

Linkedin: Roland Lazenby

 

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