Synopses & Reviews
As one of the greatest, most celebrated athletes in history, Michael Jordan conquered professional basketball as no one had before. Powered by a potent mix of charisma, nearly superhuman abilities, and a ferocious need to dominate the game, he won six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls and captured every basketball award and accolade conceivable before retiring and taking a top executive post with the Washington Wizards. But retirement didn't suit the man who was once king, and at the advanced age of thirty-eight Michael Jordan set out to reclaim the court that had been his dominion.
When Nothing Else Matters is the definitive account of Jordan's equally spectacular and disastrous return to basketball. Having gone on the road to chronicle Jordan's final two seasons, award-winning Washington Post writer Michael Leahy draws a riveting portrait of a deeply complex man waylaid by his impulses and impatience, frequently hampered by injuries, assaulted by younger players eager to usurp his throne, and ultimately done in by his presumption. Encouraged for two decades by his sport's magnates to believe that he had no limits or superiors, Jordan could not see his influence and power fading as his Wizards days ticked down and his team's losses and dissension grew. For teammates and outsiders alike, the star emerged as a relentlessly driven, at times unapproachable personality. Leahy reveals the striking contrast between Jordan's public image and the man who couldn't stand not "bein' it."
Hell-bent on transforming the mediocre Wizards into championship contenders, Jordan controlled every facet of his new team, dispensing orders behind the scenes to coaches and players. As his anger and bitterness over Washington's on-court setbacks became increasingly public, his teammates' resentment of him stoked already burgeoning tensions between Jordan and the Wizards' top brass. Leahy unmasks the myths and unravels the deeper lessons behind the highs and lows of the two seasons, illuminating the excruciatingreality Jordan was forced to accept after the Wizards' failed playoff bid in his final season. When Nothing Else Matters is about nothing less than a man struggling to come to grips with the end of a career, and the uncertainty of his life ahead.
"After serving as president and part owner of the Washington Wizards for two years, Jordan, bored by his executive duties and frustrated by the team's poor play, returned to the court in 2001 in a bid to revitalize the struggling basketball franchise. But the aging superstar's attempt to resurrect the team flopped as the Wizards failed to make the playoffs in either of Jordan's two playing seasons. While the highs and lows of Jordan's comeback are known to most basketball fans, Leahy, a Washington Post feature writer who covered Jordan's return, offers an in-depth look at the inner turmoil that plagued the Jordan-led Wizards. In a smartly written, often angry work that is as much a sports story as a psychology study and condemnation of the media that built up the Jordan myth, Leahy not only documents Jordan's performance on the floor, but examines what motivated him to play despite serious knee problems. Leahy also deals with the role sportswriters (he makes it clear he isn't one) play in building America's athletes into godlike characters, a practice he abhors. Leahy has no use for idol worship and casts all three of the book's main figures Jordan, coach Doug Collins and majority owner Abe Pollin in unfavorable lights. This engaging read is marred by one flaw: Leahy's tendency to insert himself into the story. Agent, David Black. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
author of The Ticket Out: Darryl Strawberry and the Boys of Crenshaw
Leahy is that most unwelcome of characters around a pro sports team: a truth-teller. Where others were intimidated by Michael Jordan or just plain blinded by his star power, Leahy stood his ground and assembled a tough-minded, fair, and gripping account that reveals something far more interesting than Michael Jordan the icon -- he gives us Jordan, the man.
series editor of The Best American Sports Writing
Michael Leahy may be the first author to overcome his awe of Michael Jordan and let us see another Jordan, the legend in the autumn of his career. In this book we don't just meet a myth streaking across the sky -- we meet a very human being finally returning to earth. When Nothing Else Matters transcends its subject, for as we watch Jordan descend, we also somehow see ourselves.
Stephanie Davis, GQ,
No one's covered Michael Jordan like Michael Leahy. In 2001, Leahy a staff writer for The Washington Post, was assigned to write about the legend's return to basketball with the Washington Wizards and nearly everything he did off court as well. (At one point, Wizard coach Doug Collins refers to Leahy as a "stalker.") This obsessive reportage resulted in an acclaimed series for the Post and is now a book, When Nothing Else Matters: Michael Jordan's Last Comeback (Simon & Schuster) -- easily the most fully formed portrait of Jordan ever written and one of the best sports books in recent memory.
If you know Jordan from those "Be Like Mike" Gatorade commercials, you are unlikely to recognize the petulant protagonist of When Nothing Else Matters. Leahy discovers an ailing star on the downward arc of his career -- "moving like a sea captain with a wooden peg for a right leg," he writes at one point. As he declines, Jordan claws at everyone around -- teammates (he calls one teammate a "faggot"), the competition (he lusts to destroy challengers like Kobe Bryant), and most of all, his employer (Wizards owner Abe Pollin). But this Jordan seldom makes the papers, because the sports media are so beholden to Earth's Most Beloved Star they dare not risk alienating him. "Around Jordan power flowed one way," Leahy writes. "Reporters were sharecroppers: They tilled him only at his pleasure."
There's plenty of gossip in When Nothing Matters -- Leahy doesn't hold back on the tales of Jordan's gambling and infidelities, and David Stern will enjoy the story of the NBA referee who allegedly set Jordan up with a girl -- but in the end, this is a far more melancholy than tawdry tale. Michael Jordan was undoubtedly the greatest basketball player of his time. It's just a shame it took us so long to find out he was a human being too.
From award-winning "Washington Post" journalist Leahy comes an intimate and riveting examination of Michael Jordan's return to the basketball court and his all-consuming desire to compete at the highest level. of photos.
Table of Contents
1 The Purge, May 2003
2 "Nothin' Compares to Bein' it"
3 The New World
4 When Supremacy Ends
6 Secrets and Tensions
7 The Costs of Pretending
8 Collapse -- and the End of the New Jacks
9 One More Gamble
10 "They are probably the most fragile team I've ever been around..."
11 The Backlash
12 The Romance Ends