Knowing Michael and Kobe

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by Vincent Juico

Michael and Kobe. Two peas in a pod. Brothers from different mothers. Cut from the same cloth, and same pages from different books (Michael Jordan: The Life and Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant), both bestsellers authored and written by Roland Lazenby.

The interview with him on the author’s online program, “Sports For All“, went longer than expected, but it was worth it. Mr. Lazenby was one of the people I sought out to appear on the show when I started the podcast.

He told this writer, who is the Host of Sports For All, and Co-Host Brian Yalung story after story after story on Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, like when he used to rebound intentionally missed free throws by Bryant as the basketball icon was simulating game situations.

Roland covered Michael for 30 years, almost 25 years for Kobe. In both books, Lazenby went back to the ancestors of both greats.

TOP (L-R) Roland Lazenby, Vincent Juico and Brian Yalung
TOP (L-R) Roland Lazenby, Vincent Juico and Brian Yalung

In both bestsellers, Lazenby narrates the trials, tribulations, and adversity both legends had to go through to get to where they are.

According to bookreporter.com, “When most people think of Michael Jordan, they think of the beautiful shots, his body totally in sync with the ball, hitting nothing but net. But for all his greatness, there’s also a dark side to Jordan: a ruthless competitor, a gambler. Drawing on personal relationships with Jordan’s coaches; countless interviews with friends, teammates, family members, and Jordan himself; and a career in the trenches covering Jordan in college and the pros, Roland Lazenby provides the first truly definitive study of Jordan.”

On Showboat, according to goodreads.com, “Finalist for the Cross British Sports Biography of the Year Award in the UK “With surgical precision, Roland Lazenby expertly dissects the life of this generation’s most fascinating basketball player. What made Kobe Bryant tick so loud for so long? Lazenby shows you with a tour de force in reporting and an intimate inspection at Bryant’s trials, accomplishments and tribulations.” — Jonathan Abrams, author of Boys Among Men

“With the publication of Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant, it is high time we recognized author Roland Lazenby for what he has become: the finest sports biographer of our time. First with the astonishing Michael Jordan: The Life and now his having written an incredibly researched, beautifully written biography of this enigmatic Laker superstar, Lazenby has entered rarified air: one is wowed by what one learns and at the same time you can’t wait to read what comes next.” — Peter Golenbock, author of ten New York Times bestsellers

Eighteen-time all-star; scorer of 81 points in a game; MVP and a shooting guard second only to Jordan in league history: Kobe Bryant is one of basketball’s absolute greatest players, a fascinating and complicated character who knew when he was a mere boy that he would be better than Jordan on the court.

The debate about whether he achieved that is a furious one–but Kobe has surpassed Jordan on the all-time scoring list and has only one less championship than Jordan (5 to Jordan’s 6). He is set to retire after the 2015/16 season, just in time for Roland Lazenby’s definitive biography of the player and the man.

The Lakers are the flashiest team in all of sports, and the context in which Bryant played is salacious and exciting. Provocative stories mixed with good old-fashioned basketball reporting make for a riveting and essential read for any hoops fan.”

Amazon.com says, “The definitive portrait of Kobe Bryant, from the author of Michael Jordan: The Life. “Lazenby’s detailed research and fantastic writing paint a complex, engaging picture of one of the NBA’s greats” (Kurt Helin, NBC Sports).

Eighteen-time All-Star, scorer of 81 points in a single game, MVP, and one of the best shooting guards in NBA league history: Kobe Bryant is among basketball’s absolute greatest players, and his importance to the sport is undeniable. Third on the NBA career scoring list and owner of five championship rings, he is an undisputed all-time great, one deserving of this deep and definitive biography.

Even within the flashiest franchise in all of sports — the Los Angeles Lakers, where he played his entire career — Bryant always took center stage, and his final game captivated the basketball world, indeed the country. Roland Lazenby delves deep to look behind this public image, using classic basketball reporting and dozens of new interviews to reveal the whole picture, from Bryant’s childhood through his playing years.

Showboat is filled with large personalities and provocative stories, including details of Bryant’s complicated personal life and explosive relationships on the court, and is a riveting and essential read for every hoops fan.”

Lazenby doesn’t like comparing players, be it Kobe vs Michael or Lebron vs Michael or Lebron vs Kobe. He also adds that the back-to-back titles of the Houston Rockets be left alone on its merit rather than a what-if scenario as to whether the Bulls would’ve beaten them in a seven-game series.

Roland has a holistic view of both superstars. Both books gradually develop both players from their beginnings until the twilight of their respective legendary careers.

It was a great conversation with a man who had a courtside seat to two of the greatest careers in professional sports.

Vincent Juico
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