Blood on the Horns
By Roland Lazenby
Personally, I am not a fan of the Bulls of the 1990s. The press was enamored with them, and that has as much to do with my dislike of them as anything. They were a circus and a soap opera all rolled into one. They represented everything that is wrong with the NBA -- light shows, loud music, Ahmad Rashad, biased officiating, pre-determined outcomes (?), lights, camera, action!!! Put on a good show, rather than a good game. The press and the league buries their collective heads in the sand and ignores the lack of good basketball in favor of squeezing a few more cents that was Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
Now, with all that said, I have little interest in reading a book about the turmoil on the Bulls. Why did I pick it up at all? Because the author, Roland Lazenby, is a fair writer, who doesn't get caught up in the hype and possesses an eye for detail. His book The Lakers is objective basketball writing at its best.
I must say, I was surprised at the quality, even though he has a road record. He quotes darn-well everybody in the Bulls' organization. The book is about the breakup of the Bulls dynasty. Instead of reporting the final months, he goes back years and shows the underlying currents that built up and pulled the team apart. The popular media was always portraying Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Phil Jackson as faultless angels and General Manager Jerry Krause and owner Jerry Reinsdorf as "bad guys" who want to rip the team apart, rebuild it, just to prove how good they are. Easy, cut-and-dry, pigeonhole everyone into simple categories -- the way of the modern media.
Instead, Lazenby shows that the fault was everybody's. Their big egos and craving for attention caused them to alienate each other. You saw the way all sides tried to manipulate the press and look good, rather than attempt to put apart their differences and work together to find a solution. You see what a jerk Michael Jordan can be when the cameras aren't on him. You see how he has carried a chip on his shoulder for daring to care about his well-being in 1986. You see the chip he carried for not drafting guys he wanted (namely, fellow North Carolina players), and never acknowledging that Krause made good acquisitions (he assembled all but one player on the first 3 title teams, then replaced 10 of the 12 players from the 1993 team and won a title 3 years later). You see how Jordan antagonizes teammates and belittles them -- sometimes because of humor and sometimes because he's just a jerk.
You see how Jerry Krause prides himself on finding diamonds in the rough (such as Jackson, Pippen, and Kukoc) and how loyal he can be, such as helping Bill Cartwright find doctors who could repair his voice, long after he had left the Bulls. You also see how his competitive nature in negotiations alienated the players who worked for him.
You'll also see how Jerry Reinsdorf was unfairly treated in the press for quotes he never said. You see that his un-George-Steinbrenner-like ways (putting competent people in charge, and not meddling) resulted in him being grouped with Krause.
You'll also see how Scottie Pippen put himself into the contractual mess from which he often complained about, but also, how why he felt no loyalty to the Bulls beyond the contractual issues.
This book is a 3-dimensional look at a story that
has been reported 1-dimensionally. It's a breath of fresh air from what is normally
associated with the Bulls. If you have any interest in the Bulls, this is probably the
best book I've read on them. It's a must-read for those who have this interest. If you
like fair and unbiased reporting, then you should pick this up. If you hate the Bulls and
everything about them makes you queasy, then you will probably not like this. If I weren't
closer to the latter, I'd give this 5-starts, but my personal bias holds it down a notch.
History: 1997-98 mostly with some refereces to late 80s, early 90s
Blood on the Horns: The long, strange ride of
Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls. By Roland Lazenby. Addax Publishing Group. 1998.