Michael Jordan is haunted by the violence that has surrounded the release of some of his wildly popular Air Jordan basketball sneakers, USA Today sportswriter Roland Lazenby says.
"He doesn’t like any of that stuff. He has felt deeply" about it, Lazenby, author of the new biography "Michael Jordan: The Life,"
told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
Over the years, fans of Jordan — considered the greatest basketball player in history — have engaged in riots, beatings, even murder, to get their hands on the pricey sneakers that can sell for $170 a pair and more. In one case, a 15-year-old high schoolboy was choked to death for a pair of Air Jordans in 1989.
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The violence has particularly affected the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards shooting guard because of the senseless murder of his father, James Jordan, who was shot by two men in 1993, according to Lazenby.
"If you’ve ever known the family of a homicide victim, they are profoundly changed. Michael was profoundly changed," he said.
"When he came back to basketball after playing baseball, he was dealing with huge levels of anger.''
Lazenby said Jordan, whom he has a good relationship with, did not cooperate with him in the writing of the book — but he wasn't surprised.
"I’ve written much about the Bulls and covered much of Michael’s career. He’s helped me with other book projects, but biographies are a different thing,'' he said.
"It’s an independent examination, and so I went and told Michael personally I was doing it, but I did not anticipate that he would want to participate."
One area of the hoop legend's life that is tackled by Lazenby is his gambling problem. But the author doesn't believe Jordan's wagering is anywhere near the severity of somebody like baseball great Pete Rose.
"There’s been a lot of speculation on that over the years, but the evidence doesn’t really add up,'' he said.
"Michael has said repeatedly, I’m not Pete Rose … [and] no one in any way anonymously, on the record, off the record, has ever accused him of betting on basketball, betting on his own games.
"[And] David Stern the [then-NBA] commissioner, went out of his way to make sure Jordan became an owner [of a team, the Charlotte Bobcats]. He really made a huge effort. You don’t do that for gamblers. Now Michael has continued to gamble legally, as he has casinos, he bets on golf, but … the NBA has a long history of its players doing that kind of betting."
Lazenby's book, published by Little Brown and Company, is out this week.
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