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When Nothing Else Matters


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Michael Leahy is a staff writer with The Washington Post and The Washington Post Magazine. The recipient of numerous awards for journalistic excellence, Leahy's work was selected for the 2001, 2002 and 2003 editions of THE BEST OF AMERICAN SPORTS WRITING anthologies.


Stephanie Davis, "GQ," November '04

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 moremelancholy 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.

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