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Three-Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty

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The story of the Lakers dynasty from 1996 through 2004, when Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal combined—and collided—to help bring the Lakers three straight championships and restore the franchise as a powerhouse In the history of modern sport, there have never been two high-level teammates who loathed each other the way Shaquille O’Neal loathed Kobe Bryant, and Kobe Bryant The story of the Lakers dynasty from 1996 through 2004, when Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal combined—and collided—to help bring the Lakers three straight championships and restore the franchise as a powerhouse In the history of modern sport, there have never been two high-level teammates who loathed each other the way Shaquille O’Neal loathed Kobe Bryant, and Kobe Bryant loathed Shaquille O’Neal. From public sniping and sparring, to physical altercations and the repeated threats of trade, it was warfare. And yet, despite eight years of infighting and hostility, by turns mediated and encouraged by coach Phil Jackson, the Shaq-Kobe duo resulted in one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history. Together, the two led the Lakers to three straight championships and returned glory and excitement to Los Angeles.  In the tradition of Jeff Pearlman’s bestsellers Showtime, Boys Will Be Boys, and The Bad Guys Won, Three-Ring Circus is a rollicking deep dive into one of sports’ most fraught yet successful pairings. 


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The story of the Lakers dynasty from 1996 through 2004, when Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal combined—and collided—to help bring the Lakers three straight championships and restore the franchise as a powerhouse In the history of modern sport, there have never been two high-level teammates who loathed each other the way Shaquille O’Neal loathed Kobe Bryant, and Kobe Bryant The story of the Lakers dynasty from 1996 through 2004, when Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal combined—and collided—to help bring the Lakers three straight championships and restore the franchise as a powerhouse In the history of modern sport, there have never been two high-level teammates who loathed each other the way Shaquille O’Neal loathed Kobe Bryant, and Kobe Bryant loathed Shaquille O’Neal. From public sniping and sparring, to physical altercations and the repeated threats of trade, it was warfare. And yet, despite eight years of infighting and hostility, by turns mediated and encouraged by coach Phil Jackson, the Shaq-Kobe duo resulted in one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history. Together, the two led the Lakers to three straight championships and returned glory and excitement to Los Angeles.  In the tradition of Jeff Pearlman’s bestsellers Showtime, Boys Will Be Boys, and The Bad Guys Won, Three-Ring Circus is a rollicking deep dive into one of sports’ most fraught yet successful pairings. 

30 review for Three-Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty

  1. 4 out of 5

    P Knightly

    The Author claims he’s painting a real picture of Kobe during this era (similar to how MJ was shown in The Last Dance). The Last Dance was executed better because MJ was still shown as the man and an iconic hooper in The Last Dance. Imagine if they said Jordan was a bad person and left it at that. That’s what this book does...says Kobe a mean selfish person and leaves it at that. This book always takes shots at Kobe and never once paints a real picture of how lethal of a basketball player Kobe B The Author claims he’s painting a real picture of Kobe during this era (similar to how MJ was shown in The Last Dance). The Last Dance was executed better because MJ was still shown as the man and an iconic hooper in The Last Dance. Imagine if they said Jordan was a bad person and left it at that. That’s what this book does...says Kobe a mean selfish person and leaves it at that. This book always takes shots at Kobe and never once paints a real picture of how lethal of a basketball player Kobe Bryant was during this era. It’s like the Author just said “he’s a terrible person and decent at basketball”. Super in-depth with his flaws but not in-depth with his good attributes or skill level. Honestly save your money and buy 11 Rings by Phil Jackson or Showboat by Ronald Lazenby. Any props he gives Kobe is followed by sarcasm. No highlights of any of the good things he did during this time.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Shiney

    My formative years were spent watching and loving this team. They were my heroes and I lived and died by what the Lakers did on the court. However, I did not realize the true extent of the drama that went on off the court. Jeff Pearlman paints a vivid picture of the dysfunction that enveloped this team from 1996-2004 with no respite. I have spent much time in the years that followed wondering how many titles they left on the table by breaking up the duo of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. After My formative years were spent watching and loving this team. They were my heroes and I lived and died by what the Lakers did on the court. However, I did not realize the true extent of the drama that went on off the court. Jeff Pearlman paints a vivid picture of the dysfunction that enveloped this team from 1996-2004 with no respite. I have spent much time in the years that followed wondering how many titles they left on the table by breaking up the duo of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. After reading this book, the appropriate question should be, “How did this team win any titles?” Kobe, my childhood hero, was the worst possible co-worker imaginable. Shaq was an affable, fun-loving, generous teammate, but deep insecurities exacerbated an already explosive situation with his immature co-star who could not accept that Shaq was the straw that stirred the Lakers’ drink. The less dynamic Laker role players on the court like Rick Fox, Brian Shaw and Derek Fisher were the stars off the court by keeping this team from imploding for as long as they did. Everyone is aware of the Shaq-Kobe relationship, but Pearlman does a fantastic job filling in the gaps by bringing those periphery characters to life - people like Nick Van Exel, Mike Penberthy, JR Rider and much more. Pearlman takes you right in the middle of that terrible night in Colorado in painstaking, uncomfortable detail. He pulls no punches. Yet other parts of the book he brings a sense of humor and an appreciation for the absurdity of the whole enterprise of those Lakers teams. This book was completed before the death of Kobe. While this book is not a flattering portrayal of the Black Mamba, Pearlman does a good job acknowledging that this is a factual picture of what Kobe was like in those years, not necessarily a representation of what he became before his death. It is detailed enough without being bogged down in the minutiae. It is a brisk, fast-paced narrative. I would recommend this book on a vital piece of basketball history to anyone interested in the Lakers, whether they love them or hate them (there usually isn’t an middle ground).

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tom Gase

    A very good, well-written, thoroughly reported book on the Los Angles Lakers from around 1996-2004 that featured Kobe, Shaq and later on Phil Jackson. Author Jeff Pearlman talks about every season and how the Lakers were able to get Kobe and Shaq in 1996 through the draft and free agency. Not only are the two superstars discussed, but you also hear great stories on players such as Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones, Glen Rice, Rick Fox, Robert Horry, Derek Fisher, Byron Scott, J.R. Rider, Karl Malone an A very good, well-written, thoroughly reported book on the Los Angles Lakers from around 1996-2004 that featured Kobe, Shaq and later on Phil Jackson. Author Jeff Pearlman talks about every season and how the Lakers were able to get Kobe and Shaq in 1996 through the draft and free agency. Not only are the two superstars discussed, but you also hear great stories on players such as Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones, Glen Rice, Rick Fox, Robert Horry, Derek Fisher, Byron Scott, J.R. Rider, Karl Malone and Gary Payton as well as many others I had forgotten were on the team once upon a time. All the feuds and NBA titles are discussed and yep, so is the Kobe Bryant rape case. What I got out of this book is during this time Shaq could sometimes be a tad lazy, but at least he was a good solid person and teammate. Kobe, eh, not as much. Hell of a player, but his ego was off the charts and wasn't a good teammate or person really, especially to rookies on his team. Pearlman has written other great books on Walter Payton, Brett Favre, the USFL, the 1990s Dallas Cowboys and the 1986 Mets. This book kind of feels like a sequel of sorts, because he wrote a very good book on the Lakers teams of the 1980s. But this one is even better. Good stuff once again.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ben Schwind

    This is really well researched and a great read for basketball fans. It has everything from insights from Shaq to Mike Penberthy. If you're looking for a book that fondly remembers Kobe with rose colored glasses, this is not it. It's very critical of #8, with the stories from teammates, coaching staff, and front office members to back it up. But there's plenty of blame to go around, this book doesn't deify any member of the Lakers organization, Magic included. Its not a story about how a team ba This is really well researched and a great read for basketball fans. It has everything from insights from Shaq to Mike Penberthy. If you're looking for a book that fondly remembers Kobe with rose colored glasses, this is not it. It's very critical of #8, with the stories from teammates, coaching staff, and front office members to back it up. But there's plenty of blame to go around, this book doesn't deify any member of the Lakers organization, Magic included. Its not a story about how a team banded together and overcame adversity but more how this team managed to win despite their incredible egos. If you're looking for inside stories and examination of one of the most disfuctional basketball dynasties in history, this is the read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Robert Pulvermacher

    As someone who is not that huge a fan of basketball but will ready everything Pearlman ever writes, this was a fantastic peek into one of the most talented teams of all times, and how amazingly onerous it must have been to interact with a early 20's kobe bryant. There's no good guys here, only a bunch of egomaniacal, incredibly talented sons of bitches. Great read, felt perhaps a bit overly cynical and gossip-ey. As someone who is not that huge a fan of basketball but will ready everything Pearlman ever writes, this was a fantastic peek into one of the most talented teams of all times, and how amazingly onerous it must have been to interact with a early 20's kobe bryant. There's no good guys here, only a bunch of egomaniacal, incredibly talented sons of bitches. Great read, felt perhaps a bit overly cynical and gossip-ey.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Abby Huette

    I knew nothing about the Lakers dynasty, so this was an informative read. I did feel that there was a lot of repetition in the description of the characters. Shaq was lovable but not driven. Kobe was narcissistic, socially inept, but extremely driven. I left the book with questions...was the author slanted against Kobe or was he really that difficult of a person/teammate? Did Shaq and Kobe reconcile post retirement? Did Kobe mature with age and become a more likable person? Was he deified in dea I knew nothing about the Lakers dynasty, so this was an informative read. I did feel that there was a lot of repetition in the description of the characters. Shaq was lovable but not driven. Kobe was narcissistic, socially inept, but extremely driven. I left the book with questions...was the author slanted against Kobe or was he really that difficult of a person/teammate? Did Shaq and Kobe reconcile post retirement? Did Kobe mature with age and become a more likable person? Was he deified in death by those who didn’t actually know him while those who did had no relationship with him?...I’d love to know more about the post dynasty years, so I was left wanting.

  7. 4 out of 5

    James Scoolis

    Overall, this was a disappointing read. Pearlman excels at telling the dirt on everyone and unflinchingly pointing out their flaws. As he wrote in this review of dysfunctional basketball, everyone was either a Kobe guy or a Shaq guy. Pearlman was definitely NOT a Kobe guy. To believe this tale, there has never been a more despicable or selfish human than Kobe Bryant. He does have a lot of good things to say about Shaq and other lesser lights who I presume gave him the time of day during his rese Overall, this was a disappointing read. Pearlman excels at telling the dirt on everyone and unflinchingly pointing out their flaws. As he wrote in this review of dysfunctional basketball, everyone was either a Kobe guy or a Shaq guy. Pearlman was definitely NOT a Kobe guy. To believe this tale, there has never been a more despicable or selfish human than Kobe Bryant. He does have a lot of good things to say about Shaq and other lesser lights who I presume gave him the time of day during his research, like Mike Penberthy (who?) who is painted with a very favorable brush. The three-peating NBA Champion Lakers apparently did very few things well, at least according to Pearlman. I was a fan at the time and remember the drama and immaturity of it all but, it could not have been as bad as it is described here. For the most part it’s a painful read unless you hate Kobe, then this is the book for you and will make your black heart soar. For a more interesting and well written review of the disastrous 2003-04 Laker team, read Phil Jackson's "The Last Season"; Pearlman obviously did as he lifted most of the conversations verbatim in his book from Phil's superior telling.

  8. 5 out of 5

    John House

    If you wanted to do a hit piece on Kobe, wouldn’t it have been more courageous to release it while he was still with us?

  9. 4 out of 5

    David Kateeb

    Great writing. Incredible reporting. My favorite author.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dustin Griffin

    Great story. Does not hold one single thing back in regards to Kobe Bryant’s personality foibles and rape accusation. Which is pretty ballsy considering the man just died and the entire world is still mourning that. My only gripe is that Pearlman borrows too heavily from Phil Jackson’s own book The Last Season. Fascinating story though.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mwalizadeh

    Quick read. I would recommend it for Lakers fans, but not others. Good behind the scene stories, many I never heard before. But I felt the book leaned on the negative stories and ran through the positives too quick. I would not remove the drama or bullshit. But when you give multiple 10+ game winning streaks no more than a sentence, you lose the details, color and behind the scene stories of their dominance.

  12. 4 out of 5

    James Dillard

    The conventional wisdom about the great Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal Laker teams of the early 2000s goes like this: Shaq was content for basketball to be one of his many interests, while Kobe was solely focused basketball above anything else. They were a poor fit as teammates, and ultimately went their separate ways, dooming the dynasty. This is how I remembered it and I don’t think I’m unique. The Lakers were the first great team I knew as an NBA fan. While I have hazy memories of the second The conventional wisdom about the great Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal Laker teams of the early 2000s goes like this: Shaq was content for basketball to be one of his many interests, while Kobe was solely focused basketball above anything else. They were a poor fit as teammates, and ultimately went their separate ways, dooming the dynasty. This is how I remembered it and I don’t think I’m unique. The Lakers were the first great team I knew as an NBA fan. While I have hazy memories of the second Bulls dynasty, I clearly recall the unstoppable force of the Shaq / Kobe Lakers clearly. After reading Three Ring Circus, Jeff Pearlman’s recent book about these Lakers teams, I realize that my understanding of these teams, why they succeeded and fell apart was wrong. Shaq and Kobe weren’t too different to effectively coexist. Like a basketball episode of the Good Place, they were perfectly calibrated to torture each other. Three Ring Circus is the story of the Lakers championship teams from the early 2000s. Shaquille O’Neal, the star center. Phil Jackson, the wise coach, and of course, Kobe Bryant, the kid. The book tells the story of how they came together, dominated the league, and ultimately collapsed under the weight of their egos. It’s incredibly well sourced and a must-read for NBA fans. In a way, it acts as a sort of spiritual sequel to The Last Dance, picking the league up and some of the main characters where the documentary series left off. Because of the period it covers, it also serves as a biography of the first 26 years of Kobe Bryant’s life, from his childhood in Italy through his rape trial in Eagle, Colorado. While Shaq is the key to the team’s dominance on the court, Kobe is the key to understanding what was happening off the court and why this dominant team just couldn’t stay together. He is as arrogant and selfish as Shaq is out of shape, if not more so. If Shaq’s critical flaw is that he isn’t willing to put in the work in the off season to take care of his body and extend his prime, then Kobe’s critical flaw is that he would rather be the star of the team than work with Shaq to win. I entered the book thinking that Shaq and Kobe were too different to coexist for longer than they did. I left it thinking that they were too similar — ultimately both men only wanted to win on their own terms. For Shaq, this meant enjoying life off the court; for Kobe, this meant being the star of the show with the ball in his hands. Both men expected to be the center of attention in his own way. Unlike MJ and Scottie, they never could manage to get beyond it for the greater good of the team. The book’s greatest strength is the way that it tells this story for all of the characters that enter it. Del Harris is tactically brilliant, but unable to adapt his style to a new generation of players. Nick Van Excel has all the physical gifts, but he lets little slights from others convince him he’s unvalued. J.R. Rider has all the physical gifts, but can’t figure out the work habits of being a professional. The tension between one’s own strengths and flaws, the desire to do something special as a team and desire to shine as an individual are immensely relatable. It’s impossible to read this book and not think of Kobe Bryant’s untimely death and the eulogizing that happened afterwards, particularly from other athletes. Even before the alleged rape (which the book strongly suggests should’ve resulted in a conviction), Kobe comes off particularly poorly. While Shaq’s flaws are relatable, Kobe comes off as arrogant to the point of being delusional and cruel to those less talented than he is. The question hanging over the book is, “How did this kid who everyone hated become that guy everyone loved?” That it is never answered is the book’s greatest flaw. In the preface of the book, Pearlman tells the story of how the book was finished when Kobe’s shocking death happened. He goes out of his way to explain that who a person is from seventeen to twenty six isn’t the sum total of who they are to avoid the charge of speaking ill of the deceased. Answering the question of how and to what extent Kobe changed over the second half of his career would’ve led to a different book and it’s certainly certainly understandable why an author, having just completed a book as thoroughly researched as this one, wouldn’t be eager to start over. But as it is, the ending of the book feels incomplete, like it’s only part one. Despite this, I enjoyed the book immensely. Sign me up for a sequel.

  13. 5 out of 5

    ADAM

    Jeff Pearlman is really mean spirited and not as funny as he thinks but it was fun to read about that era of lakers history. Could’ve been a fun 500 page books if maybe he focused just a tad bit more on the positive.

  14. 5 out of 5

    John Marricco

    By far one of the most enjoyable sports books I have ever read. Jeff Pearlman does his research. I follow sports religiously, yet Jeff always brings up things I had forgotten that makes his books so wonderful. It's almost like being transported back in time when I opened this, and all of his books. I was in my twenties living in Vail, Co during the years discussed in this book, so it really hit home for me. Jeff loves what he does and it shows in his work, plus it doesn't hurt that he has in inc By far one of the most enjoyable sports books I have ever read. Jeff Pearlman does his research. I follow sports religiously, yet Jeff always brings up things I had forgotten that makes his books so wonderful. It's almost like being transported back in time when I opened this, and all of his books. I was in my twenties living in Vail, Co during the years discussed in this book, so it really hit home for me. Jeff loves what he does and it shows in his work, plus it doesn't hurt that he has in incredible wife(who happened to go to high school with my wife). Again, I cannot express how sad I was that this book had to end. I will reading Jeff's book on Walter Payton next, can't wait! Keep writing Jeff!!!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Nelson

    Pearlman's books are smooth and fluid reads. This one will take you back to the ups and downs of the Lakers championship run with Shaq and Kobe. You've probably heard many of these stories and accounts before, but there were a few nuggets that I had not heard before. If you followed the team you will enjoy this. It confirms the success, the fights, the bickering, and the questionable decisions and behavior of some of the top NBA stars. I was always more on Shaq's side of the feud and this book w Pearlman's books are smooth and fluid reads. This one will take you back to the ups and downs of the Lakers championship run with Shaq and Kobe. You've probably heard many of these stories and accounts before, but there were a few nuggets that I had not heard before. If you followed the team you will enjoy this. It confirms the success, the fights, the bickering, and the questionable decisions and behavior of some of the top NBA stars. I was always more on Shaq's side of the feud and this book will confirm the worst of the worst about Kobe.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jake

    (TW: this book mentions Kobe Bryant’s rape case and so does this review. The book goes into graphic detail; the review does not.) I always enjoy Jeff Pearlman’s sports books and this one was no exception. Just as he did for the Showtime Lakers, so he does for the Shaq-Kobe Lakers. Personally speaking, I hated those teams. I thought they were arrogant and selfish. I rooted hard against them in the Finals every year. But that was also in the time when I didn’t care much for the NBA. Nowadays, it’s m (TW: this book mentions Kobe Bryant’s rape case and so does this review. The book goes into graphic detail; the review does not.) I always enjoy Jeff Pearlman’s sports books and this one was no exception. Just as he did for the Showtime Lakers, so he does for the Shaq-Kobe Lakers. Personally speaking, I hated those teams. I thought they were arrogant and selfish. I rooted hard against them in the Finals every year. But that was also in the time when I didn’t care much for the NBA. Nowadays, it’s maybe my favorite sports league. Pearlman gets into the heart of why: the cockiness of Kobe and the laziness of Shaq and the general obnoxiousness of Phil Jackson. They were great, at times dominant but their dominance always felt boring. Kobe was desperate to be MJ, Shaq needed to be loved. As Bill Simmons once accurately put it: they were two bullies who teamed up to split the lunch money. What makes Pearlman’s books so good is his willingness to talk to lesser players and figures. Those folks always have stories to tell and a better perspective than the stars. Every time I read his tales about these teams, I’ve felt like I’ve got a full picture of them. He’s very good at drawing from multiple sources to help understand what makes the teams tick. Also, without knowing or remembering the full details of Kobe Bryant’s rape case, Pearlman addresses it, sparing no detail. But he doesn’t do it gratuitously; rather, it gives the full picture of the man and how the organization protected him. It’s pretty damning of Bryant and it’s likely that his untimely death prevented public sentiment from retroactively turning against him. The only downside to this book is Pearlman’s constant use of bad metaphors/similes. It’s grating and beneath such a capable writer. Otherwise, this is another winner of his. I enjoy his books so much. It seems like he’s on an every-other-year pace and I can’t wait to read the next one.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Allen Adams

    https://www.themaineedge.com/sports/c... We’re living in the age of the superteam in the NBA. While the league has always been star-driven, the necessity of those stars has never been more apparent. If you want to win a ring, you NEED at least two top-tier superstars. These days, assembling those dynamic duos or titanic trios involves players actively recruiting one another, with stars seeking out paths to play with other stars that they like and/or admire. It wasn’t always that way, though. Two d https://www.themaineedge.com/sports/c... We’re living in the age of the superteam in the NBA. While the league has always been star-driven, the necessity of those stars has never been more apparent. If you want to win a ring, you NEED at least two top-tier superstars. These days, assembling those dynamic duos or titanic trios involves players actively recruiting one another, with stars seeking out paths to play with other stars that they like and/or admire. It wasn’t always that way, though. Two decades ago, we watched the most talented pairing in the league rise to dizzying dynastic heights even as they were engaged in an ongoing and off-putting internal fight. Jeff Pearlman’s “Three-Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty” dives deep into the eight-year stretch – from 1996-2004 – where two of the greatest basketball players of not just their generation but of all time team up to bring a string of titles to the Los Angeles Lakers even as their own interpersonal antipathy rages and boils beneath the surface. All while a renowned and legendary coach largely removes himself from the fray, content to let it work itself out. It is a magnificently and meticulously detailed work, one featuring deep-dive interviews with all manner of people connected to that tumultuous time in the history of one of the NBA’s most storied franchises. It’s an unflinching and often unflattering portrait of the men who led L.A. to the top of the mountain; frankly, learning the extent of the chaos renders the championship victories all the more impressive. Let’s get this out of the way up top: Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant hated each other. HATED each other. These men loathed each other with a virulent specificity that infected every aspect of the Lakers organization. Even at the height of their considerable success – not a lot of NBA three-peats out there – their mutual disdain cast a pall over it all. Through hundreds of interviews and countless hours of poring over words written and spoken about this stretch, “Three-Ring Circus” is as comprehensive a look at this period as one could possibly imagine. It is absolutely packed with detail, drawn from reminiscences given by some of the team’s biggest names and – far more interestingly – some of the guys who played in the outsized shadows cast by the two clashing alpha dogs at the top of the depth chart. Let’s talk about those two. In 1996, Shaquille O’Neal was in the midst one of the most dominant starts to a career in NBA history. He was a physical force of nature who was disgruntled by the perceived lack of respect shown to him by Orlando, the organization that drafted him. So, when Lakers owner Jerry Buss ponied up a massive contract number, O’Neal took it and made his way west. He was a legitimate superstar. In 1996, Kobe Bryant was a gifted high school senior who surprised everyone by declaring for the NBA draft. The return of high schoolers to the draft mix was still new; Kone was the first non-big to attempt to make the leap. He had plenty of skill, but he also sported a combination of arrogance and insecurity that resulted in something of an attitude problem. He believed himself to be the best player on any court he stepped onto. Together? Well, let’s just say that this was a match made not in heaven, but … the other place. The first couple of years featuring the two were bumpy, to be sure. Coaches like Del Harris and Kurt Rambis proved largely unable to mediate any sort of peace between the two. Shaq was an established figure in the NBA, one at the peak of his physical powers. He had proven his worth and expected the game plan to reflect his status as the offensive focus. Kobe, however, walked into the gym and just started firing away, putting up shots at a ludicrous volume (and not making nearly enough to justify the itchy trigger finger). It wasn’t until the sage Phil Jackson turned up that the results began to fully match the talent. With his Zen guru reputation and his six rings, Jackson was viewed as a potential savior. He brought in his personal offensive philosophy and the longtime assistant who largely developed it – the triangle and Tex Winter, respectively – and helped lead the team to three straight titles in 2000-2002. But the behind-the-scenes tensions never went away. Not even championship success was enough for Shaq and Kobe to put their differences aside. Shaq had some struggles with health and motivation, one often springing directly from the other. Kobe proved unable to fit in, his hypercompetitive attitude often proving detrimental to his performance on the court and his relationships with not just Shaq, but all of his teammates. By all accounts, young Kobe was a tremendous jerk. (It should be noted that this book was completed before Bryant’s tragic and untimely death earlier this year. Pearlman addresses this in a late addendum to the book, writing an introduction that explains the timing and acknowledging that the man he wrote about here is not the same man that Bryant would ultimately grow to become.) “Three-Ring Circus” is unwavering in laying out the realities of these relationships, warts and all. Whether it was the on-court struggles for dominance or the off-court controversies – including Bryant’s 2003 sexual assault arrest – Pearlman digs deep and shines a light on it all. Pearlman’s ability to narratively engage while also executing top-notch reportage is what makes all of his books such worthwhile reads – this latest effort is no different. One of the many striking things about this book is the vividness of the recollections being offered. So many of the players, coaches and administrators involved in this time have remarkably clear memories of these events. No surprise, really – one imagines that sharing space with two hate-filled greats sticks with you. Still, the thoroughness of the stories being recounted provides a wonderfully detailed foundation, rendering a complete picture of a uniquely weird situation – one that defined an era of NBA basketball. “Three-Ring Circus” is a phenomenal book for any basketball fan, an outstanding and engaging deconstruction of the costs and rewards that come with the pursuit of greatness. It’s the kind of engaging sports history story at which Jeff Pearlman excels, smart and surprising and page-turningly compelling – an absolute slam dunk.

  18. 5 out of 5

    David Hughey

    Intro - Kobe - Samaki Walker “fight” First Chapter - Magic sucked as a teammate during his comeback - Cedric Ceballos was a clown 😂 Second Chapter (The Chosen One) - Iverson and Ray Allen were beefing - Kobe announcing that he was going to skip college and go straight to Nba at a press conference at his high school sounded hilarious (Boyz II Men were there watching) - Kobe’s dad was a big draft bust - ^ first round pick, got pulled over and had bags of coke in the car (“he had a lot of Kevin Durant in Intro - Kobe - Samaki Walker “fight” First Chapter - Magic sucked as a teammate during his comeback - Cedric Ceballos was a clown 😂 Second Chapter (The Chosen One) - Iverson and Ray Allen were beefing - Kobe announcing that he was going to skip college and go straight to Nba at a press conference at his high school sounded hilarious (Boyz II Men were there watching) - Kobe’s dad was a big draft bust - ^ first round pick, got pulled over and had bags of coke in the car (“he had a lot of Kevin Durant in him...” - The only high school juniors at the ‘94 ABCD camp were Kobe, Marbury and Shammgod Wells (both NYC) - Nets GM really wanted to draft Kobe but owner didn’t want to draft a high school kid and Coach Calipari was scared bc Kobe agent told him not to draft Kobe Fifth Chapter - Lakers were able to get Horry bc he threw a towel at Danny Ainges face (coach in PHO) so they were desperate to get rid of him Sixth Chapter - In Kobe’s 2nd season, nobody would acknowledge him when he entered the locker room and nobody ever talked to him really - Rick Fox took $1 mil from the Lakers over a $20 mil contract from the Cavs bc “Cleveland sucks” - Shaq punched Ostertaag during pregame shoot around in Jazz playoff series (107) - Trump stops fight b/w Kobe & other player in elevator story (114) - 1-2-3 Cancun came from practice before game 4 in West Finals vs Jazz when lakers were down 0-3 (119) - Shaq wanted/expected to have a big/little bro relationship with Kobe, but Kobe wasn’t interested in that at all Seventh Chapter - Shaq snacked Kobe in the face in a Pickup game during the lockout in ‘88-‘89 season (125) - Dennis Rodman gave a press conference b4 even being signed by the Lakers and basically just roasted the young players on the Lakers roster. “I just called this press conference to see if you would all show up, and you did haha.” (133-134) - ^ from same press conference: Rodman starts crying when a reporter called him selfish for wasting their time. “I’ve got 10 charities here that I’m going to give $10,000 to. You tell me if that’s selfish.” (He pointed to a takeout menu...) - Ridiculous Rodman stories. Showered b4 games - would lay down on the court in the middle of practice - showered b4 games not after - (140) - Rodman played 23 games total for the Lakers - 13 technical fouls - 141 - Glen Rice ‘96/‘97 season stats on b-ball reference... - Shaq invited the entire team to a restaurant in Miami, Kobe was the only one who didn’t go, but then showed up 30 minutes later at his own table alone with a book (146) Eight Chapter - Phil Jackson hire (150) - Phil won 2 rings with the Knicks in the 70s - Phil coached in the CBA and in Puerto Rico - Tex Winters was trying to convince Doug Collins to implement the triangle offense but he wouldn’t listen. Phil was down with it (similar to Jonah Hills character in Moneyball bc Billy Beane actually listened to him. Not like Beane or Phil Jackson cane up with this stuff on their own.) - 156 - Phil and Jerry West played against each other in the 70s (158) - Staples Center opened in Oct. 1999 Ninth Chapter - Kobe vs Chris Child’s fight. Helped the team have Kobe’s back and at least somewhat embrace him (179) - Shaq book in 2001 “Shaq Talks Back” (189) - Crazy comeback in Game 7 in West Finals vs Portland (192) - Lakers first championship season Tenth Chapter - Jerry West stepped down as Exec VP of Basketball Ops bc he didn’t get along with Phil - JR Rider stories (206) - Jail Blazers: How the Portland Trail Blazers Became...” (209) - Stories about Shaq being nice to teammates (215) - “Shaq could never fully get past Bryant’s refusal to embrace him. Everybody loved Shaq, so why didn’t Kobe? He was supposed to come and seek advice - but never did.” (222) Twelfth Chapter - Kings were the #1 seed in 2002 - Kobe got food poisoning before game 2 vs kings - Game 6 West Finals vs Kings - referee stuff (267) - ^ Lakers shot 27 free throws in the 4th quarter alone... Chapter Thirteen - Doug Christie-Rick Fox fight in tunnel (277) - Phil Jackson told Tex Winter that he couldn’t sit next to him on the bench during games anymore because he wanted to get the credit for the team’s success Chapter 14 - all about Kobes rape allegation (294) - The reason Kobe was even in CO when the rape happened was bc he was secretly getting surgery done that the Lakers didn’t know about - Kobe didn’t wait for an attorney or anything before talking to the detectives at the hotel where it happened - Happened after the Lakers lost to the Spurs in the West Conf Finals in 2003 Chapter 15 - When talking to the detectives, Kobe stated that “Shaq would pay his women not to say anything. Shaq has paid up to a million dollars for situations like this.” (318) - There was a t shirt in Kobe’s hope room that had the chicks blood all over it (327) - Karl Malone got a 13 year old pregnant when he was 20 in college... Chapter 16 - the lakers agreed to pay for a percentage of all the travel costs for Kobe going to and from CO for court appearances - Talks about how Kobe started acting strange during the season when he was in trial for the rape. (336-338) - ^ “his god-related quotations increased one hundredfold.” - ^ sounds kinda like Kyrie... - At one point in the season, Kobe was the leading vote getter in the West for the All Star Game (343) - Kobe was late to a game because he flew directly from CO after a hearing and went straight to Staples Center and then hit a game winner...101-99 vs Nuggets (346) - I didn’t realize that Gary Payton started over D Fish in 2004 - Phil was so fed up with Kobe that he called his agent to resign midway thru the 2004 season (349) - Phil called Rick Fox & Shaq into his hotel room and asked them if they thought they could win a championship with Kobe. They both said no (350) Chapter 17 - Kobe scores 42 against Spurs in game 3 of West semis after flying back from another hearing in CO that morning - Sam Cassell tore his groin doing the big balls dance 😂 (361) - Chauncey explains the Pistons game plan for beating the Lakers in the Finals (371) Chapter 18 - case was dropped against Kobe on Sept 1 2004 bc the chick said it was all too much and that she just wanted it to end (385) - After that, Kobe gives some weird statement where he basically admits that it was rape. “I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.” (386) - Kobe then paid her a shit ton of money AND bought her a house in Denver Overall - Funny how when I was 9 or 10 watching the Lakers in 2004, I thought they just choked against the Pistons. I had no idea about all these issues going on chemistry-wise

  19. 4 out of 5

    Darren Dash

    Pearlman iclearly just hates Kobe Bryant. No way around it. Pretty good book other than his constant, bias shots taken at Kobe

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kris Habbas

    I have ingested 0 seconds of Kobe Bryant "content" since his passing. It is just too hard and I am not ready for it. I started this book naively excited, but foolishly blind, and as the intro discussed his death I almost broke down. Obviously for some, this is not an issue. For me it was. Overall the book has great stories, insight, and fills in the cracks everything for the Lakers rise and fall as a dynasty in the late 90's, early 00's. Really good read and trip back in time. I have ingested 0 seconds of Kobe Bryant "content" since his passing. It is just too hard and I am not ready for it. I started this book naively excited, but foolishly blind, and as the intro discussed his death I almost broke down. Obviously for some, this is not an issue. For me it was. Overall the book has great stories, insight, and fills in the cracks everything for the Lakers rise and fall as a dynasty in the late 90's, early 00's. Really good read and trip back in time.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Montague

    I thoroughly enjoyed this heavily researched look at the Laker years from 1996 to 2004. Jeff Pearlman wrote a book that found a beautiful symbiosis between a factual game by game look and a gossipy rag. He takes the reader into a deep dive of personalities which encapsulated this era of the Lakers. He is an independent voice who does not hide or shield any of the players. He is not interested in providing hagiographies of the greats of the era (Shaq, Kobe or Phil Jackson). There are plenty of bi I thoroughly enjoyed this heavily researched look at the Laker years from 1996 to 2004. Jeff Pearlman wrote a book that found a beautiful symbiosis between a factual game by game look and a gossipy rag. He takes the reader into a deep dive of personalities which encapsulated this era of the Lakers. He is an independent voice who does not hide or shield any of the players. He is not interested in providing hagiographies of the greats of the era (Shaq, Kobe or Phil Jackson). There are plenty of biographies of the aforementioned "stars", thankfully this is not of them. Like, previous works I have read from Pearlman on the USFL, the Dallas Cowboys and the 1980s Lakers, this book is exhaustively researched. From bench dwellers to assistant coaches to team equipment managers we get a true nuts and bolts experience. It is through various interviews and anecdotes that we learn about the dynamics of the team. From the view of an admittedly hater of this team (fuck the Lakers), I was mesmerized by the utter contempt that the two shining lights had for one another. The amount of jealousies and perceived and real slights that each harbored towards one another could have filled months of a soap opera. In spite of this disdain they were able to put together some magical hoops culminating in 3 NBA championships. As much as I enjoyed the back biting aspect of this story some of the nuance of the games felt lost. In too many cases, instead of a heart rendering account of a game we found a flat statistical account or Kobe Bryant did something selfish to sabotage the team flow (shot too many low percentage shots). The biggest drawback for a good amount of Lakers fans would be that the years covered (1996-2004) were the peak of dickish Kobe Bryant. In these years, Kobe was an immature, aloof, braggart whose mixture of arrogance and petulance endeared him to no one. Also, he raped someone. While, Shaq was depicted in multitudes of being a fun-loving, generous and affable teammate albeit with some moodiness and self-grandeur thrown in, Kobe came across as an entitled prick who needed a good ass whupping. Thankfully, by most accounts Kobe matured and became a better person (less rapey) and better teammate (his chip on his shoulder was merely continent instead of planetoid in size). Overall, this book was wholly entertaining with stories that illuminated these story teams. I found myself liking certain people more (Rick Fox, JR Rider, Shaq, Robert Horry), certain people less (Gary Payton, Phil Jackson, Cedric Ceballos) and despising Kobe Bryant the same. If you want a refreshing story about a team that pulls itself from the bootstraps and conquers despite its physical limitations then this is not the book for you. If you want a book showcasing the fallible nature of mankind manifested in a team which more often than not had a distinctive physical advantage and imploded due to fragile egos and psyches then this is your book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Owens

    Subtitled: Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty I haven't followed the NBA closely since they days of the Celtics-Lakers rivalry in the late 1980s, so I missed out on a lot of NBA history since then. Three Ring Circus focuses on the eight years Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant played on the Lakers together (1996-2004). Those teams won three consecutive NBA titles under coach Phil Jackson between 2000 and 2002 (hence the three rings referenced in the title). The circus refere Subtitled: Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty I haven't followed the NBA closely since they days of the Celtics-Lakers rivalry in the late 1980s, so I missed out on a lot of NBA history since then. Three Ring Circus focuses on the eight years Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant played on the Lakers together (1996-2004). Those teams won three consecutive NBA titles under coach Phil Jackson between 2000 and 2002 (hence the three rings referenced in the title). The circus reference is partly due to the constant feuding that went on between Shaq and Kobe, and partly because of the Lakers constant roster changes. Because players knew the team would always be in the running for the title, veteran superstars would often be willing to play for the team for less money in hopes of capping their careers with a championship. Spoiler: not all of the superstars were a good fit for the team, and the behavior of some were totally outrageous. When reading this book, the elephant in the room is the death of Kobe Bryant in January 2020. From all I've seen, Bryant became a much more compassionate person once his playing career ending and he turned his attention to other pursuits. However, for the time period covered in this book, the Kobe Bryant we see is not a good teammate or a good person in general. On the good side, he brought a single-minded work ethic to the game aimed at being the best player in the NBA. The flip side of that was that he aggressively tried to dominate any player he felt stood in the way of that goal, including teammates. On the other side of the feud, Shaquille O'Neal was a dominant big man with a taste for who sought out the spotlight any way he could. The book includes many examples of O'Neal generosity. But while he was also driven to win and to prove himself the best player in the league, his lack of conditioning, particularly in the off-season, shortened his most productive years. I gave Three Ring Circus five stars. It provided me with a lot more information about this span of NBA history. As with his prior book, Football for a Buck, Pearlman not only spoke with the stars and background players, but also got them to share hilarious stories about the oddball incidents and characters along the way.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jarad

    An author can always count on a behind-the-scenes melodrama about a sporting franchise to peak my interest; especially a successful one. That is why I was super excited about reading Three Ring Circus by Jeff Pearlman. Pearlman has written similar books about the 90s Dallas Cowboys and the 80s Los Angeles Lakers. This one is focused on the late 90s/early 00s Lakers featuring Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. They achieved the holy grail of basketball in that of a 3-peat, but as this book so intr An author can always count on a behind-the-scenes melodrama about a sporting franchise to peak my interest; especially a successful one. That is why I was super excited about reading Three Ring Circus by Jeff Pearlman. Pearlman has written similar books about the 90s Dallas Cowboys and the 80s Los Angeles Lakers. This one is focused on the late 90s/early 00s Lakers featuring Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. They achieved the holy grail of basketball in that of a 3-peat, but as this book so intricately describes, it was a combustible situation from jump. There are fascinatingly funny, sad, frustrating stories of details of the players and how they engaged with one another. Of course, there are a couple chapters focused on the sexual assault case of Kobe Bryant. Overall, the book is not kind to Kobe. The author’s prologue provides some context for the Kobe descriptions, especially since the book was released shortly after his tragic death. What you see is a man we saw grow up in the limelight yet wasn’t quite sure of who he was. You’ll also get some insight into Shaq’s unique generosity and thoughtfulness that may have also served as a cover for some insecurities. Phil Jackson serves as another primary character; the hugely successful head coach whose success may or may not have gone to his head. This book was an entertaining read with a few takeaways I think provide some lessons for any organization... 1) External success doesn’t always mean internal peace. 2) There is a shelf life to any successful person or entity. 3) A leader must know how to move the collective and individuals in order to sustain progress. Regardless of talent level, each individual on your team deserves the leader’s recognition. 4) Talent can get you to the peak, but character and connectedness will keep you there.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Vik Reddy

    Earlier this decade, Jeff Pearlman wrote an excellent book: Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s. It talks about the era in which I was introduced to the Lakers and the excitement of "Showtime." As a fan of the purple and gold, it told me a lot of stories that I didn't know about or stuff that I needed to have a light bulb moment. In 2020, Jeff Pearlman wrote the sequel that talks about the Shaq, Kobe, and Phil era of the Lakers from them coming together Earlier this decade, Jeff Pearlman wrote an excellent book: Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s. It talks about the era in which I was introduced to the Lakers and the excitement of "Showtime." As a fan of the purple and gold, it told me a lot of stories that I didn't know about or stuff that I needed to have a light bulb moment. In 2020, Jeff Pearlman wrote the sequel that talks about the Shaq, Kobe, and Phil era of the Lakers from them coming together to them falling apart. A lot of the stories that were in the book, I remembered but I loved the details of certain games. Especially the 2002 Lakers/Kings game where Divac knocked a rebound into Horry's hand in which he hit a game-winning three. That series was an instant classic and one that I will always remember. This book does a great job with the question..What if? What if Shaq had a different attitude? What if Kobe matured sooner than later? What if the team talked to each other and not through the press? As a fan of the Purple and Gold, I believe that the Lakers probably could have won 1 or 2 more championships. This also makes me realize how quickly basketball styles in the NBA changes and how important the bench is. After finishing the book I realized I would love to read how Kobe rebuilt himself before his tragic death in 2020. Will Jeff Pearlman be writing about the Lebron and Lakers era?

  25. 4 out of 5

    Harrislp

    This was an interesting look back at the Kobe and Shaq years of the early 2000's Los Angeles Lakers. I enjoyed the stories and the writing was nice and accessible and the book moved at a fast pace which made it easy to read despite it being quite a long book. If you are a Kobe fan be aware that it paints him in a very harsh and unforgiving light and does not let up throughout the entirety of the book. He is painted as a selfish and difficult person to work with and the reader is also made aware i This was an interesting look back at the Kobe and Shaq years of the early 2000's Los Angeles Lakers. I enjoyed the stories and the writing was nice and accessible and the book moved at a fast pace which made it easy to read despite it being quite a long book. If you are a Kobe fan be aware that it paints him in a very harsh and unforgiving light and does not let up throughout the entirety of the book. He is painted as a selfish and difficult person to work with and the reader is also made aware in no certain terms how the author feels about the rape case that Kobe was involved in. I am not and was not a huge Kobe fan (I pretty much agreed with everything that is said in the book) so it didn't bother me but I thought I should make people aware of it if they are wanting to read about their hero Kobe. Overall this book did live up to the title and was an entertaining and thorough account of what is one of the most interesting periods in NBA history and definitely a must for any fan of the 2000s NBA or a big Laker fan in general. If you do not fall into one of these categories then the book may be a bit of a slog for you but YMMV. I give this four stars and will most likely have a look at another of the author's books in the future as I enjoy the style and it makes for great holiday reading.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ken Heard

    Anytime you see Jeff Pearlman's name on a book, you know it's going to be well-researched, full of anecdotes, a fun read and, probably, the best sports book you'll read all year. That's the case with Three-Ring Circus. After writing a eulogy for Kobe Bryant in the intro, Pearlman spends the rest of the book showing what an ass he was. From challenging everyone on his own team to trying to emulate Michael Jordan to wanting the ball constantly, Kobe was pretty much a problem child on the team. Pea Anytime you see Jeff Pearlman's name on a book, you know it's going to be well-researched, full of anecdotes, a fun read and, probably, the best sports book you'll read all year. That's the case with Three-Ring Circus. After writing a eulogy for Kobe Bryant in the intro, Pearlman spends the rest of the book showing what an ass he was. From challenging everyone on his own team to trying to emulate Michael Jordan to wanting the ball constantly, Kobe was pretty much a problem child on the team. Pearlman does a great job showing how Kobe fit in with the quirks of Shaq, Gary Payton, Karl Malone, Dennis Rodman and others. It truly was a circus. And Phil Jackson, the zen master, was the ring leader. There were plenty of anecdotes that you'd expect in a Pearlman book. There's Shaq stuffing his used toilet paper into the shoes of a rookie. There's Kobe hazing another rookie by asking him for Gatorade and then dissing him in front of everyone. There's fantastic game recaps, including Kobe's four air balls in a row in one game. And there's two chapters that include the details in Bryant's rape case in Colorado. It really does paint a different light on him. I've read all of Pearlman's books but Sweetness about Walter Payton and his look at the USFL. Every other book has been amazing and a good indication of how great a writer and researcher Pearlman is.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ben Deutsch

    I picked this up after hearing author Jeff Pearlman on one of my favorite pods, The Lowe Post. I loved the Kobe/Shaq Lakers as a kid, so for me this was *mostly* a nostalgic stroll down memory lane with top-notch reporting featuring interviews ranging from Shaq and Phil to the team's PR staff. I say mostly because the book takes a hard look back at Kobe Bryant’s sexual assault case. The sports industrial complex has often made it too easy to put the allegations in a neatly tucked away box in the I picked this up after hearing author Jeff Pearlman on one of my favorite pods, The Lowe Post. I loved the Kobe/Shaq Lakers as a kid, so for me this was *mostly* a nostalgic stroll down memory lane with top-notch reporting featuring interviews ranging from Shaq and Phil to the team's PR staff. I say mostly because the book takes a hard look back at Kobe Bryant’s sexual assault case. The sports industrial complex has often made it too easy to put the allegations in a neatly tucked away box in the back of our public consciousness (especially for those of us who were kids at the time and clinging to ways to preserve their hero). But as Pearlman resurfaces, the reality is the lead investigator and DA had no doubt that Kobe was guilty, and his own statement borders on an admission of guilt. These chapters were challenging to read after the nation has spent months celebrating Kobe's legacy following the tragic death of Kobe and his daughter, Gigi. However, it’s important we look back on the entirety of his legacy. The case is not the centerpiece of the 1996 - 2004 period the book captures, but you can’t tell the story of those Lakers without discussing it. The rest of the book moves at a brisk pace with a nice balance of humor and analysis. This is a terrific read for NBA fans looking to relive the Kobe/Shaq dynasty or new fans looking to learn more about one of the league’s greatest duos.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Writemoves

    This is the third book that I have read from Jeff Pearlman. All the books were sports related and I enjoyed them. Though I am not a Lakers fan, I also enjoyed this book. This book covers the Los Angeles Lakers from 1996 to 2004 where they won four NBA championships. It focuses primarily on its two superstars, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. But it does look at the role and bench players that were also on the Lakers roster during this period. While I understood there was friction between Shaquil This is the third book that I have read from Jeff Pearlman. All the books were sports related and I enjoyed them. Though I am not a Lakers fan, I also enjoyed this book. This book covers the Los Angeles Lakers from 1996 to 2004 where they won four NBA championships. It focuses primarily on its two superstars, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. But it does look at the role and bench players that were also on the Lakers roster during this period. While I understood there was friction between Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, I had no idea how severe and pervasive the rift was. Neither player comes off very well in this book. Bryant in particular comes off as a diva and a huge head case. Bryant was not very well liked in the Laker locker room. Pearlman also covers the rape case against Kobe Bryant. Bryant never really disputed the testimony of the woman he assaulted, just his intent. Bryant basically got away with rape and did not say any punishment or jail time. What makes this book so entertaining are the stories from and about various players and coaches during this period. Hard to believe that's so dysfunctional a group and team could win NBA championships – – but they were that talented.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tyler

    Jeff Pearlman's books are the men's soap operas. There's something slightly trashy about them I guess that is down to the subjects and he doesn't shy away from the gossipy, nasty stuff that most wouldn't want told. You get the good and the bad moments from everyone, often there are conflicting statements of the character of one person. Of course Kobe's scandal gets a lot of time and it's really ugly. He doesn't come out looking too great in this though the prologue was added last minute to say h Jeff Pearlman's books are the men's soap operas. There's something slightly trashy about them I guess that is down to the subjects and he doesn't shy away from the gossipy, nasty stuff that most wouldn't want told. You get the good and the bad moments from everyone, often there are conflicting statements of the character of one person. Of course Kobe's scandal gets a lot of time and it's really ugly. He doesn't come out looking too great in this though the prologue was added last minute to say he grew up. It's too bad he didn't seem to grow up in these pages because honestly it got really one note. Shaq and Phil each had their low moments for sure and you don't really know what to think about them. It's frustrating to read about Shaq's seemingly complete lack of keeping in shape. Phil Jackson could really sound so callous to certain people, Jerry West had to leave to get away from him which surprised me. I added a star because I ripped through it in a few days but I can't say I got too much from it. He's right that the minor characters and their stories can raise up the impact of the book and J.R. Rider's moments were really strong.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    If you are not/were not a Kobe Bryant fan, or otherwise think he's overrated...boy is this the book for you. I knew that he was not the most popular teammate early on, but in this story (taking place from 1996-2005), I found out that he just might have been the least popular teammate in the NBA. We know this because Jeff Pearlman got quite a bit of access for anecdotes, facts, and stories. Even Phil Jackson, a gun to his head (Phil said that Jeannie Buss made him), had Jeff over to his house for If you are not/were not a Kobe Bryant fan, or otherwise think he's overrated...boy is this the book for you. I knew that he was not the most popular teammate early on, but in this story (taking place from 1996-2005), I found out that he just might have been the least popular teammate in the NBA. We know this because Jeff Pearlman got quite a bit of access for anecdotes, facts, and stories. Even Phil Jackson, a gun to his head (Phil said that Jeannie Buss made him), had Jeff over to his house for a long round of stories. Shaq, the other main player in that Laker era, does not come off unscathed, but mostly he's the genial big guy who notably made a point to take care of the rookies and fringe guys, which speaks super well of him. This might be a book more or less about Kobe, but Shaq and Phil are prime supporting players. The rape allegation and aftermath are covered, and takes a neutral tone toward Kobe, but sugarcoats not much. If you're a hoops fan, and like reading about past eras, this is a great read, written by one of our preeminent sports book writers. Five stars.

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