Anderson: A Review of Flight, the Definitive MJ Biography

Sam Anderson, the magazine’s award-winning book critic, has written one book in his life: Flight, an ode to the life and brilliance of Michael Jordan, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame last weekend. Anderson wrote the book when he was 13. Here, all grown-up, he reviews his magnum opus.

You might have heard that, last weekend, Michael Jordan was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame — a development roughly as surprising as the Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, making it into the final draft of the New Testament. Mainly it was an excuse for the sports media to spend a couple of weeks marinating our central nervous systems in around-the-clock Michael Jordan highlight-package fanfare and nostalgia. (Also, it gave Jordan one more chance to teach us — via his charmingly vengeful induction speech — that becoming the greatest of all time at something is maybe not an unmixed blessing, spiritually.)

Now that all the tributes have been officially tribulated, I would like to take a moment to place my own humble offering on His Airness’s crowded altar.

I would like to make public a unique historic document, recently discovered in my mother’s garage, that I believe has the potential to revolutionize the Michael Jordan homage as radically as Michael Jordan once revolutionized the NBA.

In 1990, at the age of 13, I wrote and illustrated a biography of Michael Jordan titled, simply, Flight. It was, at the time, arguably the most comprehensive laminated and hand-bound biography of a major North American sports figure in existence. The book covered every step of Jordan’s epic journey, from his childhood in North Carolina to his impending world domination as the star of the Chicago Bulls. (Most biographers, we should remember, waited until Jordan had won a few rings, or led the Dream Team to a gold medal, before taking the time to exhaustively document his life. I plunged in back when it was unclear that he would ever amount to anything — before he’d even endorsed Gatorade.)

Although Flight is, admittedly, a little less slick than some other recent Jordan tributes — the pieces of Scotch tape holding its dust jacket on, for instance, could probably use replacing — I like to think it makes up for this by being one of the purest expressions of true sports love the world will ever see. Also, I believe it affords us an unprecedented glimpse into the boiling molten core of late-twentieth-century American adolescence.

So please, reader, come fly with me deep into the life of one of the great icons of our time. I predict you will never watch Space Jam or homoerotic Hanes commercials in quite the same way again.

This post was originally published on September 17, 2009.

A Review of Flight, the MJ Biography