... exhaustively reported and eminently readable ... shares the unsparing truth about Bryant’s early NBA years ... sits in a precarious position: It’s a book reported and written before a beloved celebrity’s tragic death, that may ring insensitive due to circumstances beyond the author’s control ... Pearlman spares no detail in chronicling Bryant’s 2003 sexual assault arrest, which obituaries largely glossed over ... Hearing of these stories in 2020 may feel strange. But even before Bryant’s death, Three-Ring Circus had a planned September 2020 release date. The book was finished, save for the author’s note, before Jan. 26; Pearlman says he rejected suggestions from friends that he move the publication sooner so it could arrive while Bryant’s death was in the news. He considered pushing the date back further, but ultimately told his agent to stick with September, deciding that waiting a few more months wouldn’t make much of a difference ... a valuable addition to the Kobe Bryant canon—deeply reported and unflinchingly honest. By documenting Bryant’s youthful immaturity and harmful actions, Pearlman offers a fuller picture of a beloved but complicated man.
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 ... 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 ... 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.
Pearlman, an amazing journalist with an eye for the revealing detail, sets the stage with profiles of not only the three key principals but also Lakers management and the fringe players crucial to building a championship team ... Pearlman takes readers inside a successful but ultimately dysfunctional organization that came apart because, well, some folks are just never going to get along. NBA fans will absolutely devour this book.
Beyond the Hall of Fame players and coach, Pearlman provides insight into the role of players such as Eddie Jones, Robert Horry, and Rick Fox ... A must-read for all basketball fans, especially considering Bryant’s tragic death in January 2020.
Sportswriter Pearlman excites with this enjoyable, exhaustively reported, and unsparing portrait of the early 2000s Los Angeles Lakers ... Pearlman’s ability to uncover juicy anecdotes illuminates how egos and immaturity were the Lakers’ fatal opponents. This will be a three-pointer for hoops fans.
Everything you wanted to know about the Los Angeles Lakers in the Kobe and Shaq days ... Pearlman entertainingly chronicles the success of the early-2000s Lakers ... In the process, the author wades into the collective psyche of modern professional sports, showing the manifestation of monetized idolatry. He demonstrates the belief of many fans that some stars have too much money and self-importance and too little self-awareness; this is reflected most clearly in the narrative via Pearlman’s minibiography of Bryant. More nuanced than the homages following his tragic death earlier this year—which credited his singular focus but often said less about the costs of that focus—Bryant comes off here, in the early years of his career, as less of a spoiled star (though that element is present) than as someone who understandably struggled with becoming a multimillionaire idol as a teenager ... Throughout, the author uses a wide frame, giving more than cursory backstory for even minor players. Though he commits a few personal fouls in the form of hyperbole, he deftly illuminates the many dramatic twists and turns of a unique team. The book is not short, but it’s never a slog ... Easy reading that will appeal to all fans—and likely raise the ire of a few apologists.