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.
... 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.