A newsmaking book that deserves a hearing, though Miller could have done more to make amends.



A searching memoir of business, professional sports, and murder.

Miller, the chairman of Nike’s Jordan Brand, confesses to a crime that has haunted him for nearly 60 years: As a teenage gang member on the west side of Philadelphia, he killed a member of a rival gang in an act of retaliation. That he does not name his victim has provoked controversy, and readers may wonder, if this book is an act of contrition at least in part, why he didn’t do so. However, the author writes that his book has a different purpose. “The only reason for me to narrate my life is that hopefully my story can inspire…young people who are in a rough environment and all they can see is what’s going on around them.” There’s inspiration aplenty, and if Miller made numerous missteps as a youth, which earned him prison time not just for the killing, but also for drug dealing and other crimes, he also took opportunity and ran with it. As he writes, he had the opportunity behind bars to earn college credit, and since he was good with numbers, he turned to accounting. Exuding confidence without swagger, he confessed his crimes to an early interviewer, who revoked the firm’s offer letter, saying, “I can’t take a chance on one of our clients coming back to me with this if something were to happen down the line.” Resolved to keep his past secret thereafter, Miller rose from accountant at a Campbell Soup factory to president of the Jordan Brand, with time out to head the Portland Trail Blazers—known then as the “Jail Blazers” since many of its players had also done time. Perhaps the greatest motivational moment in the book is when Miller, jailed yet again as a youth, resolves, “I am gonna learn my way out,” which he’s since paid forward through educational philanthropy.

A newsmaking book that deserves a hearing, though Miller could have done more to make amends.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-299981-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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Well-told and admonitory.



Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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A deep, occasionally hagiographic dive into the life of a one-of-a-kind superstar.


The story of King James’ rise and reign.

Any conversation about the greatest NBA player ever must include LeBron James, a four-time MVP and player on four championship teams. (He just became the league's all-time leading scorer, surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.) Veteran sportswriter Benedict frames James’ story as a tale of destiny fulfilled. Raised by a poor single mother in Akron, Ohio (his father’s identity remains a mystery), James was supported from an early age by coaches and other community members. Shining at both basketball and football, he skipped college and was drafted by his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, in 2003. Benedict describes this path in (overly) deep detail—James doesn’t make his NBA debut till nearly halfway through the book. But from there, the narrative is a well-paced account of James’ on-court ambitions and struggles with how to wield his celebrity. Early on, he could be closed-off with reporters, waffled over signing a letter criticizing China’s human rights record, and famously alienated NBA fans everywhere in 2010 by announcing his decision to “take my talents to South Beach” (and join the Miami Heat) in an overblown hourlong TV special. Benedict suggests that a tight circle of trusted advisers, plus a few championship trophies, helped elevate James as a leader. He effectively played a general manager’s role in assembling squads, didn’t hesitate to speak out after the murders of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, and was comfortable clapping back at then-President Donald Trump. Benedict correlates James’ reputational ups and downs to his relationships with sportswriters—hitting his nadir when he was frosty with the ghostwriter for a book about his high school days, triumphing when he welcomed a Sports Illustrated writer to report his return to the Cavaliers. But James’ roles as world-class athlete and media phenomenon are intertwined, and the author ably captures both elements.

A deep, occasionally hagiographic dive into the life of a one-of-a-kind superstar.

Pub Date: April 11, 2023

ISBN: 9781982110895

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

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