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

Houghton Harcourt. Sept. 2020. 448p. ISBN 9781328530004. $30. SPORTS
Conducting interviews with former players and coaches, Pearlman (Showtime; Football for a Buck) profiles the success and discord surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers from 1996 to 2004. From the free agent signing of NBA center Shaquille O’Neal to the drafting of high school senior Kobe Bryant, general manager Jerry West orchestrated one of the most dominant dynasties in NBA history. Unpopular with teammates, Bryant is portrayed as lonely and arrogant. In contrast, O’Neal is an undisciplined, yet reliable teammate. After struggling under head coach Del Harris, Phil Jackson tempered the animosity between the two stars. 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. Despite the conflicts and jealousy between Bryant and O’Neal, the Lakers won three straight NBA championships between 2000 and 2002. The infighting between the two star players and the rape allegations against Bryant contributed to a turbulent final season in which they lost in the NBA Finals. As Bryant demanded to be the sole superstar, the dynasty ended as Jackson retired and O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat.
VERDICT A must-read for all basketball fans, especially considering Bryant’s tragic death in January 2020. For a biography of Bryant’s life, Roland Lazenby’s Showboat will interest readers.

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