Jeff Pearlman’s new book, “Three-Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty,” offers basketball fans – and Lakers fans, in particular – an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at one of the most dominant runs in NBA history.
It also offers a complex portrait of each of the three main characters, particularly Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in January.
“I finished the book before he died, and it was going through editing,” Pearlman said on The DA Show. “And when I found out he died – I live in Southern California, but I’m from New York – and when I found out he died, it’s going to sound dumb, but I don’t think I realized the complete depth of love for him out here in an iconic, iconic way.”
That love and affection for a star athlete, of course, was not altogether unfamiliar to Pearlman.
“I grew up in New York with Patrick Ewing,” he said. “New Yorkers love Patrick Ewing, and he was great. But it wasn’t like that. You come out here and you realize the intensity and it was all about the appreciation for the work ethic and the doggedness and Kobe taught me this and Kobe taught me [that] and I learned by watching him that you can have a dream. It blew me away.”
When Pearlman learned that Bryant had died, he was stunned. And he, like many, continues to be affected by Bryant’s passing.
“[His death] didn’t affect me when I was writing it because the book was done,” Pearlman said. “But it affected me when I thought about doing stuff like this and promoting it. The period I’m writing about – ’96 to ’04 – was kind of a mixed bag for him. He was young and he was immature and he could be difficult and there’s also Eagle, Colorado, and everything that happened there.
“So it’s more this almost need to remind people that the Kobe in this book is a sliver in time in the course of development – and not the guy who died at 41 as a dad of four, as a youth basketball coach,” Pearlman continued. “It’s a really, really weird line to walk, to be honest with you. It is not the most comfortable line to walk.”