Racism has been a trending topic around sports after the NBA banned Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life last week for his racist remarks recorded on tape.
Jordan touches on a wide range of subjects in the book, including his views on race growing up in North Carolina. He told Lazenby that he was suspended from school in 1977, the year he turned 14, after responding to a girl who called him the n-word (via E! Online):
“I threw a soda at her,” he recalled. “It was a very tough year. I was really rebelling. I considered myself a racist at that time. Basically, I was against all white people.”
The quotes attributed to Jordan come to light about a week after he responded harshly to Sterling's racist comments. Jordan said he was "disgusted" by the Clippers' owner.
"There is no room in the NBA -- or anywhere else -- for the kind of racism and hatred that Mr. Sterling allegedly expressed," Jordan said. "I am appalled that this type of ignorance still exists within our country and at the highest levels of our sport. In a league where the majority of players are African-American, we cannot and must not tolerate discrimination at any level."
Lazenby tweeted in response to reports about Jordan's quotes in the book:
Media are focused on comments Michael Jordan made about race which appear in my book. He made those comments years ago, talking of his youth
— Roland Lazenby (@lazenby) May 7, 2014
Lazenby recently spoke to SI.com's Martin Rickman about his research for the book, which was released on Tuesday. One of his biggest revelations was how much deep-seated hate and racism there was where Jordan grew up:
"I've been to North Carolina hundreds of times and enjoy it tremendously, but North Carolina was a state that had more Klan members than the rest of the Southern states combined," the author said. "As I started looking at newspapers back in this era when I was putting together [Michael's great-grandfather] Dawson Jordan's life, the Klan was like a chamber of commerce. It bought the uniforms for ball teams, it put Bibles in all the schools. It may well have ended up being a chamber of commerce if not for all the violence it was perpetrating, too. A lot of the context just wasn't possible to put it in a basketball book. A lot of it ended up being cut."
The author also described Jordan's private life and how race is involved:
Behind the spotlight, Michael lives this very open life racially. He’s the kind of guy who can say to a broadcaster in a pickup game, “You’re not black enough.” That’s sort of the sports ethos. It’s something we joke about until it’s dead serious. For Michael, it’s part of the territory. He’s the first former player to own a team. Timing’s everything. I wrote a series on race back in 1984. At that time, blacks could be excluded from juries just for being black. I was interviewing a black official who said, “All you have to have is one person in the room. They won’t drag out that good ole’ boy stuff and start playing those games if you have just one representative there.”
The important thing is ownership is no longer just a club of good old rich white boys. Whatever you think about him, David Stern is a man of great vision. He knew these things had to change. It can no longer be this exclusive club of white guys. Michael is the first, but there are going to be many more. You are going to see that change, and it should change. It’s important for the growth of the game.