Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest basketball player in NBA history. He has won six NBA championships, five MVPs, six Finals MVPs and has made ten first team All-NBA teams, but what do we really know about Jordan.
I mean is Jordan a good guy or a bad guy? Does he have an ego?
I grew up on the south side of Chicago during the 1980s and 1990s. I remember hearing the stories of Jordan balling and dominating players at Foster Park on the south side of Chicago by classmates. To be honest, I did not believe it. I could not believe Jordan a multi-millionaire basketball player would play basketball at a park where gangs and shootings were the norm.
I probably would have believed Scottie Pippen, Randy Brown, Craig Hodges, Ron Harper or Cliff Levingston would play games at Foster Park because they seemed down-to-earth. Jordan, to me, did not seem like a down-to-earth person. He seemed like a person who were all about making money. When the news talked about kids being killed over his expensive shoes; Jordan all but ignored the crisis. He also stayed away from voicing an opinion on social issues by saying, “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”
Jordan was the greatest basketball player in Chicago’s history, but to many in the community, he was a no show. Many people believed he thought he was too good for certain parts of the city. The inner-city of Chicago and other parts of America was just his money maker. So my classmates constantly telling me they saw Jordan playing basketball on the south side of Chicago was like telling a south sider they saw President Trump walking the streets of West Englewood in Chicago without the Secret Service.
A decade or so later, I realized, my classmates were telling the truth all along. In 2013, ESPN senior writer and Chicagoan Scoop Jackson, wrote about how Jordan did things at Foster Park that was more amazing than the things he did in the league.
So I guess I was wrong about Jordan playing basketball at Foster Park. The truth is many current and former players still play pickup games at Foster Park. Jordan was just one of them trying to get a good run in to keep himself ready for the season. Still, those basketball runs at Foster Park is one of the things many of his fans probably knows nothing about. Just like his personality.
Former NBA player and Inside the NBA host Charles Barkley once said Jordan is too serious and should buy a dog so he wouldn’t be angry all the time. Barkley continued by saying Jordan remembers everything anyone has ever done to him, which became apparent during his basketball hall of fame speech when he brought Leroy Smith the 6’7 basketball player who was chosen for the final varsity spot at Laney High School over him by coach Clifton “Pop”” Herring.
Even after thirty years, Jordan could not let go the fact that he was cut from his high school varsity team. During his speech, Jordan stated that he wanted to make it clear to Smith and to coach Herring that he made a mistake. To be fair, in 1978, Jordan was only 5’10 and most coaches would have chosen the 6’7 Smith as well; except for maybe the few tough nose coaches who might have been impressed with Jordan effort of being the first in line for conditioning drills and wanting to run even more after the drills.
To be fair to coach Herring, he was in a tough position. He had a lot of returning players from his undersized team who had made the playoffs the previous year despite not having a player taller than 6’3. So there were few spots available and his assistant coaches compared notes on everyone who tried out for the team before they posted the names of who made the varsity roster.
Herring has gotten a lot of the blame for not choosing Jordan and seeing his talent, but the truth is his assistant coaches also did not see his talent or maybe the team need for height just outweighed putting the sophomore Jordan on the team at the time. The fact that the coaches were willing to put a sophomore on the varsity team in those days show how the team desperately needed more height to compete with the other schools.
Still, to Jordan, nothing mattered but the fact that he did not make the varsity team. He used being cut for Smith as his motivation for becoming arguably the greatest basketball player of all time. He would put on a show every time he hit the floor from that moment on. He made the Laney jayvee basketball games a must watch where people would line up just to see what he would do next. Even the varsity basketball players would come to his jayvee basketball games and watch with amazement.
Now for the average person, proving everybody wrong in high school would have been the end of the story since Jordan would later become a star on the Laney High School basketball team, but for Jordan, that was not enough. Jordan used being cut by coach Herring as extra motivation to workout harder than everyone, to make sure he gave 100% effort on every play during games, practices and pick up games. He wanted everyone to know that he was the best and the standard for greatness in basketball. He did not want to play on the NBA level. He wanted to create the level that everyone must rise up to stop him or to become the greatest.
Holding a grudge became his specialty, as Jordan would even check into hotels as Leroy Smith. When he later retired from basketball, to play baseball, he defended himself leaving the sport by saying, “It should be a game that everyone has an opportunity to play — no matter who, Michael Jordan or Leroy Smith, it doesn’t matter.”
Obviously, Jordan belief of being passed over and wronged stayed with him, but over the years he has reportedly disrespected several celebrities and fans for no reason by being rude, cruel and downright mean to them to their face.
One such incident happened in 2009, when popular rapper Chamillionaire, saw Jordan taking pictures with female fans at his party while hanging out with the Boston Celtics and filmmaker Spike Lee. Chamillionaire being a huge fan of Jordan approached him and asked him if he could take a picture with him. As Chamillionaire recounted the story, he said he expected Jordan to say no, which would have not been a problem. The problem he had with Jordan was with the way he said no. He said Jordan said, ”Oh hell nah, I ain’t taking no pictures with no n#ggas.” which shocked him at the time, to a point where he actually thought Jordan did not hear him. So he told Jordan that he had just bid $7k for one of his jerseys at an auction. Jordan with an angry voice quickly said, ”You know what, I’ll tell you what, you pay fifteen thousand dollars right now, from me, I’ll take a picture with you.” while looking down at him.
Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, tried to calm Jordan down by saying,” Yo a man, chill out, that’s Chamillionaire.” to which Chamillionaire recounted Jordan said,” I don’t give a f#ck, n#gga!”
Now to Jordan credit, he did not owe Chamillionaire anything. He did not have to take a picture with him or anybody else, but the way he said no was very disrespectful and give us a small glimpse of his personality.
To those saying Chamillionaire made the story up. I would counter with: why would he make the story up? Chamillionaire had nothing to gain by telling that story plus he said Spike Lee, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce witnessed it. To my knowledge, neither one of them has said Chamillionaire lied about the incident.
Now I am not saying Jordan is a bad person, but to me, it seems like at times he is not the most down-to-earth superstar and can be very rude. I guess people kissing up to him and wanting to be around him has helped given him an ego, but at times Jordan has shown the humility we want from our superstars and childhood heroes.
When many people online started making fun of Jeffrey Harrison an autistic man with a developmental disability after a viral video of him playing basketball in MJ’s jersey; it was Jordan who sent his biggest fan a room full Air Jordan shoes, t-shirts and hats, cologne, a hand-signed letter, and called him on the phone just to let him know he cares and was rooting for him.
It was also Jordan who ended the call with Harrison by saying, “ I love you, man.” after Harrison told Jordan he loved him. Yes, the same Jordan who years earlier, refused to take a picture with Chamillionaire because he was a male was openly telling another male who needed it, he loved him.
The same Jordan who also donated $2 million to Hurricane Florence relief efforts, $1 million to the NAACP and $5 million to Hales Franciscan high school on the south side of Chicago. I cannot figure Jordan out, as a person, I would say like anybody, he has his good days and he has his bad days.
Regardless of what anyone thinks of him, Jordan has done more as a philanthropist than many people in his situation. He has gotten a bad wrap for not being more involved in what is going on in the African American community, but has donated millions to too many charities, causes and organizations to list.
So who is Michael Jordan? Simple answer. One of the greatest basketball players of all-time. Beyond that, few people know. I know Jordan reportedly hates rap music according to rapper N.O.R.E. I know he used to chew Double Mint gum during games. I know he once slapped teammate and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr during a practice. I also know he used to constantly ridicule his former first round pick Kwame Brown to a point he cried in front of his teammates several times.
Sometimes we forget that athletes are just athletes. They are not perfect just like we are not perfect. And Michael Jordan is far from being perfect unless we are talking about basketball, because he was close to being the perfect basketball player.