[Guest post by DRJ]
Michael Jordan was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame last night. Tears ran down his face several times during the speech as he thanked the people who helped him reach his goals. But even in his moment of glory, Jordan didn’t forget the people he thinks slighted him:
“Jordan cried before beginning his acceptance speech, then entertained the crowd with memories of any slights that inspired him to get to basketball’s birthplace:
• The coach who cut him from the varsity as a North Carolina schoolboy.
“I wanted to make sure you understood: You made a mistake, dude.”
• Isiah Thomas, who allegedly orchestrated a “freezeout” of Jordan in his first All-Star game.
“I wanted to prove to you, Magic [Johnson], Larry [Bird], George [Gervin], everybody that I deserved [to be there] just as much as anybody else, and I hope over the period of my career I’ve done that without a doubt.”
• Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy — Jordan called him Pat Riley’s “little guy” — who accused Jordan of “conning” players by acting friendly toward them, then attacking them in games.
“I just so happen to be a friendly guy. I get along with everybody, but at the same time, when the light comes on, I’m as competitive as anybody you know.”
• The media who said Jordan, though a great player, would never win like Bird or Johnson.
“I had to listen to all that, and that put so much wood on that fire that it kept me each and every day trying to get better as a basketball player.”
• Lastly, Utah’s Bryon Russell. Jordan recalled meeting Russell while he was retired and playing minor league baseball in 1994 — and with Sloan looking on in horror — told of how Russell insisted he could have covered him if Jordan was still playing. Russell later got two cracks at Jordan in the NBA finals, and he was the defender when Jordan hit the clinching shot to win the 1998 title.
“From this day forward, if I ever see him in shorts, I’m coming at him.”
Jordan is competitive and maybe that’s all this was. I still think Jordan is the greatest player I’ve ever seen, but using his induction speech to get even shows he’s far from the greatest person.