Maybe it’s sour grapes, but I thought Michael Jordan came off as a dick. (disclosure: I actively rooted against MJ throughout my childhood. I HATED those Bulls teams and thought NBC favored them over every team in the league).
Embedded video from NBA Video
This wasn’t a Hall of Fame induction speech, but a bully tripping nerds with lunch trays in the school cafeteria. He had a responsibility to his standing in history, to players past and present, and he let everyone down. This was a night to leave behind the petty grievances and past slights – real and imagined. This was a night to be gracious, to be generous with praise and credit.
Jordan didn’t hurt his image with the NBA community, as much as he reminded them of it. “That’s who Michael is,” one high-ranking team executive said. “It wasn’t like he was out of character. There’s no one else who could’ve gotten away with what he did tonight. But it was Michael, and everyone just goes along.”
Jordan wandered through an unfocused and uninspired speech at Symphony Hall, disparaging people who had little to do with his career, like Jeff Van Gundy and Bryon Russell. He ignored people who had so much to do with it, like his personal trainer, Tim Grover. This had been a moving and inspirational night for the NBA – one of its best ceremonies ever – and five minutes into Jordan’s speech it began to spiral into something else. Something unworthy of Jordan’s stature, something beneath him.
Jordan spent more time pointlessly admonishing Van Gundy and Russell for crossing him with taunts a dozen years ago than he did singling out his three children. When he finally acknowledged his family, Jordan blurted, in part, to them, “I wouldn’t want to be you guys.”
From the speeches of David Robinson to John Stockton, Jerry Sloan to Vivian Stringer, there was an unmistakable thread of peace of mind and purpose. At times, they were self-deprecating and deflective of praise. Jordan hasn’t mastered that art, and it reveals him to be oddly insecure. When Jordan should’ve thanked the Bulls ex-GM, Jerry Krause, for surrounding him with championship coaches and talent, he ridiculed him. It was me, Jordan was saying. Not him. “The organization didn’t play with the flu in Utah,” Jordan grumbled.
Ya, I guess I had hoped that Jordan’s speech would’ve been more like David Robinson’s or John Stockton’s. They seemed generally humbled by the entire experience. (Stockton’s in particular was really good, this was the first I’ve ever heard him speak for an extended length). But Jordan was just crackin on the likes of Jon Starks and Byron Russell. Awesome.