A couple of leftovers from Michael Jordan's enshrinement ceremony that I attended Friday night in Springfield, Mass, which inspired me to write the following column:
To Jordan's credit, he didn't do a sugary speech. That's not him. He cried beforehand after watching an extended highlight video of his career, which was interspersed with some entertaining interviews. I thought the best quote came from Shaquille O'Neal, who when putting Jordan into perspective called him the "hip-hop Dr. J."
As I wrote in today's column, Jordan reminded us of what it is like to be like Mike -- eloquent, honest, occasionally arrogant. There were a few uncomfortable moments in the speech, as when Jordan called out Isiah Thomas, who was in the audience and allegedly orchestrated a "freezeout" of Jordan in his first All-Star Game.
While Jordan said he has never known if that was true (Thomas has denied it in previous interviews, but it is true MJ rarely got the ball in that game), he said it fueled his fire. "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," Jordan said, looking directly to Thomas.
Jordan also told his three kids in the audience that he loved them but understood how difficult their lives were, growing up in his long shadow. He also fondly mentioned Buzz Peterson -- his close friend, former roommate in college and the player Jordan tried to whip every day as a freshman because Peterson had been chosen as N.C.'s high school player of the year over him.
It was classic Jordan -- he cried before the speech, but then righted himself and ripped his way through 22 minutes worth of a magnetic, "What's he going to say next?" address. It felt like a game night -- as I wrote in today's paper, you couldn't take your eyes off him.
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2 months ago