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50 memories of Michael Jordan as he turns 50

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan

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Updated: February 16, 2013 9:48PM



Those asked to recall their favorite Michael Jordan memory do so immediately. There is no hesitation, no time needed to cull memory banks because those who brushed up against his greatness recall those tales with such frequency.

Fifteen years since he last wore a Bulls uniform, and 10 years since playing in his last NBA game, the memories remain vivid because they have been repeated again and again in hotel lobbies, college gyms and at end-of-the-year banquets.

It may have been a decade since he last played, but Jordan’s shadow still looms large over the NBA. People still want to know what he was like and what it was like to play with or against him. That’s why, on his 50th birthday, we asked 50 people to share their favorite memories of Michael Jordan:

‘‘One of the funniest things I’ve ever gone through with my dad has to be something from my childhood. My dad hates snakes — like, actual snakes. Even on the golf course, sometimes you encounter snakes, and I promise it is a sight to see! But anyway, I had to be around 7 years old, my brother, Jeffrey, was 9, and we went to this arcade in our neighborhood called ‘Super Just Games’ — not sure if it’s still around. As prizes that we won that day, Jeff and I decided to get a bunch of rubber snakes from the arcade to leave in my parents’ bedroom as a prank. It goes without saying, when my dad got home and saw the snakes, my brother and I got in some big trouble! But looking back on it is hilarious to us.’’

— Marcus Jordan, Michael’s youngest son

‘‘I remember Michael telling me he was not capable of missing a free throw in the last two minutes of a game. What he was saying was, even if he tried, he couldn’t miss. The exact quote was, ‘I am not capable of missing a free throw in the last two minutes of a game.’ The fact of the matter is, sometime before that, he missed one in a playoff game against Cleveland in Game 4 one year. And I believe that was the year he made the miracle shot against [Craig] Ehlo in Game 5.’’

— Bulls and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf

‘‘I remember when he was a rookie. He had hair then. He won Rookie of the Year and we had an award ceremony, but he had to be in class because he was getting his degree. We had to charter a plane, and back then we didn’t have money for anything. We spent our entire budget flying him back and forth in a little Lear. I hope he remembers that when he’s driving around in whatever he’s driving around in these days.’’

— NBA commissioner David Stern

“I’ve seen him age, of course, but really, he’s not that different of a person. Michael has always been a very competitive person with an extraordinary drive. It’s been the guiding force of his life both on and off the basketball court. … Being such a huge celebrity and not being able to go places and do things, it truly ignited his competitive fire even more because he was always around the guys and it became a motivation. He’s still a great guy, very successful from a business standpoint in terms of his brand and what he’s been able to do beyond when he played. But to me, I don’t see him any different from when he was a player aside from age.”

— former teammate Scottie Pippen

‘‘One of my favorite games he played was during the 1997 Eastern Conference finals when we played Miami. We were up 3-0 and had an off day, and he played like [46] holes of golf. We’re down [21] in the [third] quarter, and he started the game [0-14]. It was the worst shooting performance I’d ever seen from him. He had an airball. You could tell his stroke was off. Then, in the fourth quarter, he scored 20 points and we almost pulled it out. It was the greatest display of confidence I have ever seen. Most guys, when you lose your stroke, you might keep shooting, but there’s no way they’re getting it back that night. That’s what Michael did. Nobody is like that. It’s inhuman.”

— former teammate and current TNT analyst Steve Kerr

‘‘I have a lot of nightmares. I remember [Jordan’s] sister was singing the national anthem and [John] Starks was laughing, and then I had to go guard him. That wasn’t very nice of John Starks. The thing I remember the most about him, though, was a halftime speech at an All-Star Game. I think [Charles] Barkley was laughing and a couple of other guys were joking around, and [Jordan] basically informed us that we were going to win the game, and whoever didn’t feel like playing that way shouldn’t play in the second half, and I actually liked that. I wish all the All-Star Games were like that.’’

Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers

‘‘I got a chance to see him like a lot of people didn’t, with his guard down, like when we were on the buses and people couldn’t get to him, and it was an amazing experience. At the time, it was easy to be critical of him. I didn’t agree with that. I thought he was really good for [baseball] and respectful of the game. It was easy to be patient with him. He didn’t understand everything about baseball, but he paid attention to detail. It’s not surprising when you think about it. You couldn’t be that good at basketball without paying attention to detail and being coachable. All I know is, I was in charge of a double-A team and what we were doing was really important to us, and he found a way to mix in and be one of the guys, and for him to be able to pull that off was remarkable.’’

— former Birmingham Barons manager Terry Francona

‘‘I saw him for the first time when he was a junior in high school. That was the first time we ever heard of him. There was a coach down there that said Michael Jordan might be a good prospect. Coach [Dean] Smith thought it would be good for me to go down there, so I went down and watched him and came back and told Coach Smith we needed to offer him a scholarship. The more we saw him, the more we liked him. He just got better and better. When he was a freshman,
Buzz Peterson and he were real good friends, and Buzz could beat Michael in a 60-yard race. The next year, Michael won by 15 yards. His sophomore year, he could drive by anybody and he could stop anybody. It was unbelievable to see his development. I’m sure glad that coach called me to come down and see him play.’’

— Former longtime North Carolina assistant Bill Guthridge

‘‘We were coming off a long road trip and were playing the [second-to] last game against Vancouver, which was an expansion team. The entire team was tired. Vancouver was beating us. In the fourth quarter, Darrick Martin starts talking trash to Michael. ‘We’re going to beat you. You’re having a bad game. I’m stopping you.’ Well, in like six minutes, Michael had 18 points and we ended up winning by six. Michael just went off and won the game by himself. Darrick got him going just because he was talking trash. After the game, we all walked by Darrick and said, ‘Thanks, boss.’ ”

— Former Bulls center and current radio analyst Bill Wennington

‘‘I knew Michael personally and played a lot of golf with him. He came on the stage when there were a lot of great athletes. We went through Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird, a lot of other guys, and Michael came in and took professional basketball to another level. He became such a dominant figure. Dominant as a player, but he handled his fame pretty dag-gone well on and off the court. It would have been very easy to ignore the public, but he never ignored the public.’’

— Mike Ditka

‘‘When the Bulls finally reached the NBA finals for the first time in franchise history to play the Lakers, Michael had just missed the buzzer shot in Game 1, which was won by L.A. He was coming down the old Stadium stairs a mere minute after that miss. I thought he’d be really pissed, and I said, ‘Sorry that shot didn’t go in.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Don’t worry. I’ve seen enough tonight. We will not lose another game to these guys.’ He was almost skipping down the hall. I thought, ‘Is this guy nuts, or what?’ He was, of course, correct.”

— Bulls media relations director Tim Hallam

‘‘I remember his rookie year. We had just finished a training-camp practice and were coming out of Angel Guardian Gym. It was dark outside. He didn’t have his vehicle. I was dropping him at his hotel. On this particular night, we’re coming out of the gym together, and we hear this loud barking. It’s dark on the street. My car is in front of the gym. The next thing you know, we see this huge German Shepherd coming after us. We both paused for a split second before realizing we needed to start running to the car. We were going to use it as a shield. Before we could take off, he gives me this box move with his elbow, a clear push-off, a thug bump like Reggie Miller used to do to him and he used to do to Bryon Russell. It was like he was saying, ‘Dude, you’re on your own. If he’s going to get somebody, he’s going to get you first.’ We ended up jumping on top of the car, and the dog ran off. But you talk about competitive: That’s dog-eat-dog, man.’’

— former teammate Rod Higgins

‘‘We would smoke cigars, and they would have to open the lid on the bus. Then I remember when we were going back to Phoenix after [John Paxson] hit the [game-winning] shot [in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals]. Michael is out on the tarmac smoking a cigar. I said, ‘What are you doing smoking a cigar out here?’ He said, ‘It’s a victory cigar.’ That’s before we even left for Phoenix [for Game 7]. He was ready to win the game. I knew we were going to be OK after that.’’

— Bulls equipment manager John Ligmanowski

‘‘When Doug Collins was the coach, he always had us run a mile after the first practice. We were practicing in this health club in Deerfield. They had an indoor track. Ten laps around was a mile. I always prided myself on coming into camp in great shape. So we run this mile. I’m ahead the entire mile. As we got to the very last lap, I could feel somebody on my right shoulder. We were turning the very last corner to get to the end, and Michael literally pushed me off the track and ended up winning. That would’ve been a great thing for me, but he never wanted to let anybody have an edge on him at all. That was the one and only time I could’ve one-upped him, and I didn’t get the chance.’’

— Former teammate and current Bulls president John Paxson

‘‘[Chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] came up to me at the organization meetings [in 1993] and said, ‘Herm, I want you to do me a favor. I know this is going to sound crazy, but I want you to get Michael Jordan ready to play baseball.’ I said, ‘Oh . . . and what? Are you serious about this?’ And he said, ‘It’s been a lifelong dream of his, and I think he promised his dad that he’d do it. We have some time, and I want you to get him ready to do this. Set up a plan.’ I was still kind of like, ‘Is this real?’ ’’

— White Sox trainer Herm Schneider

‘‘We’re the same age. We came out in the same class. My last year playing in the NBA was with the Miami Heat. We played his Bulls [in the 1997 Eastern Conference finals]. They beat us 4-1. The one game we won was in Miami. They were about to close us out. We were ahead by a lot of points going into the fourth quarter, and Voshon Lenard, for some reason, decided he was going to start talking trash to this guy. I want to say he had [20] points in the fourth quarter. I remember him saying, ‘You [expletives] are not winning when we get back to Chicago.’ He was screaming that on the court. I’ll never forget it because we were triple-teaming this dude and could not stop him from scoring. It’s so vivid in my mind. We knew what was coming. We got back to Chicago, and we couldn’t get the ball over halfcourt. He just played with ferocity. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was ridiculous.’’

— longtime NBA player and current Bulls assistant Ed Pinckney

‘‘When we were in college, Coach [Dean] Smith would make us dress up. I always told my mother to buy me two pairs of dress shoes because I needed them when I traveled. I would take them back to school, and Michael would wear one pair. We were both 13’s, but he was a 13 wide, and I was a 13 narrow. I would try to put my foot in those shoes after he wore them, and I would have to use an insole, an athletic sock and a dress sock just to make them fit. I always told him I was going to get him back somehow. When he got to Chicago, every time I would visit him, I would go into his closet and take two pairs of dress shoes and take them home. I still do it. I haven’t bought dress shoes in I don’t know how long.’’

— College roommate Buzz Peterson

‘‘I think we held him under 40 percent shooting [actually .415] in [the 1996 NBA Finals]. I don’t want to tell him, but he wasn’t the best guy on that team that year. [Dennis] Rodman probably beat us as much as he did, and, of course, [Scottie] Pippen took Gary [Payton] out of the game a lot. Their defense beat us. And I would still like to play against them with Nate McMillan healthy. He played 10 quarters in that series, and I think we won eight of them. He was on one knee, and he just couldn’t go anymore.’’

— former Seattle SuperSonics and current Denver Nuggets coach George Karl

‘‘Michael hated to lose at anything — cards, backgammon, checkers, anything. He hated to lose and was always looking for redemption. He would seek me out because I was the best guy on the team; I was the guy he had to be better than. I remember his recruiting trip [to North Carolina] when he was a senior in high school. I was a sophomore, and he came off the elevator in the dorms and before you could even see him, you could hear him. ‘This is my hall. I’m going to dominate this hall.’ He was extremely confident.’’

— Former North Carolina teammate James Worthy

‘‘One of my favorite memories was once when I played a round of golf with Tiger Woods, Michael and another friend, Adolph. We played, went back to MJ’s home and shot baskets on the outdoor court. It was MJ and Tiger against me and Adolph. MJ and I did not have shoes on. It seemed like we played forever. That night he went out and scored 50 points. What a hell of a day! It always amazes me what he can do. Happy birthday to one of my best friends who has no shortfalls.’’

— Bears Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent

‘‘I played against him twice in college and then played with him in the 1984 Olympics. He was a joy to play with and a nightmare to play against. He was one of those guys who could rewrite the rules to how the game was played. With Bobby Knight, we played a lot of zone. We put Michael right at the free-throw line and tried to funnel the ball to the middle of the floor and let him make all the decisions. He would leave his feet to pass, and Bobby Knight would get so annoyed. He broke all the fundamentals when it came to passing the basketball, but time and time again with his hang time he would find the open three-point shooter behind the arc or the bigs down low. He never made a mistake. Bobby finally said, ‘The first time you make a turnover, we go back to doing it my way.’ I don’t think Michael ever did make a turnover. He was that good. One of the greatest coaches of all time had to rethink how to play against a zone.’’

— Former Dream Team teammate Chris Mullin

‘‘My most vivid Michael Jordan story took place on a golf course, naturally. We were playing against each other at an annual invitational. Michael and his partner were down in the match to my partner and me. I hit my shot to an elevated seventh green and couldn’t see the result. I heard lots of screams and people were jumping up and down. Well, I had hit my second shot into the hole for an eagle! Knowing my shot ended the match, Michael threw his club in the air in frustration. It was an exciting match for me and I think Michael, as well. At that particular moment, I knew what Michael must have felt like having made so many three-pointers at the buzzer. That was my three-pointer at the buzzer against Michael — a moment I will never forget. Happy 50th, my friend!’’

— Blackhawks icon Stan Mikita

‘‘He’s been working with Freddie [Couples] with the Presidents Cup. He wanted to do an inspirational video, and I asked him to come and speak. It was some funny clips of the Tour players when they were younger. Then he bounced back and forth to his days with the Bulls. It was about playing as a team and having fun together and pulling together in one direction. There was never, in the video, a Michael Jordan dunk or jump shot. It wasn’t a Michael Jordan highlight film. It was all about the team. It so struck me that the man — one of the best basketball players ever — is going to put that much thought into it. It wasn’t about one guy. It was special to me because he did it for us. But when you step back and realize, ‘Holy cow, he’s telling us something.’ That was pretty neat.’’

— PGA golfer Davis Love III, who attended North Carolina with Michael

‘‘My rookie year in Cleveland, he scored 69 and I scored one. A reporter asked me what it was like to be a part of something like that. I said, ‘My friends are always going to remember this as the night Michael Jordan and I combined for 70.’ Everybody had a big laugh out of that, but nobody knew I scored one. They figured I scored 20 and he scored 50 or something. To this day, people still talk about it.’’

— former Bulls center and current TV analyst Stacey King

“In 1988, when we had the NBA all-star game at the Stadium. Normally, I don’t bother with autographs. On this day, I got everybody on both squads. In the locker room was Charles Barkley, Doc Rivers, Dominique Wilkins and Larry Bird and then of course Michael. The only guy I really needed was Barkley. I said, ‘Mr. Barkley, please sign this program for me.’ He said, ‘I don’t sign for bald people.’ That’s when Michael told him, ‘Do you know who this man is? He gives the rebounds and assists.’ [Barkley] said, ‘Oh, man, come here and let me sign that for you.’ “From that point on, every time they would come in, Barkley would come up and say, ‘Hey, how are you?’”

— Bob Rosenberg, longtime Bulls statistician

“In 1990 we played the Lions and we’re flying back to Chicago and Richard Dent comes up to me and says, ‘Hey do you want to go by Mike’s and play pool?’ We played pool four nights a week during training camp and nobody could beat us. We go over to his house, it was him and one of his posse. Me and Dan against them two. We put up 100 bucks. Jordan breaks and runs the table. We put another 100 up. He breaks runs the table. I’m down 200 bucks and I still hadn’t gotten a pool cue off the wall. I look at Dent and said, ‘This is BS, we’ll play one more game but we get the break.’ He said, ‘OK.’ We put another 100 up. Dent breaks and makes 5 and then Jordan runs the table. I grabbed my coat and said, ‘See ya.’ I lost 300 bucks and never took a shot.”

— Bears Hall of Fame defensive lineman Dan Hampton

“He taught me how to practice. A lot of people saw the finished product, the Michael Jordan with the tongue out and the acrobatic plays. They never saw what he did leading up to that. He taught me that. He taught me how to prepare days before and that rubbed off on the rest of our team. None of us could match his athletic ability but the one thing we did match him with was heart and the ability to put it out on the floor.”

— Former Jordan teammate and current Bulls special assistant to the general manager Randy Brown

“I covered the Dream Team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. That was the greatest collection of basketball players ever put together, the real beginning of global marketing for the NBA and the end of the quant ideal of amateurism at the Olympics.

There was considerable attention given to the Dream Team, of course. You put Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird together anywhere and they stand out, but put them in Europe during the Summer Games, it’s madness, right? Yes and no. It was true that it was a mob scene wherever they went, a moveable rock concert, but oddly there were more opportunities for freedom for some of the players in Barcelona, and there was more access to the stars for writers than there might have been back in the United States. Bird took public transportation there and was hardly noticed.

My enduring memory from covering that team was not the way Jordan, a Nike guy, covered a Reebok logo with an American flag during the gold-medal ceremony. It was not Charles Barkley elbowing a skinny Angolan in the chest and ending forever any Ugly American contests there might have been. It was not the way the Dream Team destroyed every team it played.

It was Jordan sitting by himself in a locker room after a practice. He had finished talking with the media, and now it was his time. There were no hangers-on. No bodyguards. No limo drivers. No teammates talking with him. No more reporters asking questions. No agents, marketers, public-relations people, lawyers, accountants, coaches, trainers, cigar merchants or autograph-seekers looking for him.

I wondered to myself how often that happened, if it ever happened to him in the chaos of his life. A little sliver of time for peace, quiet and maybe, I thought, some introspection.

He got up and started walking toward me through a crowd of reporters.

‘Michael, do you have a second?’ I said.

‘Yeah,’ he said, ‘what do you need?’

I don’t remember what I asked him, only that I appreciated he stopped and talked. But now, all these years later, I wish I had left him to his thoughts and to his aloneness, the good kind of aloneness. I wished I had let him go about the business of being just another guy. The man who had everything didn’t have that.”

— Sun-Times columnist Rick Morrissey

“In Cleveland, at the All-Star Game [in 1997], I remember this very vividly, we were at this birthday party that his wife threw for him. There was a bunch of people at the party. It was at a mansion. After they sang happy birthday to him, I saw him in this little backroom and he was smoking a cigar. He said, ‘Where are you about to go.’ I said, ‘Me and my people are downstairs hanging out.’ He came down there and hung out with us for the rest of the night. Later, he was like, “Yo, man, you’re all cool people. Hang out and enjoy yourself.’ He said thank you for letting him hang out with us on his birthday. Coming from Michael Jordan, that’s big, to have him thank me for him to be with my crew. We treated him like regular people and made him feel right at home. That’s when I found out that Michael’s really good people.”

— Former Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat standout and Chicago native Tim Hardaway

“Back in 1989, before he and Scottie [Pippen] had won their first championship. They were coming around like young kids wanting to know what it was all about. They wanted to learn from the champions. Me and Hampton would be in the training room after games with ice on our knees and smoking our victory cigars. This was after our season-opening win against Cincinnati. He and Scottie were standing across the training room like two wallflowers looking at me and Hampton. I would imagine more than a few young kids learned something about being a champion from watching those two in later years like they watched us.”

— ex-Bears defensive tackle Steve McMichael

“Every night when you stepped out on the floor you knew he was going to be on. You had to be on, you had to have your best game to have a chance to be close to him. The guy competed every minute in everything he tried to do.”

— Former DePaul standout and current Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin

“For that entire summer, we had asked Michael to join us and play pickup basketball. It was a story I couldn’t tell on the air. What stays in the locker room stays in the locker room. We had a lot of Sunday day games. There was an asphalt basketball court in a subdivision where a lot of our guys lived. We would get together after baseball games and play. We were always like, ‘Come join us, Come join us.’ Sure enough, one day in early August, his Mercedes pulls up. He’s decked out and ready to play and it just so happens it had nothing to do with talent that when we broke out into a group for 3-on-3, he was on my team or I should say I was on his. The first thing that comes to mind is you’re about to play basketball with Michael Jordan and you’re shaking your head. Is this really happening? It doesn’t compute. We start with the ball, I’m six-foot, 175-pounds with sneakers on, so I set a pick for the world’s greatest basketball player, and he looks down at me, waves his right hand, and says, ‘CB, I don’t need that.’ He takes another step back and fires from 35 and swishes it. It was game on. That’s my memory.”

— Birmingham Barons broadcaster Curt Bloom

“I remember we were doing interviews for the Rose Bowl, and he was on ESPN, and someone asked him what was the bigger story in Chicago, the Bulls or Northwestern, and he said “Northwestern.” He was a great Chicagoan. He had great awareness. Everyone who grew up in my generation idolized that guy.”

— Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald

“The year he came back after quitting baseball I just remember coming into the Berto Center for practice and going into the locker room and the feeling was different. There was something going on. You could walk in and tell. It was quiet, way more serious. I remember looking at Ron Harper and going, ‘What’s going on?’ Harper looked at me and said, ‘The Man is here.’ I didn’t know who he was talking about. He said, ‘MJ is here.’ I remember going into the training room and he was getting taped and I was like a 12-year-od kid. I was uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to do. That was the first practice he practiced with us. He was on my team when we scrimmaged at the end. I remember coming down on a fast break and he threw the ball to me and I stuck a jump shot and I ran back down and he slapped my hand. I thought to myself, ‘I could run out of this gym right now, take off my shoes and never play again and my dreams are fulfilled. I just got a high five from MJ.’ He changed everyone’s intensity, everybody was playing harder, everybody wanted to impress him.”

— former teammate Jud Buechler

It was always great games to play against him. For us, it was also a fun little series for the two years because they were obviously the best team out there. We had our chances but Michael put an end to that.”

— former Utah Jazz guard Jeff Hornacek

“Pain, pain. When you’re sitting on the opposing bench, the plays that he would make, and his will was so dominant, no matter what the circumstance were he would always find a way to put his team in position to win. If they were down 10 with five minutes to go he would figure out a way to get it done, and just the ability to make big shots. I think his talent, that part was obvious, and when you combine that with his drive and intelligence it separated him from everybody. The numbers and the championships speak for themselves.’’

— Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau

“I went to a Bulls game. I was the coach at DePaul. We went to the locker room afterwards. My son was with me. He was maybe 5 years old. I said hello to a few people and we’re walking down the hallway and my son says, ‘I want to meet Michael.’ I was like, ‘Oh, shoot, I don’t like to do this.’ So I walked back in and he couldn’t have been nicer. He sat with my son and talked with him. It always stuck in my mind how he took the time to spend time with my son.”

— former DePaul coach Joey Meyer

“Michael Jordan is someone who I have looked up to my entire life. To be able to learn different skills from him is unbelieveable. A moment Ill never forget was when he attended a UCF game my Junior year and I hit the game winning shot and I looked up into the suite where he was watching from and saw him jumping up and down cheering. That was the best moment of my life. He took Marcus and I to a celebration dinner with some other NBA greats.”

— A.J. Rompza, teammate and friend of Michael’s son Marcus

“In 1991, I was the voice of Chicagoland Chevrolet, and Michael was the centerpiece of the campaign. We were taping a big spot for a local ad agency with this director from Hollywood when Phil Jackson called a practice. Michael had to leave. I did my bit because Michael and I were not on camera together. Later on, Michael showed up after practice, about 9 o’clock. He had five different takes that he had to do and he did them all in one take. He’s one of those individuals who is just extraordinarily gifted in many different areas. He’s a remarkably versatile man. He could have easily have been a broadcaster.”

— former Bulls pre-and-post game host Chet Coppock

“All of us have seen him do so many things you can’t pick one memory, but I’ll just say the first time I saw him was when I was a new assistant in the league and came to play in Chicago. I don’t think I noticed anything on the court except Michael. I was just in awe of watching him play. I can remember sitting there next to Larry [Brown] and watching [Jordan], and I know I didn’t come even close to doing any kind of job for Larry that night. I just stared at Michael. I’ll always remember that.’’

— San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich

“He bought a ping-pong table for the middle of the clubhouse in Sarasota and they were the most competitive ping-pong games you could imagine. Everybody played. They had an NCAA tournament type chart -- I remember [hitting coach] Walt Hriniak beat me. But to watch Michael watch play ping-pong with his wing span -- imagine trying to get a ping-pong ball past this world-class athlete with that wing span. I remember being struck by how competitive he was at it, even at the end of a long day in spring training.”

— White Sox senior vice president Scott Reifert, who was in public relations with the team in 1994

“The one thing that stood out at first was just his athleticism. He was a highlight film. You could put one together from one game. But over the years, what you remember is Michael Jordan winning championships. You always remember that over everything. Not only was he a great player and a great talent but he was a great winner. That’s what we all aspire to be. We all aspire to be great individual players but we want to be great winners in our careers.”

— Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade

“Growing up I was a Knicks fan so his influence was more negative. As I got older I appreciated his talent a little more but as a kid when you’re rooting against him and he’s beating you every time it’s not a good feeling.”

— Bulls center Joakim Noah

“I was playing for the New Jersey Nets [in 1998]. We were playing them in the playoffs. In Game 1, he had a not-so-Michael-Jordan night. In Game 2, he had a not-so-Michael-Jordan night. In Game 3, he walked on the court and he shook my hand and he said, ‘You’re all in trouble tonight.’ I didn’t know he was talking about the first quarter. He [made 15 of his first 18 shots] and it was over right there. It was a tough night that night. They swept us but at least he gave me fair notice.”

— former Houston Rockets and New Jersey Nets guard Sam Cassell

“I played against him ever since college, since the Wake Forest-North Carolina days, and seeing a lanky, skinny kid who competed hard. I never thought he would turn out to be the superstar that he is today. But just seeing him and how he conducted himself throughout his career was marvelous. I’m very proud of Michael.”

— ex-Charlotte Hornets point guard Muggsy Bogues

“I have a lot of great memories of Michael Jordan because in my opinion he’s the greatest competitor who ever played the game. I’ve been around the game for five decades and have nothing but respect and admiration for him.”

— former Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo

“Michael was the ultimate competitor. I loved playing against him. I wish I could’ve played every game against him. It’s easy to get up for good competition. Wake me up for the subpar competition.”

— Former Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets great Clyde Drexler

“His intensity. I was drawn into his intensity. A lot of people remember his skill set but I admired the fire he played with. When I got on the court I wanted to match his intensity. When he would talk to his teammates you could definitely fry an egg on top of his head because he wanted to win so bad. That’s something you can’t teach. That’s just the drive inside of you.”

— Chicago Sky forward Swin Cash

“When I first started playing basketball, he was one of those players I looked up to. Even now, as I look to improve my game, my shooting coach is a big Jordan fan. Everything we watch is Jordan. We watch him do this. We watch him do that. I’ve been watching him for a long time.”

— Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings

“Larry Bird and Magic Johnson brought the game back and Michael took it to a whole different level. I thank him for that. What I don’t thank him for is I played in the Eastern Conference in those years when he was winning a lot of championships and a lot of times my team was the team that lost to him. You just wished he was in the other conference so maybe you would have a chance.”

— Former Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks standout Steve Smith



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