Solid Gold Soul

September 14, 2009

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Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan

NBA icon Michael Jordan now sits among the legends of his sport as a member of the National Basketball Association Hall of Fame. But, his speech during Friday’s ceremony appears to have rubbed some folks the wrong way.

Adrian Wojnarowski, a columnist for Yahoo Sports, thought Jordan’s speech at Symphony Hall was “petty, unfocused and uninspired,” and that he spent much of the time “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,” Wojnarowski wrote. “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.”

Wojnarowski continued: “No one ever feels sorry for Isiah Thomas, but Jordan tsk-tsked him and George Gervin and Magic Johnson for the 1985 All-Star game ‘freeze-out.’ Jordan was a rookie, and the older stars decided to isolate him. It was a long time ago, and he obliterated them all for six NBA championships and five MVP trophies. Isiah and the Ice Man looked stunned, as intimidated 50 feet from the stage as they might have been on the basketball court.”

“Worst of all,” Wojnarowski added, “he flew his old high school teammate, Leroy Smith, to Springfield for the induction. Remember, Smith was the upperclassman his coach, Pop Herring, kept on varsity over him as a high school sophomore. He waggled to the old coach, ‘I wanted to make sure you understood: You made a mistake, dude.’”

Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon wrote of the ceremony, “It wasn’t a speech so much as it was an entertaining rant, something you saw pretty often if you were one of Jordan’s golf partners or card-playing friends or, to be honest, a sportswriter with an off-the-record relationship with him.”

His speech ended by leaving the door open for his possible return to the sport.

“One day you might look up and see me playing a game at 50,” he said. “Don’t laugh. Never say never, because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.”

Prior to the ceremony, he said that he wished his father, James Jordan, could be there. The man Jordan often called his best friend was robbed and murdered in North Carolina in 1993.

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