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Winderman: Jordan would have called Magic and Bird — he wanted to win

Jul 19, 2010, 1:28 PM EDT

 

When did Michael Jordan become like our dads?

When did he start with the, “Well, back in my day…”

Because if he truly is going to thrive as a franchise owner with the Charlotte Bobcats, then perhaps there is a need to recognize he is not back in his day, and that the world has changed since there was a one-star-per-team limit.

The latest, and best-chronicled, is the comment Jordan offered during his latest whirl at celebrity golf over the weekend.

“There’s no way, with hindsight, I would’ve ever called up Larry, called up Magic and said, ‘Hey, look, let’s get together and play on one team,'” Jordan said. “But that’s . . .  things are different. I can’t say that’s a bad thing. It’s an opportunity these kids have today. In all honesty, I was trying to beat those guys.”

In other words, he wouldn’t have gone LeBron, wouldn’t have sought refuge in the land of Wade (and Bosh).

Bunk.

Understand, Jordan wanted to win, had to win.

So let’s say Jerry Krause pulled his ultimate power play during Jordan’s career, during one of those seasons when Michael was on the year-to-year plan. Say Krause won the power struggle with Phil Jackson, excised the coach, and got into a stare down with Jordan.

Can you honestly say Jordan then would have moved on to the Clippers or Warriors or Raptors, or stayed with a rebuilding Bulls team just so he could have competed against Shaq and Malone and Reggie?

Or, like LeBron, would he have said that he wanted to play deeper into the playoffs, play alongside someone who could keep him there.

For Jordan, there always was the luxury of playing alongside Scottie Pippen. He didn’t have to find a running mate; he always had one.

And it’s not as if LeBron still won’t have his moments this coming season against the likes of Carmelo and Durant and Pierce. The challenges still will be there. Plenty of them. With many motivated opponents.

Put it another way, do you honestly believe Jordan would have hung up if Larry or Magic or Charles had actually called, if there was such an opportunity, during a period of much more restrictive free agency?

But this is good to know, and good for those in Charlotte to know.

Because if Michael does have the opportunity to land someone like a Chris Paul, bring the point guard back to North Carolina, at least Bobcats fans would know that Jordan then wouldn’t try to add a Carmelo, as well.

In M.J.’s view, that clearly would be unseemly.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

212 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. J Biggy - Jul 28, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    You know, all this talk about Jordan and being the man just lets you know how far the game of basketball has fallen. I love the game. I love the sport and Jordan was a fantastic player, but we all need to realize that he is the exception, not the rule. The point has been raised that he had Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant / Dennis Rodman. That is true, but lets just set that aside for a second. There is no question that Jordan was “The Man” on that team, but that is not the way that basketball should be played. It is a “TEAM” game and there are too many idiots on these boards and on the courts leaving comments about being the man. You know what “The Man” mentality has led to? A-Holes like Allen Iverson… Tracy McGrady… Stephon Marbury… etc. Players that want to be the next Jordan, “The Man”. You play this game as a team, you win as a team. Do you know that, other than Kareem (for one year) when he was with Milwaukee, no player until Jordan and no player since has led the league in scoring and won a Championship in the same year. Why? because that is NOT how you win. A team is supposed to play together and I think a lot of people have forgotten that. I agree with Ira Winderman in that Lebron James has never been concerned with personal accolades. He wants to win. People keep saying “Well, I guess Lebron didn’t want to be the man.” or “Lebron couldn’t handle being the man.” I choose to believe that Lebron James was smart enough to see through the BS. The idea of “The Man” is STUPID. Early in his career, Lebron was renowned for his passing ability. He wanted to get the team involved. He knew that would lead to victory. Then he made one pass to Donyell Marshall for a game winning shot in the playoffs and he missed it. After that all the “The Man” morons came out of the woodwork. “Lebron should have taken that last shot.” Why? because that’s what Jordan would have done??? Well you know what? F*** Jordan! As great as he was, he, in a strange way, ruined the team game that Basketball was always supposed to have been. That is why I always submit that the best players to play the game were Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. They did a lot of great things, but most importantly, they never would have needed to be browbeat by Phil Jackson to pass the ball to an open John Paxson / Steve Kerr to win a Championship. Come to think of it, neither would Lebron.

  2. mike craig - Aug 3, 2010 at 6:27 PM

    there is no way in the world mike would have called up any body because back then that was not even a thought today’s basketball has become boring and watered down it will never be the same again the love for the game is gone.

  3. mike craig - Aug 3, 2010 at 6:35 PM

    Jordan sucked you are truly an idiot for that comment he has never sucked you suck and don’t know anything about basketball all great championship teams had great role players not 3 superstars. wow Jordan sucked idiot

  4. Interesting - Aug 10, 2010 at 5:12 PM

    BS article, written to get page hits (yes, it got mine).
    I suspect that most people who believe that Jordan would have pulled a “Super Friends” stunt like this are not old enough to remember Jordan. The man had a personable enough image, but he was cutthroat and competitive beyond all measure. Comments about how wonderful his cast were are largely revisionist. Most of those players would have never been remembered if they were not playing next to Jordan. Pippen was a great player and a most worthy HOF’er, but when you look at posters featuring the stars of that era–think Dream Team with Jordan, Bird, Magic or a poster I remember my cousin had of Jordan, Magic, Bird, Thomas, and Dominique–Pippen was not to be found. He was well-respected and even underrated in some ways, but he was rarely elevated to the level that LeBron and Wade have thus far attained. I am not trying to lessen Pippen; Pippen is one of my favorite players. I’m just saying that his memory is largely enhanced by the championships he and Jordan won together, and Jordan was much more important to that happening that Pippen. Rodman is one of the more underrated players whose reputation was scarred by his off-the-court (and a few on-the-court) antics, but there wasn’t much of a scramble for him the least year or two he was at San Antonio. In my fantasy world that cannot be proven or disproven, I believe that Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman would soundly beat LeBron, Wade, and Bosh…but only Jordan out of that initial triumvirate was considered a bona fide SUPERSTAR (not All-Star) at the time, and a lot of the reason they were a more solid team than this new bunch has to do with their very different roles and the fact that all three of them were excellent defenders. Rodman didn’t want to shoot (though he might knock over a teammate for a rebound). Pippen didn’t mind not being the top dog and didn’t seem to entertain thoughts that he should be (think of the Kobe and Shaq debacle). Don’t get me wrong. Miami will have its day. I would be shocked if they did not win at least a couple of championships. But it will not be this year, and most of this article (and many of the comments it spurred) are short-sighted and speak to the fact that there are a lot of people who remember Jordan and Pippen as legends who never actually watched them play.

  5. PK - Aug 13, 2010 at 9:42 AM

    Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve……yeah…is this how low you need to go to get a job in Florida’s newspapers? Or mr. Ira had just turned 18?

  6. [eter - Aug 13, 2010 at 2:41 PM

    who ever wrote this article is a dumbas..

  7. ken - Aug 13, 2010 at 7:32 PM

    Sorry but you are wrong .
    This is what bothers me about the Espn babies they dont get that on game day he hated them all, Magic ,Bird,Isiah WHOEVER.
    Jordan was after RESPECT he remembered how hard he had to work from the day he arrived to be mentioned in the same breath as Magic,Bird,and the other greats and now look you have Espn calling Bron KING JAMES. Jordan would NEVER EVER Join them because he wanted to stick it to them so bad and beat them every chance he could get.
    Im talking rookie year through his first retirement no way would he say Im gonna go and play for the Celtics or Pistons after the way they punished him and made him work.
    If you were the best MJ wanted to beat you not join you to go beat lessor teams because his goal was to be recognized as the best. Espn has given all the stature to james and he doesnt respect the game the way the previous greats did .
    Lets be real here this is about Wade or Bosh its about lebron and the “supposedly” best player on the best team going to join someone elses team when if he was as good as he thinks they would be joining him.

  8. TK - Aug 14, 2010 at 3:11 AM

    I’m glad to see that a lot of people here have some sense of basketball history. In other articles, all I read about from LeBron supporters are that “but they played with hall of famers already!” Not true.
    Bird – He joined a team that won 32 games in 1978 and only 29 in 1979 and helped turn them into the best record in 1980 with 61 wins by himself. They later traded away the 1st and 13th picks in the 1980 NBA draft for Parish and the 3rd pick. It’s not like Bird’s running mates were just THERE already. Secondly, albeit a bit subjective, but do you really believe that Parish and McHale would’ve become the players they were had they not played alongside Bird? Didn’t think so.
    Magic – Sure the team already had Kareem, but they went 47-35 and 45-37 the 2yrs before Magic came on. That’s hardly an elite team. He made them that much better. Worthy was chosen through the draft and they just kept adding small pieces to the puzzle every year.
    Jordan – Check out the Bulls roster in 1989 when they lost to the Pistons in the ECF. Now check out their roster in 1990 when they lost to them again in the ECF. Okay, finally check out their 1991 championship roster. What do they all have in common? Virtually the same starting line-up and bench players. Pippen was pushed HARD by MJ and BECAME the all-around stud needed for a championship. Grant developed into a solid power forward. Cartwright played great defense in the middle. Paxson, Hodges and Armstrong gave them outside shooting. And LeBron supporters act as if Jordan had these pieces in place. He DID, but it took him 4 tries to finally break through.
    LeBron’s team (which had the BEST record in the NBA two yrs running) could’ve been on the same path. He simply didn’t elevate the players around him.

  9. TK - Aug 14, 2010 at 3:13 AM

    I’m glad to see that a lot of people here have some sense of basketball history. In other articles, all I read about from LeBron supporters are that “but they played with hall of famers already!” Not true.
    Bird – He joined a team that won 32 games in 1978 and only 29 in 1979 and helped turn them into the best record in 1980 with 61 wins by himself. They later traded away the 1st and 13th picks in the 1980 NBA draft for Parish and the 3rd pick. It’s not like Bird’s running mates were just THERE already. Secondly, albeit a bit subjective, but do you really believe that Parish and McHale would’ve become the players they were had they not played alongside Bird? Didn’t think so.
    Magic – Sure the team already had Kareem, but they went 47-35 and 45-37 the 2yrs before Magic came on. That’s hardly an elite team. He made them that much better. Worthy was chosen through the draft and they just kept adding small pieces to the puzzle every year.
    Jordan – Check out the Bulls roster in 1989 when they lost to the Pistons in the ECF. Now check out their roster in 1990 when they lost to them again in the ECF. Okay, finally check out their 1991 championship roster. What do they all have in common? Virtually the same starting line-up and bench players. Pippen was pushed HARD by MJ and BECAME the all-around stud needed for a championship. Grant developed into a solid power forward. Cartwright played great defense in the middle. Paxson, Hodges and Armstrong gave them outside shooting. And LeBron supporters act as if Jordan had these pieces in place. He DID, but it took him 4 tries to finally break through.
    LeBron’s team (which had the BEST record in the NBA two yrs running) could’ve been on the same path. He simply didn’t elevate the players around him.

  10. fb - Aug 15, 2010 at 12:59 PM

    Ira, you say the world has changed and then to prove a point, you create a world that never existed. No matter that Jordan’s statement was consistent with his statement years earlier that he wouldn’t have played with Barkley, no matter that Magic said the same thing as Jordan did. The fact here is that LeBron has admitted that he cannot lead a team to a championship despite a supporting cast that wasn’t great, but was good enough. And you’re wrong–the supporting cast was not always there for Jordan, and when they got there, they just weren’t that good. It took time and Jordan’s competitiveness and ability to make those around him better. LeBron James simply does not have that ability to make those around him better.

  11. mookie - Aug 16, 2010 at 5:14 AM

    I think what gets lost in the shuffle is that Pip (one of my all-time favorite players), Grant, and even Kukoc weren’t all-stars when they came in the league. It was Jordan, Phil Jackson, and the rest of the Bulls coaching staff that taught these guys how to compete and win. Pippen, in particular, was molded by Jordan, and even in his Hall of Fame speech, Scottie gives Michael credit for his ascent into stardom.
    Dennis Rodman, despite his amazing rebounding and defensive abilities, was seen as a destructive force and most pundits assumed it there was a 50/50 chance of Rodman either helping the Bulls, or outright wrecking the team’s chances with one of his outbursts or antics (much like the speculation on Ron Artest’s arrival to the Lakers). He was made the scapegoat for San Antonio’s failure to win a title during David Robinson’s MVP season and dealt to the Bulls straight up for Will Purdue. I repeat, STRAIGHT UP for WILL PURDUE, who came off his career season of 8 points and 7 rebounds a game. A sure-fire, superstar game changer, he wasn’t.

  12. Fineas - Aug 25, 2010 at 6:28 PM

    Jordan’s a phony. He can say now that he wouldn’t have left, but that wasn’t what he was saying back then. A few Jordan quotes from the Jordan Rules:
    “I hate being out there with those garbagemen. They don’t get you the ball.”
    “They’ve got no idea what it’s all about. The white guys, they work hard, but they don’t have the talent. And the rest of them? Who knows what to expect? They’re not good for much of anything.”
    “I know what’s gonna happen. We’ll wait until the last minute and then they’ll say something like they couldn’t get a deal done because of the cap or somebody pulled out at the last minute. It happens here all the time. I don’t know why I’m surprised every year.”
    “Five more years and I’m out of here. I’m marking these days on a calendar, like I’m in jail. I’m tired of being used by this organization, by the league, by the writers, by everyone.”
    “They’re not interested in winning. They just want to sell tickets, which they can do because of me. They won’t make any deals to make us better. And this Kukoc thing. I hate that. They’re spending all their time chasing this guy.”
    “If I were a general manager, we’d be a better team.”
    “I want to prove the critics wrong…I want to see some serious moves from management, which I really haven’t seen that much of yet, and I want to see more serious attitudes from my teammates this year when it comes to the playoffs. In the past, it’s been more or less a joking thing, sort of a ‘Well, we’re here, so let’s have a good time.'”
    Does this sound like a guy who wouldn’t have left to play with better teammates? Is there really a difference between leaving to go to a team with a better chance of winning and repeatedly complaining about one’s team’s inability or unwillingness to surround you with talent? In both cases it is about wanting to win and trying to get into the best situation to do that. There wasn’t real free agency when Jordan entered the league and even when his first contract was up, he wasn’t eligible to be an unrestricted free agent. Back then, a player got his money by signing a long term contract witht he only team he could sign with, which is why Magic signed a 25 year contract and Jordan signed an 8 year deal. When Jordan finally became a true free agent, it was a no-brainer to re-sign with Chicago because they gave him a $30 million contract when nobody else could give him anything close to that. And the Bulls were already the best team in the league (by alot), so there was nowhere else to go to find a better team.
    The fact is that Jordan never won anythign without another HOFer in his prime. He played 5 seasons without Pippen. In those 5 seasons his team never finished over .500. It never won a playoff series. And his team was 1-11 in playoff games. Does anyone seriously think that the supposedly “most competitive” person in history would have patiently waited year after year in chicago if they hadn’t surrounded him with talent and one of the best coaches of all time?

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