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9/29/08

The NO BULL Interview


Enjoy this long, but very interesting 2005 interview Mike gave Marvin R. Shanke, the editor and publisher of Cigar Aficionado Magazine.



Michael Jordan may be the greatest basketball player in history. He led the Chicago Bulls to six National Basketball Association championships, twice doing it in three consecutive years. His season scoring average of 30.1 points per game is the highest in the league's history. And he won five Most Valuable Player awards, as well as making the all-league defensive team in nine of his 15 seasons. But Michael Jordan has become much more than a basketball player. Today, he is a sport icon, one of the best-known athletes in the world. His fame has transcended his sport and transformed him into a marketing mega-power. His Brand Jordan with Nike is approaching a $500-million-a-year business worldwide.

But now, two years after leaving the NBA and his final stint as a player with the Washington Wizards, Jordan has decided to speak out, not just about basketball, but his business goals, his personal pleasures and, most of all, his private life. He sat down in his Chicago-area home for a one-on-one interview with Cigar Aficionado editor and publisher Marvin R. Shanken to discuss his life, his achievements, his passions and dreams.



Marvin R. Shanken: What brought you more pleasure, playing for the North Carolina Tar Heels or the Chicago Bulls?
Michael Jordan: That's a good question. I would say it was for the Tar Heels. No one knew me until then. That's when the notoriety and everything began with Michael Jordan. By the time I got to Chicago, I was drafted three, so everybody knew I was at least decent.



But at North Carolina, when they recruited me and asked me to attend the university, it was an opportunity to prove myself. Up to that point, everybody had heard that this kid is pretty good, but we don't know how good. He came from a small town. He wasn't preseason All-American. He wasn't in the Top 100 High School kids. He didn't attend AAU games, and he was not a ranked player in the nation.



The University of North Carolina really gave me the foundation that it took to become a basketball player. Up to then, I hadn't been spoiled by the media spotlight. I was still raw. As a result, I had an appetite to prove to everybody that I was a decent basketball player, or a good enough basketball player to be at North Carolina. That was by far the purest experience for me, and the most satisfying.

MRS: Did you ever regret missing your senior year?
JORDAN: Yeah, because I had a great time in college. It was the first time I'd been away from home. I'd met new people and made new friends. It was an exciting time. It was just fun.

MRS: What was the rush to jump out early?
JORDAN: It was Coach [Dean] Smith's call. I relied so much on his knowledge. The NBA was an area where I wasn't too knowledgeable. My parents weren't knowledgeable about it, either. And it was a great opportunity. Coach Smith felt that it would be the best opportunity for me to make it in professional basketball. Once he researched the situation to find out where I would go in the draft, then I started weighing the pros and cons.

MRS: Wasn't that pretty unselfish of him, because it meant he would lose you the next season?
JORDAN: That was totally unselfish. It's the kind of person that he was. He could have said, "You should stay for your senior year. We have a great team with some great new recruits." Kenny Smith and Brad Daugherty were coming on. Our team was going to be really good. But he felt like for me, personally, going to the NBA was the best thing, and it was the best opportunity.



MRS: How exciting was it, going back this year, and watching North Carolina win the NCAA championship again?
JORDAN: I only went to one game in almost 21 years. One game at Notre Dame that I drove down for from Chicago in my second or third season with the Bulls. Other than that, I'd never been to a Carolina basketball game. To go there and see the tradition and see that everything was still the same was great. The camaraderie. The sport. The former players. The executives. Everything was the same. It was good for me to go back, and it was good for my kids to see. That's one of the reasons I went, was for my kids.

MRS: How did the fans treat you?
JORDAN: Well, it was a little different because of Illinois playing in the finals. I live in Illinois. It was the first time [Illinois] had been to a title game in so many years. But my true heart was with Carolina. And I think the fans understood that. They weren't bitter that I was supporting Carolina or that I was wearing the Carolina blue.

MRS: I read that almost the entire starting team of North Carolina has opted to go into the NBA draft, including three juniors [Rashad McCants, Raymond Felton and Sean May] as well as freshman Marvin Williams. Is this good for the players?
JORDAN: Is that good? I can be biased from the outside looking in. I'm very supportive of the university, and I would like to see them have the opportunity to defend the championship. In that respect, I think the players should have stayed in school. Just from a selfish aspect, I wanted to cheer for my university. But I don't have the understanding of what the family situations were for these players, or what motivates them. Sometimes you have to follow your dream. Their decision also depends on what Coach [Roy] Williams advised them, and about what pick they would be. That team had accomplished a lot in winning a championship. That's the ultimate prize. I think what my mother would have told me, as long as you go back and get that degree, then I can understand the sacrifice that you make to leave school. [Editor's note: Jordan, who left college in 1984, received his degree from North Carolina in 1986.]

MRS: Are these early exits from college good or bad for the NBA?
JORDAN: That depends, too. I'm a firm believer that a player should be 20 years old or older before going to the pros. Anything less than that is potentially bad. You've got a lot of things you have to take into consideration. The lifestyle. Just the mental and physical demands of the NBA that these kids are going to be dealing with are tough. And their whole maturity level, not only for basketball but on the personal side, too, has to be taken into account. If I had been a freshman or even a sophomore, no matter how good I was, I don't know if I would have been ready for what I had to deal with in the professional ranks. But you got more and more young guys doing it. I am a firm believer that something is affected by leaving college early, or not going to college at all.

As an NBA executive, if you have to invest in a player, you want to see more of the product that you are going to invest in. Since you aren't going to see as many games [of those leaving school early] to be able to gauge the maturity of these guys' basketball talent, you're rolling the dice. You are gambling. If you don't gamble right, you're going to be set back two or three years.

Now how does it affect the colleges? Look at North Carolina. You have to rebuild that team. You've almost got to start up again with all new players.

But the impact is even spreading down into the high school ranks. Kids there are not really looking at academics. They just want to get good. If they can't get into a college, the first thing they're going to say is, Well, I'm going to go pro. That may not be the best thing for them. So this trend trickles down all the way into high school.

MRS: Are you saying that kids should not be allowed to go directly from high school into the pros without some kind of college experience?
JORDAN: That's exactly what I'm saying. I'm a firm believer in that. You can argue a lot of different situations, from social to financial. Maybe there has to be some type of arrangements, or agreement between the NCAA and the NBA, for those kids who are not financially stable. For them, there will always be pressure for going to the pros, to take care of their families.

MRS: What about players like Kevin Garnett? Kobe Bryant? LeBron James?
JORDAN: But you're talking about one player, LeBron James, who's been very successful in his first two years. Kobe [Bryant], Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, Jermaine O'Neal—all those guys took at least three years before they adapted to what they had to do as professional basketball players.

MRS: They probably don't know what they missed, but you knew because you experienced college. What's important about staying in college?
JORDAN: You get the chance to mature in college. They get a chance to deal with a lot of issues in college. There's the education aspect, too. College teaches you a lot. It teaches you about being on your own, making decisions and even handling bank accounts. Eventually, you're going to have to deal with those things anyway.



MRS: You mentioned Dean Smith in a very positive way. I've wanted to ask what influence Dean Smith had on you as a young player.
JORDAN: He taught me a lot about the game. Not just about the athleticism required to play it. I'm a firm believer that when you come out of high school, you are strictly athletic. You've got a lot of athletic talents. Very few players are taught the game the right way in high school. When you go into these college programs, which was the best thing that happened to me, they are going to teach you all aspects of the game of basketball so you can apply that to your athletic skills and develop them. Once you leave college, you are a complete basketball player. Athletically, you are complete. And you know how to utilize that athleticism, and you know how to play the game within the team concept. You got a lot of these kids coming out of high school who never really had the right coaching. They think they can get by with just athleticism. It's not that way. There is very little teaching in the pros. You don't have time to teach. You've got 82 games in a season.

MRS: Where did you learn your work ethic?
JORDAN: My parents.



MRS: People say that nobody practiced harder, and you worked as hard in practice as you did in a game. There were no two different levels. Is that true?
JORDAN: I was taught to do it that way by my parents, and by the way they approached their daily activities. It wasn't half-assed. So I practiced like I played. So when I played, playing was fun. Practice is work. You're working on the idiosyncrasies of what your game needs, so when the game comes, you showcase it and you utilize it. You build your game on it. Practice wasn't just a place to take time off. You work on things in practice. On shooting, on going left or on using your left hand—those types of things that help you get better.

MRS: You were drafted number three. Did you have any idea before the draft where you were going to go? Were you surprised? Were you disappointed?
JORDAN: At the time I committed to go pro, because of Coach Smith's research, I was projected to go to Philly because Philly was in the third spot. Back in those days, the draft was based on wins and losses. So at the time, Philly was in the third slot. Billy Cunningham was the coach, and he was a Carolina guy. He said based on where we are right now in the third slot, Michael won't go less than three because we'll take him at three. Coach Smith knew that plan. But Chicago started losing games. In those days, if you lost games, you could move up in the draft. So once Chicago moved into third place, Philly moved to fifth because Dallas was coming in as an expansion team and they had the fourth pick. I could have easily gone back to the fifth pick. But then we got assurance from Houston that if they lost the coin flip to Portland, they'd take me—it was a coin flip between the top two teams to determine the first pick. But if Houston won the coin flip, they said they were going to take Hakeem Olajuwon. And that's exactly what happened. Hakeem Olajuwon went to Houston, and Portland went to its fallback pick, which was Sam Bowie. If Portland had won the coin flip, they would have taken Hakeem, and I would have ended up in Houston. But the coin flip came up Houston, and that put me back to third with Chicago.



MRS: Did you have a preference for which city you wanted to play in?
JORDAN: Not really. At that time, I just wanted to be drafted.

MRS: You were born in Brooklyn, New York. I just want to remind you. [Lots of laughter]
JORDAN: I don't think New York was in the picture. I don't think they had a pick that year. But at that time, you just want to get in the league. I didn't watch much pro basketball until I got into college, so I just wanted to play in the NBA.

MRS: What was your original deal in Chicago?
JORDAN: Financially? People are going to love this. It was a seven-year deal. I averaged about $850,000 a year. The first year's compensation was $650,000. There was no signing bonus. We tried to get an attendance clause. They were averaging 6,000 people a game. So we thought, OK, we're going to ask for an attendance clause. At the time, Jonathan Kovler was the owner. My agent, David Falk, went in and asked for that. Kovler said, We're not going to give him an attendance clause because if we draft him at the three spot, he'd better put people in the seats. So they never gave us an attendance clause.

MRS: So for the first seven years, you didn't get a raise?
JORDAN: Nope, that was my deal.

MRS: Were you unhappy about that?
JORDAN: No, I wasn't unhappy. Money didn't drive me at that time, so I wasn't worried about it. Once I signed my contract, I felt like, Let's go out and earn the money. And, I was the highest-paid rookie at the time.

MRS: Do you have a happiest memory or a peak moment when you were playing with the Chicago Bulls?
JORDAN: My happiest moment? There were so many. Do you want me to start early in my career? Making the playoffs the first time was the biggest thing for me because that franchise hadn't experienced the playoffs in a long, long time. The fans' attitude was "wait until next year, wait till next year."

In the third game of my career, we were playing Milwaukee and we were down 16 points going into the fourth quarter. People started to leave. That was their whole attitude. The game was over. I'd never experienced people leaving a game like that. It was something new. Everybody at North Carolina stayed until the end of the game, out of respect to the team.

Most of my teammates in Chicago had adapted to the fans leaving and just figured, The game must be over. I'm saying, No, it's not over until there are triple zeros on the scoreboard. I got a burst of energy and started to lead the charge. I got the opportunity to prove it's never really over. We came from 16 points down to win the game. That's when the city of Chicago started to say, OK, something's starting to happen, something is changing. There's no give-up in this kid, no matter what. He's going to keep fighting and fighting and fighting until we win or lose. That's how my first season went. That was the biggest plus for me when we made the playoffs that year.



MRS: When you were playing for the Bulls, did you, as a player or as a team, ever have any real rivalries, or was it all hype?
JORDAN: No, we had some rivalries. Early on, it was Milwaukee. We couldn't beat Milwaukee. They were just 45 minutes to an hour away. They were a strong team and they constantly kept beating us. Even when we got in the playoffs, they kept beating us. Then we got to a point where we started beating them. Then the rivalry went from Milwaukee to Detroit. And that was brutal. Isiah [Thomas] was from Chicago, and he wanted to come back and show he still dominated Chicago. I was the new guy in Chicago, and people were supporting the team. It became a dogfight between us. There was some real hatred there. On the floor, it was that whole physicality of the game, and that's what was happening on the basketball court. Anybody going into the paint was going to get knocked down. If you got stitches, you got stitches. Those are the types of games we had. But once we overcame them, then we knew we could do anything. There was no one else beating us, or having that kind of rivalry with us.

MRS: Your biggest rival was Detroit. Where did the Knicks fit in?
JORDAN: The Knicks came later.

MRS: Because as New Yorkers, we hated Michael Jordan. You single-handedly took us down more times than I want to remember. Every time in the playoffs when we thought we could reach the top, you nailed us.
JORDAN: Once we started winning and got past Detroit, the Knicks became our biggest rivals. They were trying to get where we were. We were trying to maintain what we were. Every battle was magnified. Patrick [Ewing] was a good friend. Charles Oakley used to be in Chicago. John Starks, Charles Smith, Anthony Mason—all these guys. When Detroit was winning, everybody had adopted the physical type of game. New York became that way, too. You go in the middle, you're going to get hit. Patrick was a fierce intimidator.



MRS: What was this rumor about Jordan coming to New York? We always heard that Michael Jordan was coming to the Knicks. We hated you, but on the other hand, we wanted you.
JORDAN: It was truly a rumor. We had one occasion when there was a dialogue. It must have been in 1996 or 1997 because of my contract situation in Chicago. But nothing ever really materialized.

MRS: But you told me recently that had a phone call come at the right time, you would have been a New York Knick.
JORDAN: If Chicago had not made a significant offer, New York was next. We actually had a dialogue with New York. If a phone call didn't come in 30 minutes from Chicago, we had already given assurances that we would have gone to the Knicks for less money.

MRS: How would you fix today's New York Knicks? [Laughter]
JORDAN: I knew that was coming. I don't want to second-guess Isiah. I'm not taking over for Isiah Thomas as general manager.

MRS: No, I'm not suggesting that. What would you do?
JORDAN: They have a tough team. They have a lot of injuries and a lot of big contracts. First of all, you have to find some commodities that you feel will benefit the New York Knicks, but when you do that, you can't just think one way. You have to find some team that feels that the players on the Knicks will be a better fit for the other team. Until you find the right situations for those players, you have to wait until their existing contracts expire or buy them out of their contracts. For the Knicks, it isn't a financial issue; they are still taking on a lot of contracts.

MRS: But didn't they get rid of a lot of contracts, too?
JORDAN: But they've taken on a lot, too. They are not going to be under the cap any time soon.

MRS: Which will be an easier problem to fix, the Knicks or the Lakers?
JORDAN: The Knicks don't have any cap space to create a different team. When you look at the Lakers, they may have one or maybe two sustaining long contracts. The Knicks have four.

MRS: So you're saying the Lakers would be easier to fix?
JORDAN: Sure. They'd be easier to fix.

MRS: How would you fix the Lakers today?
JORDAN: I would have never gotten rid of Shaq [O'Neal]. It's as simple as that. You've got three championships with a big man, and big men are hard to find. Not only that, you have the most dominant big man in the game today. You don't just send him away because you got some problems.

MRS: Does Kobe read about what's going on in Miami?
JORDAN: I'm pretty sure he does. But you can't blame one guy. It's a combination of both of them. If you've got success in your house, you find a way to manage so that everybody prospers and everybody is viewed as champions. Personalities got involved after they'd had some success. It becomes about individuals—individual goals that they wanted to achieve. Be it Kobe leading the league in scoring and carrying the team by himself, or Shaq proving he can win without Kobe. What's the purpose of changing if you've got the right mixture that's working? Give me a seven-footer and I'd probably still be playing right now.

MRS: The media have made a big thing about drugs this year. Is this something new or something that was around in the '80s and the '90s? Is it worse today? Is it the same? Is it a serious problem?
JORDAN: Drugs have been in the game for a long time. They were there when I was in college, and even in high school. It's in life. It's in business. It's everywhere. It starts with the kids of tomorrow, and how those kids are brought up and what their values are. And how the parents teach those kids those values. If you don't take the time to teach those values, they will make the same mistakes. Is it still prevalent in sports? Yes.

MRS: Is it worse today than it was 20, 30 years ago?
JORDAN: I wouldn't say that. I wouldn't say it's worse. There is some drug awareness out there. I must admit, it's still prevalent. But it's not worse. They've tried in the NBA to implement some provisions to monitor drug use, to eliminate it and totally get rid of it. To some degree, it is working.

MRS: It seems like for the first time in football, baseball and basketball, both on the union's side and in management, they are understanding what drugs are and that they have to do everything in their power to stop their use. Was that the case in the past?
JORDAN: No. Drug use was hidden in a lot of sports a long time ago. Now it's out in the open, be it steroids in baseball or steroids in football. Steroids have never been prevalent in professional basketball. But you got a lot of marijuana smoking and drug use like cocaine. All that stuff has been in the NBA. We've been able to curtail it and try to eliminate it, but it's very tough to eliminate. I think marijuana is still strong in the NBA. I'd like to see that paid more attention to. I think [NBA Commissioner] David Stern has done a great job to eliminate all those issues, but no one is going to be able to eliminate it completely.

MRS: Do you miss the excitement of basketball?
JORDAN: Yes. I have to stay away from it because of it. I wouldn't say it's an addiction, but it's a passion. When you have a passion, you want to do it as much as possible. Addiction means you can't help yourself. I have a strong passion for the game of basketball.

MRS: Michael, I'm now giving you the opportunity to create the Dream Team of Michael Jordan, of all players of basketball. You're on the team, and you can name four other guys at different positions. That doesn't mean there aren't 20 other great guys for those positions, but you can explain your picks.
JORDAN: That's a very good question. It's going to be somewhat biased because I didn't play back in the days of Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, some of the great stars prior to me. And it's very tough because I'm friends with a lot of players today.

But if I had to pick a center, I would take Olajuwon. That leaves out Shaq, Patrick Ewing. It leaves out Wilt Chamberlain. It leaves out a lot of people. And the reason I would take Olajuwon is very simple: he is so versatile because of what he can give you from that position. It's not just his scoring, not just his rebounding or not just his blocked shots. People don't realize he was in the top seven in steals. He always made great decisions on the court. For all facets of the game, I have to give it to him.



Power forward: There's James Worthy, whom I love, and he is a North Carolina guy. Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, whom I adore and is a good friend, and Charles Oakley. But in terms again of versatility, it has to be Larry Bird. The things he could provide to you all around: his demeanor, his work ethic and his versatility once again.



The idea here is I would build a versatile, multitalented team able to do so many different things. When the defense comes at you, they have to guard a lot of different areas, and that makes Larry Bird the choice for me.

Small forward: That is the toughest part because I played with one of the best small forwards, Scottie Pippen. He is as versatile as it comes. He handles the ball. He's a good defensive rebounder. I would be hard-pressed to pick someone else at the small forward position, even though I know Dr. J [Julius Erving] is sitting right there, too, especially in terms of excitement. And there's Dominique Wilkins, too. And you'd have to think about Elgin Baylor, even though I never saw Baylor play, or played with him. But from what I know, and what he could provide, it's Scottie Pippen. I know that's being biased to some degree. But I can't help it.



Point guard: That's easy. Magic Johnson. Because of his height, you'd have a tough time defending him. It's a beautiful thing to see a 6-foot 9-inch guy rebound the ball and start the break.



It would be the all-time tallest team, putting me at the two guard. And coming off the bench would be Jerry West to replace me. I love Jerry West.


MRS: Who in your mind is the best shooter you've ever seen?
JORDAN: Best shooter. Oh, boy. That's a great question. Pure shooter?

MRS: Or clutch shooter. I have another one here, best clutch player. You can combine the two if you want.
JORDAN: [Laughs]

MRS: Did you ever watch the Big O [Oscar Robertson] play?
JORDAN: Yeah, I watched him play. He was an all-around player, but I wouldn't say he was one of the best shooters. But he was one of the best all-around players, in the same category as Magic Johnson, who could rebound, assist and score. Pure shooter, I would say Brian Winters, who played for the Milwaukee Bucks. He had the most beautiful stroke of all the people whom I can think of. You could go, too, with John Paxson, who was next to me in the backcourt in Chicago. Clutch. He doesn't have the best form. But Reggie Miller. Or maybe Jerry West; it's hard picking one.

MRS: Best rebounder?
JORDAN: Moses [Malone]. No doubt it was Moses.

MRS: Most unselfish, a real team guy who put himself second, third, last, whatever, just cared about winning?
JORDAN: You could think of a lot of players like that in the pros. But to pick one, who would have the biggest impact on a game where you had a chance to win, that would be Magic Johnson.

MRS: Best coach?
JORDAN: I played for very few coaches.

MRS: The Dream Team has to have a coach.
JORDAN: I can't pick Coach Smith. I would take him because of my own preference. But Phil Jackson is by far the best professional coach, and that's a close call with Larry Brown and Pat Riley.

MRS: Where do you think Phil Jackson is going to go? You think he'll stay with the Lakers?
JORDAN: He loves L.A, and he has a great connection with L.A. I think he would consider that.

MRS: But he played for the Knicks.
JORDAN: I think it's between the Knicks and the Lakers.

MRS: The Harris Poll named you the most popular athlete in America for the past 13 years.
JORDAN: Why 13?

MRS: I don't know. [Laughter] Because they've been doing it for 13 years. Explain to me why you are the most popular athlete in all sports. That's an extraordinary achievement.
JORDAN: You ask me, and I wouldn't know. My personality is my personality. I'm very real when people see me. The way that I'm protected, I am as close to normal as anyone could be. In terms of my accolades and the way I played the game, those things had something to do with it, along with the marketability of Michael Jordan. And I don't quit. I'm a very competitive person. That could be taken in a lot of different ways. Some people take it in a negative way, and some people take it in a positive way.

MRS: You don't quit. You work hard. You don't speak out like a child. There have been players who have gone public with a lot of complaining that ends up hurting them, but you've been fairly pure and quiet.
JORDAN: I think things out well. When I speak, I speak with conviction. If I feel like it's something that best suits me and my person, I deal with it. I say it. I have no problem speaking out publicly about issues. But for personal things, and for things about personal selfishness, or wanting more money, I don't do that. Once I give my word, that's it. I don't go back to renegotiate. I don't renegotiate my contracts.

MRS: How did you get into endorsements? There have been other celebrities, but you took endorsements and ran with it in an unconventional way on a huge stage. How did this happen?
JORDAN: When I came into the pros, I never knew anything about the business aspect outside of basketball. All I focused on was basketball. The beauty was what my agents, David Falk and Donald Dell, did back in the Bulls days. They took what I did on the basketball court and attached a marketing value to it, and connected me to companies that had the same values that I had from the basketball standpoint. Coca-Cola, Gatorade, Hanes, Sara Lee. Those type of things. They built a connection from a puzzle that they pieced together because of what I portrayed on the basketball court.

I didn't go into the NBA thinking, "OK, now I'm going to capitalize on all these marketing dollars." It just happened. If you asked my agents how they created this mixture, they couldn't tell you. It was just one of those things. We entered the league in an era when the marketing of athletes became prevalent. It became one of the biggest things. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson should have been there first. Their reputations should have given them opportunity. But they didn't foresee it and they didn't capitalize on it. Initially, I think it became a sticking point in our relationships, because I was getting things that from a success standpoint they were entitled to or should have at least had the opportunity to obtain. But the timing was perfect for me.

MRS: It's been 20 years since Nike launched the first Air Jordan shoe, and today, it's turned into Brand Jordan, a significant business for Nike. How did the relationship happen, and what role do you play today?
JORDAN: I never wore a Nike shoe until I signed with Nike. I wore Converse in college, and I was a big Adidas fan. Then Nike came to me about creating my own shoe. They wanted to put my name on my shoe, and [let me] have input into the design of the shoe. I'd never heard of that before. It was a great pitch. It gave me an opportunity to learn more about the shoe industry, and they gave me an opportunity to create. I sat down with the designers and I talked to them about my personality and things that I like and things I feel people may like. We put all those thoughts into a brand, into the Jordan brand and into the shoe.

Things just started to progress. The public adapted to it and accepted it. We continued to create and lead, and the public kept following and following. It has continued for 20 years. We pride ourselves on putting certain values in the products. Determination.

Competitiveness. Design. Creativity. Style. Those are all the things that make up my personality. And they have been turned into a product that sells. The public has received that message consistently each and every time. That has aided the success of the brand.

Once the brand had evolved into something of significance, we decided to see if we could create its own foundation, separate from Nike. We wanted to give it an appearance of two entities, with Nike as the parent company and Brand Jordan as a subsidiary. I was given the opportunity to get involved at a hands-on level, touching, creating, approving everything that has the Jumpman on it. We took Nike off the brand, and put the Jumpman on the brand to see if the public would receive us properly. And they have. With that move, we have been able to expand, not just in basketball, but in baseball, football, boxing and outside of sports, too, like a Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger or those type of brands.

Even though Nike was not that edgy and not that stylish, but more traditional, they gave me an opportunity to expand on the more creative stuff. They controlled 80 percent of the basketball industry, but they knew, just because of consumer preferences, it would be tough to get more than 80 percent. So they created this other brand to capitalize, and it proved to be the correct way to do it.

MRS: Aren't you a worldwide brand today?
JORDAN: All over the world. And today, Brand Jordan is a $485 million business.

MRS: Do you have any official responsibilities? Are you a corporate officer?
JORDAN: No, I maintain my independent endorser status. But I approve all the decisions for Brand Jordan.

MRS: Do you get a salary and royalties, so as the brand grows, your royalties grow? If you want a junior partner, I'm available.
JORDAN: I haven't seen you in shorts yet.

MRS: [Laughter] I got a feeling if that's a condition, I'm out. Let's move on. When did you decide that the last chapter, or in an important future chapter, you should be an NBA owner instead of just a player or an endorser?
JORDAN: It was an acquired taste. When I came in as a player, I was dumbfounded by the business aspect, but I learned about the business of basketball during the 20 years I was involved. I created an appetite in myself to still have an impact on the game and have an influence on the game from a managerial position. I managed a team for a couple of years. I felt like I did a good job with the Washington Wizards, contrary to what people may think. Because of that experience, I still want to have an impact on a basketball team, but I want to do it from an ownership position. I want to have a longtime connection with the game of basketball.

MRS: Is that because you see yourself as a businessman, or because you saw things done by management that were good or bad, that you might have changed?
JORDAN: Exactly. Yes, I consider myself a businessperson, and yes, I felt like certain things happened that if I was in ownership, I would have done it differently. I would have made decisions totally differently.

MRS: They say that from every experience, good or bad, there is a valuable lesson learned. What lessons did you take out of the Washington Wizards?
JORDAN: I think it exposed me to a lot of decision making. One of the bad decisions I made was to go back and play. Even though I was soothing an itch that I had, I also thought I was being innovative in my job by going down and evaluating the talent firsthand. I thought it would be a good idea to play against them, see what their tendencies were and what we were paying for. But at the same time, I became more critical of them because of the way I played the game and the way I'd approached the game, and the players didn't respond to that. They didn't respond to the desire that I had when I was playing. I may just have gotten too close to see or maybe too critical of certain actions of the players. That was one of the biggest mistakes that I feel I made in Washington.

You go in with initiative, and you go into a program that needs guidance, and you have to find out what the agenda may be. With the Washington situation, there was an agenda. They were well over the cap and they were losing money.

MRS: They didn't have anybody coming to games.
JORDAN: The first thought was, Let's reduce the losses. That's what the Knicks and some of these other teams have to do today. You have to get rid of some of the bad contracts so you create as much flexibility as quickly as possible. That way, you can more easily change the team and change the attitudes, and get some younger talent and hungry players. You have to get some new people in there.

I feel like we did that in the first couple of years in Washington. We got rid of all the bad contracts and we put ourselves in a position where we weren't losing as much money. We put ourselves in the position to get profitable as quickly as possible.

When [Wizards owner] Abe [Pollin] decided not to hire me back as president of basketball operations, I felt the team was in a great position. People consider that to be a bad experience for me, but you look at that team and how much flexibility they had and how much room they [had] under the cap, and they were able to go out and get some of these players.

I think my management team did a good job of helping turn the Wizards around. We may not get the credit, but that's all well and good. We did what we were asked to do, which was two things: Help the franchise get back into the financial plus side, which I think they are strong today in that area. And the second thing was build young talent. That's where they are today, and they are very successful and winning.

Ernie [Grunfeld, president of basketball operations] has gone in there and done a great job with the coaching staff and gotten the players together. We look at what we did, and we gave him a good base to build on. And we will never get the credit for it. So people look at that as a negative for me, but it was a learning experience, because I did some good things right and a couple of things bad.

I'd like to go in somewhere now with a little bit more time, and with an ownership stake where I can implement my own views about certain things and take a program and make it successful.

MRS: Do today's contracts, which make young kids instant millionaires, end up slowing down or holding back their own performance because they are so financially secure that they are not giving the kind of effort that you gave to the game?
JORDAN: Values have changed. Those were the days where no matter what you got paid, you played the game to play the game. There are players—some of the young players—who are playing the game for what they are going to get paid. I think that has a lot to do with the success of the NBA. It's a very profitable organization. It's very marketable. There's a lot of outside income that can be generated in terms of what's happening on the basketball court. Yes, it has changed. But you still find a lot of players who play basketball for the love of the game. And those players aren't affected by what they are getting paid.

MRS: Do you have a secret dream of one day waking up and you own the Chicago Bulls?
JORDAN: I would love to own the Chicago Bulls because of what the franchise provided to me. It would give me the opportunity to move it further into a successful program. But I do understand that Jerry Reinsdorf is a good owner. He is a very good businessman. He has a family that enjoys the game of basketball. And I totally understand his maintaining his ownership of the Bulls.

MRS: What about other cities?
JORDAN: I would love to look at other scenarios and see what from an economic standpoint best suits me.

MRS: You know what I was thinking. You're going to be involved in a real estate venture in Las Vegas, and I don't think they have a team there. Wouldn't that be hot?
JORDAN: I'd love to own a franchise in Las Vegas. But who wouldn't? The opportunity it provides just from being in Las Vegas creates a great economic situation. But it's not just Michael Jordan who would find that attractive. You could find a lot of other potential owners or investors who'd like to own a team in Las Vegas. Will it happen? I don't know.

MRS: What's the project you're involved with there, the Aqua View Luxury Condominium—Hotel Resort and Spa?
JORDAN: A gentleman named Michael Peters came to me, and he is involved in building condominiums. It's a big trend in Vegas. MGM MIRAGE, all these companies are doing it. He wanted my association with the project. I told him that my biggest expertise in that arena would be to do restaurants. I've done restaurants in the past. I have a company that starts up and builds Michael Jordan Steak Houses. So we decided that would be my role in this whole scenario, doing restaurants in that building. That is my connection.

MRS: Also, I read, an athletic center.
JORDAN: That is a concept that we don't know if we are going to follow through or not. But that is one concept we are discussing.

MRS: In all the press, you are not at all involved with the casino in that project. Is that because it might have an effect on your ability to own an NBA team?
JORDAN: Probably. But that's not one of my interests.

MRS: Talk to me about this little white [golf] ball.
JORDAN: That addiction. Now, that is an addiction.



MRS: When did you start playing golf?
JORDAN: I started playing the summer of 1984. I had just committed to go pro. And I went out and played some holes at North Carolina. I went with a good friend of mine, John Simpkins, who was on the golf team at the time with Al Wood, and we played 18 holes with Davis Love [III], who was attending North Carolina at the time. I parred one of the 18 holes, and I've been hooked ever since.

MRS: Aren't you good friends with Tiger Woods?
JORDAN: Oh yeah. Tiger and I met about eight years ago. It's ironic, because he is in the same scenario from a marketing and business standpoint that I was when I came into the NBA. I've been able to answer some of the questions that he's had about dealing with certain things. Our friendship has grown since then. And we talk all the time about mental approach, dealing with the expectations from the public.

MRS: I can see where you have, from a personal standpoint, so much in common in your own respective areas. Have you ever joked around with him because a lot of people call him the Michael Jordan of golf? How does he handle that?
JORDAN: He's OK. He doesn't really look at it that way. I don't rub it in. I let him know that I'm a little bit older than him, and so I beat him to the punch. And that's the only thing it means. It's just a standard of measurement. When I came out, they said I was the Dr. J of the NBA until I earned my own.

MRS: Another thing that I'm really disappointed about, if my research is correct, is that you don't shoot craps. But I hear that you are a pretty good blackjack player. Is that true?
JORDAN: Well, I lose. Just like everybody else. Does that determine if you're good or not? I know the rules.

MRS: I spoke to a guy who shall remain nameless who said to me that you are one of the few athletes that wins more than he loses, and when you're ahead, you know how to walk, and when you're behind, you know how to walk. You are a disciplined blackjack player, and he has a great deal of respect for you.
JORDAN: Is it one of those casino owners? I'm not greedy. Gambling can initiate greed. You want more, or you want to get it back. You have to pick a number, and that's my number. It's all relative to what you feel comfortable with. Mine may vary from yours, and ours may vary from a lot of people. It doesn't take much to beat my head in. Have I lost a lot? Sure. Have I won a lot? Sure. What's considered a lot? I have satisfied myself both ways. For me, that's my enjoyment.

MRS: I see there's a wine cellar here in your house. Tell me about it. Is it your interest or your wife, Juanita's?
JORDAN: I am a Grade C wine drinker or connoisseur. My wife is a B. She got me involved. Although she's not the only person who got me interested. When I signed with Bijan fragrances, Mr. Bijan took me out one day and we had dinner. He got me a bottle of 1961 Ch√Ęteau Margaux. And I fell in love with Bordeaux.

MRS: [Laughter] That's not a C wine!
JORDAN: Obviously it's the top of the line, granted that. Then I started getting more involved with Bordeaux. A good friend of mine, Mario Lemieux, is a big-time wine drinker. I go to a lot of his golf tournaments, and he taught me how to go to Sotheby's and buy at auction. I do have a strong interest in wine. But my wife's is a lot stronger. She's taken classes and she goes to wine tastings and things of that nature. I'm not quite at that level, because I like to do it on my own. I enjoy wine. I truly, truly enjoy wine.

MRS: There is one wine story in the research I did. It's something about a meeting you were having with David Falk, and you started ordering wine to shut him up?
JORDAN: Yeah. We had a dinner meeting and I couldn't get a word in. The meal was on his company bill. Anytime he orders wine, or orders anything, he checks the price. But that night he was taking time out from what we were talking about to make sure about the price. So now I say, Give me the most expensive wine, and he's picking up the tab. Then, I say, Every time you interrupt what we're talking about, I'm going to order another bottle. When I started ordering the '61s, I quieted him right down, and we got through the conversation. That is a true story.

MRS: Cigars? We're sitting here. We're smoking a Cuban Monty No. 2. Nothing wrong with that. I went through your humidor here; you have a great selection. When did you first get into cigars?
JORDAN: I smoked my first cigar in 1991, when we won the championship. Up to that point, I had never smoked a cigar, never smoked anything. We won the championship, and Jerry Reinsdorf gave me one of his cigars. He's a big cigar smoker.

The next time I received a cigar was from my good friend, Ahmad Rashad. He used to get these Churchills from Las Vegas that were dipped in rum. I wouldn't smoke them, but I would sit there and chew on them. I got to the point where it became very relaxing.

In Chicago, I tell people this, and they have to understand the context of what happened. We had to be to the stadium at 6 o'clock for home games, and traffic was so bad it would take us an hour and 15 or an hour and 30 minutes to drive. So now I'm sitting in a car for almost an hour and a half, and I'm very tense. I'm worried about the traffic. So I started smoking a cigar going to the games. In 1993. It became a ritual for every home game.

MRS: What cigar?
JORDAN: At the time, I started out with the Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona.

MRS: That's a good hour smoke.
JORDAN: Taking my time. I never rushed. As soon as I walked in, Phil [Jackson] would say, OK, you had a long drive. It became such a relaxing thing to do. Not many people know about it. When they read this, they'll know that each and every day for a home game, I smoked a cigar. I wanted that feeling of success, and relaxation. It's the most relaxing thing.

MRS: People don't understand. When I'm in the office and I have a problem, I light a cigar, and my mind expands and I'm able to solve the problem.
JORDAN: It is the most relaxing thing. Every time I get to a point where everything is coming at me, I would rather just sit back and smoke a cigar and relax.

MRS: What are your favorite cigars today?
JORDAN: Partagas Lusitanias. I love those. And I'm in love with all Cubans. I've become a big Cuban cigar smoker. I gradually worked my way up from Las Vegas rum-dipped to all the different types.

MRS: What size cigar do you like?
JORDAN: Depends on the time, depends on the day, depends on what I'm doing. If I'm in a rush, I can go for a robusto—not that it's not going to be rushing, but it's smaller.

MRS: You ever have an Epicure No. 2?
JORDAN: Sure.

MRS: Partagas Serie D?
JORDAN: Sure. You've got me smoking these Montecristo No. 2s, and these are so strong. If I hadn't had anything to eat, I wouldn't touch this. These are for the end of the night, and I'm getting ready for the end of the day. If I had to smoke a cigar that I can get through, that would be an Esplendido. I can get through those.

MRS: So, today, when do you smoke?
JORDAN: I already smoked today. I went to work out, and I had a cigar on the way, fighting the traffic the whole way.

MRS: What kind of cigar did you smoke this morning?
JORDAN: I had a Cohiba Siglo II.

MRS: Have you ever been to a cigar factory?
JORDAN: No, and it's my biggest dream to visit Cuba and visit some of these factories. Obviously with the embargo it's a little difficult.

MRS: Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua. Maybe we will have to take a tour.
JORDAN: I'd love to go. I'm open. I have a strong interest. Don't ask me how many a day I smoke.

MRS: I don't tell people how many I smoke a day, either. Arnold Schwarzenegger—I believe we can describe him as a successful actor. Huge cigar guy. Now he's the governor of California.
JORDAN: No! No! No! Not interested.

MRS: Have you ever in your weakest moment thought about going into politics?
JORDAN: No, I just haven't had a strong passion for politics.



MRS: What do you think about public people in important positions who smoke, including the current president of the United States, who doesn't want people to know. But then there are guys like Arnold, who built a tent behind the capitol building in Sacramento so he could smoke. And there's Rudy Giuliani. It's a pleasure of his. Obviously, you don't think there's anything wrong with smoking a fine cigar, but what about other people who enjoy cigars and aren't willing to at least acknowledge that?
JORDAN: Yeah, I think about it. I put myself in that position early on because of the negative influence that it is perceived to be. Drinking is, too. A lot of people drink.

MRS: But wine today is more accepted.
JORDAN: But alcohol is alcohol, no matter how you look at it. I've come to grips with it, however, and even sitting down to talk with you is part of my decision. I'm stepping away from that public image, from that other self that's been around for so many years. These are the things that I enjoy. These are the passions that help me get from point A to point B. The relaxation that I get from it.

Certain people may want to know that. That's one of the reasons I'm doing this with your magazine. I'm not endorsing anything, or telling kids they should pick up cigar smoking or drink beer. These are things that I enjoy. This is my passion. They are some of the things that I like to do.

At some point, you have to take your life back from the public, to enjoy it. And I'm at that stage where now I'm taking my life back from the public and doing the things that I enjoy doing. Like motorcycle riding, which I couldn't do because I had this situation with my contracts and my commitments to the game. But I grew up riding a motorcycle, and now I'm doing more of those things I like. And I'm enjoying myself.

People have to understand that I'm still a person, and there are things that I enjoy doing. Yes, I enjoy working with kids and giving them positive things to think about, about how to get from where they are to where they want to be. But that doesn't mean that I can't be the person that I want to be and do the things that I want to do.

MRS: That's so important. Basically you're saying, I'm going private. Being true to myself.
JORDAN: Exactly.

Original publication:



Cigar Aficionado 2005 July/August.

9/25/08

"I'm Back" by Teixeira Films


Michael Jordan highlight videos come a dime a dozen on the internet. Filled with the same highlights we've all seen a hundred times. But every once in a while someone puts a fresh spin on the old Jordan highlights. If you are a loyal reader of my blog then then you know I only share what I feel is truly worth checking out. So with that in mind I present to you "I'm Back" by Jacob Teixeira.

Enjoy.






Mike Gives Back


Last week Parade Magazine published The Giving Back Fund's second annual Giving Back 30 survey, a ranking of celebrities who made the largest public donations in 2007. Of course, Oprah Winfrey is at the #1 spot again dropping more than $50 million in donations last year.



As far as athletes, Michael Jordan came in at #7, donating $5 million to Hales Franciscan High School, a historically African-American all-boys school in Chicago, and New Jersey Nets forward Richard Jefferson came in at #12 for donating $3.5 million to the University of Arizona for a new basketball and volleyball facility.



Tiger Woods is ranked 18th after donating $1.3 million to the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, California while Tracy McGrady is at #20 for donating a cool $1 million to the Stand Up Darfur organization and related projects. Former San Antonio Spur, David Robinson and his wife Valerie ranked 29th after donating close to $780,000 to the David Robinson Foundation which supports the Carver Academy and various mentoring and hunger programs.



The Artistry of Michael Jordan by Hoopsencyclopedia


The easiest compilation video to make is one of Michael Jordan. All you need to do is take 5 games from his career and you'll have enough material for an entire news segment.

The most difficult compilation video to make is one of Michael Jordan. If you take any 5 games from his career, you'll have so much material you won't know what to cut out.



Therein lied the challenge of this edit for me. With the tons of MJ mixes out there, I wanted to do something more complete. I also wanted to focus on the aesthetics of his abilities. That led me to a path of picking not only classic clips, but rare ones and personal favorites. For those who didn't grow up in the 80s before MJ became a champion, they can never know the full experience of what watching Jordan was like. Before all the awards, the statistics, the monster games, the titles and the global appeal, MJ was about his incredible moves. In the playground, people stuck their tongues out and tried to imitate his drives to the basket. Later on, people imitated his fadeaway. But his athletic moves were singular and his alone - awesome in aesthetics, control, spontaneity, improvisation, instinct and athleticism.





MJ revolutionized the game with his individual exploits and we see bits and pieces of this in everyone today. From Kobe studying his shooting mechanics to create shots to Wade attacking the basket to Lebron transferring his power to his teammates to Iverson in his isolations to Carter in his dunking, MJ continues to be, as Drexler said, "The Pro's Pro".

But obviously, there will always be only one MJ. This video captures the essence of MJ stripped of everything but his pure, remarkable talents as completely as possible in 10 minutes. A truly complete edit would take a video several days long - even weeks - but that would be impossible anyway.

By blurring the line between sport and art, MJ became the greatest athletic artist we will ever know. "Black Cat" was his nickname to his friends for his cat-like reflexes and grace and panther-like power and killer instinct. This is my ultimate tribute, with excellence, in return for his excellence to the game of basketball.



Thank "hoopsencyclopedia" for the video.


9/24/08

Air Jordan I Hi Lasers



The Air Jordan I has made a big comeback in the last 2 years for the Jordan Brand. Many different themes have been used to insire new colorways of the old classic. Hi-tops, Mid-tops, and now even skateboard themed lo-tops.

Here's the latest sneak peek at another upcoming Air Jordan I Laser.



No info right now the on price, release date or the story behind the design. Stay tuned for more info.

Thank Marqueesole.com for the pics.



9/23/08

Who is LaBradford Smith?


It’s been awhile since we’ve posted stuff on great Michael Jordan moments, so, what better time than now to write about another legendary tale in regards to Mike.

Has anyone ever heard of a former Washington Bullets player named LaBradford Smith? Hands up, any readers out there? Oh, put your hands down if you’re related to Smith, or are friends of the former Washington player. No?



Well, allow this writer to relate a tale involving MJ and Smith which is both hilarious and illustrative of the almost fanatical will to win from Jordan.

During the 1993 season, the Bulls were playing against the Bullets and Mike was guarding a little known player named LaBradford Smith. This young upstart managed to drop 37 on Jordan and one could easily assume that His Airness was taking a night off defensively because he was a monster at stopping opposing players. Or, maybe Smith was just greater than Jordan, depends how you want to look at it.

The game is close and the Bulls won, but Jordan is furious that Smith had the temerity to embarrass the greatest like that. Even the win wasn’t enough to appease Jordan’s fury, and by a quirk of the scheduling the two teams would meet again the next night!

After the game MJ vowed to teammates that he was going to get back all 37 points Smith dropped on him by the first half!

Adding a further flapping red cape in front of the angry Bull, Jordan claimed that Smith also taunted him after his seminal performance with the words: “Nice game, Mike.” Telling all who would listen that LaBradford trashed him.



Everybody believed Jordan, the Bullets and Bulls players, while Smith never denied the fact that he taunted him. The legend grew with Washington players passing on the tale at how LaBradford zinged the greatest basketball player of all time.

So, the scene was set the next night when the two combatants would face each other again and Jordan was almost true to his word – he ‘only’ scored 36 points in the first half, with a jumper rimming out as the second quarter came to an end.

Want to know the best part of this tale? Are you ready for the twist at the end of the story? Jordan made up the fact that Smith had trashed him, in fact Smith never said a word, but MJ needed further inspiration to school LaBradford so told everyone that he was disrespected. Amazing.

Here's the video of Mike lighting up Smith for 36 in the first half.



Thank www.nbaloud.com for the story.

9/22/08

Doernbecher Freestyle Air Jordan 1 by Tony Taylor Jr.




Nike has once again unveiled their latest series of Doernbecher Freestyle sneakers for charity, designed by former patients of the Portland-based Doernbecher Children’s Hospital with the help of Nike designers and developers. The first sneaker of five that we’ll be detailing is the Doernbecher Freestyle Air Jordan 1 High, designed by Tony Taylor Jr, or as his friends and family call him, “Mr. Boober.”



It was an opportunity of a lifetime for Mr. Boober, a 16 year old from Portland, Oregon, as he was given the chance to design his very own Air Jordan 1 after battling Nephrotic Syndrome and overcoming a kidney transplant over a year ago. A Doernbecher Children’s Hospital patient who received his transplant on April 4th, 2007, Tony first learned about the Nike Doernbecher Freestyle project after he noticed his doctor’s cool shoes one day in her office. “Sweet kicks!” said Tony, an avid sneaker fanatic with a collection of over one hundred pairs of Air Jordans. As his doctor began to tell the story of how her former patient had designed them with the help of Nike, she mentioned that Nike was looking for more young designers to participate. Tony wasted no time to interrupt her, simply saying, “Pick me! Pick me!”



Sure enough, Tony was one of five Doernbecher patients chosen to design his very own shoe for the 2008 release, and he teamed up with Jordan Brand Senior Designer Jason Mayden and Developer Estelle Maranan to work on an Air Jordan 1 High from scratch. Aesthetically, there’s surely more going on with this Air Jordan 1 than ever before with the model, but it’s Tony’s detailed backstory and inspiration for every facet of the sneaker that make it so special. The shoe’s upper (with the true original High top cut!) is comprised of a gradient fading patent leather, and is actually just two pieces, a first for the normally multi-paneled silhouette. The seamless toe cap extends into the tongue, and the forefoot support overlay begins the rest of the upper piece extending to the heel of the shoe. According to Tony, the fade from black to blue signifies his triumph over kidney disease.



The shoe’s yellow contrast stitching and outsole, along with Tony’s number 15 along the heel, are all inspired by one of his favorite athletes, Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets. Just under his favorite number is the date he received his transplant, as well as a sequence of four stars, representing the Generals, his Grant High School mascot. With his extensive Air Jordan collection, Tony is known at his Grant High School as quite the sharp dresser, always matching head to toe and rotating his many shoes with a crisp pair every day. He likes the Air Jordan V’s and XI’s most, and Tony says the one phrase that best describes him is simply, “I’m Fresh.” Designer Jason Mayden helped him out by including a cartoon character of Tony along the tongue tag, with his nickname Mr. Boober and his defining phrase all included.



Tony’s family also plays a major role in his life, as he credits them with keeping his spirits high during his hardest times while at Doernbecher. His nickname, Mr. Boober, was the result of his mother ReEtta and her friends constantly joking about how mature and grownup he acted, and Tony jokes that he’s had his mustache since he was a kid. The name has stuck for years, and his mom says kids at his school might not even know his real name, as to everyone he’s just Mr. Boober. He’s closest to his mother, and she rightfully headlines a list of his “Angels” along an affixed dog tag that also includes the names of his siblings, Aunt and Uncle and two Doernbecher doctors. He takes the angel theme even further, as large angel wings help tell his story along the upper. Also at the heel, you’ll notice several Palm trees, which represent the calm and tranquil islands of the Bahamas. Tony hopes to one day take his mother there for a much deserved vacation, where the two can relax and reflect over the hardships and scary times they conquered together.



Aside from all of the extensive details and inspiration making up Tony’s Freestyle Air Jordan 1, he was also presented with a special pair for his own collection, as well as an extra pair in his size 7 to wear. The pair he was first presented with includes a wooden box specially laser etched by Jordan Brand Creative Director Mark Smith. The box includes the 5th Year Doernbecher Freestyle Anniversary logo along the top, which is actually Smith’s handprint with a Roman Numeral V. Inside you’ll find the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital logo as well as Tony’s name also lasered into the wood, making for an intricate package and keepsake. The added touch is also Tiger Woods’ signature along the left toe cap, as Tiger and his wife Elin are avid supporters of the Doernbecher and Nike Freestyle project. They both take the time to learn every year about each young designer and former Doernbecher patient and also collect the shoes from the series.




While the joy in the project is certainly seeing young kids like Tony beaming at their designed shoes, the Nike and Doernbecher Freestyle series is also a great charitable event that helps raise money for the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. The shoes will be sold at retail at Niketown stores as well as on Niketown.com on November 14th, with all of the procesds benefiting the hospital. Each year, each shoe is also auctioned off, with all proceeds going to Doernbecher to help buy supplies and new medical equipment, as well as pay for research grants and also provide funding help for families in need. Last night, Tony’s “Fresh” Air Jordan 1 went for $12,500, further helping the Doernbecher Foundation provide future medical care to children in need! There is also an anonymous donor who has stepped up to match every auction’s ending price, helping the Freestyle project in its quest to beat last year’s raised donation of $850,000.



Keep checking back for more details and pictures of the four other Doernbecher sneakers that are set to release November 14th. For designer interviews, further auction results and extensive coverage of this year’s five Doernbecher shoes as well as all past Doernbecher shoes, be sure to check out Issue 25 of Sole Collector.


Thank Nick DePaula of Sole Collector Magazine for the story.

9/20/08

Mike at the 37th Ryder Cup


Michael Jordan was on the grounds yesterday at Valhalla Golf Club watching the 37th Ryder Cup.



Jordan, who spent time in the morning walking with the Phil Mickelson-Anthony Kim pairing, called the Ryder Cup his "favorite sporting event."



"And that's not just because I can get inside the ropes (walking away from the galleries)," Jordan said. "I love the competition."



Jordan, in a white T-shirt, jeans and a baseball cap, said he has been to every Ryder Cup since 1997. He's good friends with Tiger Woods.



"I love this," Jordan said. "No money. It's all about pride, and every shot means something. There's someone happy and someone sad."



After discussing some basketball with the media walking down the 18th green, Jordan said he's been in town since Tuesday. He's renting a house in Lake Forest and said he has been playing golf there all week.


Thank www.courier-journal.com for the story.




9/16/08

An Evening at The Garden


MJ, the Knicks, and My Dad



Words by Marcel Mutoni.

When I was 9 years old, my mother took a job with the United Nations, and my family moved to New York City. It was the biggest, loudest, most intimidating place that I had ever been in. And I loved everything about it. Taking the subway to and from school each day, the lights, the sounds, sights and smells, and the ceaseless energy of the city and its people.

What I was enamored with most, though, was the basketball. New York, as you have surely heard a million times by now, is the Mecca of basketball. This is true in every sense. In the 90’s, when the Knicks weren’t the source of unspeakable shame that they are today, New York was a hoops town through and through. From the playgrounds, to the indoor gyms, and of course inside the World’s Most Famous Arena. It remains a basketball-mad metropolis today, but nothing like when Riley and his men were princes of the city.



The year was 1993, the Chicago Bulls, coming off two consecutive NBA titles, were the best team on the planet, and Michael Jordan was arguably the most recognizable human being in the solar system. He was also my idol. Understand this: I loved basketball and the NBA, but I adored Michael Jordan. Worshiped him. My affinity for this bald-headed man that I’d never met in my entire life (and likely wouldn’t in the future) bordered on the psychotic.

When the news broke that his father had been murdered that July, I mistakenly thought that it was MJ himself who’d shuffled off this mortal coil, and I locked myself in the bathroom, sobbing inconsolably. My mother, furious at the memory that nary a tear had escaped my eyes when my own grandfather passed away the previous year, almost took a broom stick to my head.

My father, who was living in England at the time, had gotten me a crisp, blood red number 23 Bulls jersey for my 10th birthday, and I abused the thing. Wore it everywhere.



I felt an obligation to rep Mike all day, everyday. Underneath my school uniform - for reasons I have yet to fully grasp, my mother insisted that my brothers and I attend a private French school in Manhattan, where we had to wear button-up shirts, ties, and slacks daily - to the park (our school was conveniently located just a few blocks from The Cage, New York’s iconic streetball court); I even wore it underneath my outfit when I attended mass on Sundays. I was a crazy kid.

But I also don’t think that I was alone in my madness. It was practically impossible not to get swept up in MJ Mania.

In those days, Mike wasn’t really a basketball player; he was the closest thing we had to a real-life superhero. The man was playing an entirely different sport from everyone else, his team was winning at an unbelievable clip, you couldn’t pick up a newspaper or magazine without reading about his latest exploits, and the Nike machine made sure that his image was on television during virtually each and every commercial break.

There was just one tiny problem. In New York City, Mike and his Bulls were public enemy number one. Despite the fact that he was born in Brooklyn, most New Yorkers had warmer feelings towards the Son of Sam than they did for the League’s brightest star.

The Bulls stood between the Knicks and championship glory. For the first time in two decades, New York had a team with a realistic shot at winning the whole thing, but one man proved to be an immovable obstacle, time and again.




In the ‘91 Playoffs, Chicago knocked New York out in the first round. Not only was it a humiliating sweep, but also this happened. The following year, the underdog Knicks fouled, clipped, elbowed, and improbably clawed their way to a decisive Game 7 in Chicago Stadium, only to once again be expunged by MJ and his defending champion Bulls.

When the teams met in the postseason for the third consecutive time, this time in the ‘93 Eastern Conference Finals, the Knicks and their fans were sure that they would prevail against the hated Bulls at last.



My father left England and moved in with us that summer, and to my poor mother’s chagrin, he and I spent every night in our Manhattan apartment immersed in Bulls vs. Knicks talk. It was the topic of conversation for seemingly everyone in the city, and one that often led to fist fighting on the playgrounds.

It’s impossible for me to know how much my dad was really into the rivalry, or if he simply played along because it brought the two of us that much closer. I don’t really care either way; I had MJ and I had my dad. I was the happiest kid in the world.

“Hey, I’ll be home in 15 minutes. Get yourself ready to leave,” my father said over the telephone, sounding short of breath.

“But, dad, Game Five is about to start in an hour! I can’t miss tha - ”

My dad cut me off. “Just trust me. Grab the Jordan shirt and put your shoes on. And hurry up!”

“I swear, if you make me miss this game, I’ll never forgive you.”

“Just be ready when I get there.”

Forty-five minutes and a subway ride later, my father and I were being ushered inside Madison Square Garden. I couldn’t believe it. When handed my ticket, my jaw nearly hit the floor. It was my first time stepping foot inside an NBA arena, an absolutely overwhelming experience. This wasn’t some dream; it was actually, truly happening.



The series was dead-locked at two games apiece, and I was about to watch my favorite player go up against his fiercest rivals, in the most electric atmosphere imaginable. It was positively surreal.

Knicks fans are a knowledgeable, passionate, and loud bunch. As previously mentioned, they also hated the Bulls with every fiber of their being in the ’90s. You can just imagine the reception my MJ jersey received in the stands. I was petrified. My father, hardened by years of attending violent soccer matches in Britain, where the hostility for enemy fans is legendary, couldn’t help but laugh at the insults being hurled at us by crazed Knicks supporters. I was sure that we were going to get our asses kicked, but even that wouldn’t have stopped me from enjoying this moment.

Michael Jordan had torched the Knicks for 54 points in Game Four, a dazzling performance, whose significance was magnified by his struggles earlier in the series, and in part fueled by the New York media getting under his skin by gleefully inferring that a late-night gambling trip to Atlantic City prior to Game Two had affected his play. I was sure he’d explode on the Knicks again, and frankly, so did they. It turns out that we were both wrong.



In one of the defining games of his career, MJ expertly carved up the vaunted Knick defense, content to find his teammates with sharp, at times spectacular passes for three and half quarters. When the dust had finally settled, Jordan had 14 assists, to go along with 10 rebounds.

It wasn’t until the late stages of the fourth quarter, with the series hanging in the balance, that Jordan finally donned his Superman cape.

The Bulls abandoned the Triangle Offense, and put the ball in MJ’s hands and let him go to work. At one point, he scored 14 consecutive points for them, using a dizzying array of step back jumpers, fast break layups, and tip-ins that left John Starks with a look MSG patrons had come to know all too well whenever Mike came to town - that of a broken, defeated man.

Michael Jordan finished the game with a triple double, one of the greatest Playoff performances the NBA had ever seen.

After finding a wide-open BJ Armstrong for a baseline three with just over a minute remaining, a shot that would turn out to be the game-winner, MJ, Scottie Pippen, and Horace Grant teamed up for one of the most infamous sequences in New York sports history. And Charles Smith instantly became synonymous with failure.

Today, all anyone recalls from that historic play is Smith getting blocked and stripped four straight times underneath the basket, but what is never talked about is the fact it should have never come to that. Before a falling Patrick Ewing found Smith in the lane with a shovel pass, Starks committed a massive traveling violation after faking out MJ, one that the refs - perhaps, wisely fearing for their lives - conveniently ignored.



“Ewing for Smith … Smith … stripped … Smith. Stopped. Smith, stopped A-GAIN by Pippen!”



That was Marv Albert’s famous call as the Bulls stunningly denied Charles Smith a chance to put New York ahead as time ran out. Inside the arena, however, the sound was entirely different.

The ear-splitting chaos and madness that had served as the contest’s soundtrack since well before tipoff were suddenly replaced by a harrowing silence. Even the MSG organist stopped playing his familiar tune when Smith began his clumsy, ill-fated layup attempts. It was a heart wrenching moment for 20,000 people.

As soon as the final buzzer sounded, MJ and his teammates raced off the floor, looking as though they’d just gotten away with something. What they had done, in fact, was completely rip out the Knicks’ hearts and extinguish any resolve they might have had left.

Knicks fans in our section of the arena were beside themselves, they couldn’t believe what had just taken place. Though it would take one more perfunctory game back in Chicago to conclude matters between these two bitter rivals, New York’s team, its fans, the city, and the rest of the hoops-watching universe knew the series was effectively over following the Charles Smith calamity. Nobody recovers from that.

My father figured this was a good time for us to quickly exit Madison Square Garden. A splendid idea.

Eighteen days later, the Bulls would be crowned as NBA champions for the third straight year. And in October, at the height of his powers, Mike shockingly announced to the world that he was retiring from the game. I was devastated.



After getting through Jordan’s press conference, yet still not quite believing what had just taken place, I gave my father a long hug. No words were expressed; there was no need.

* * * * *
Original post: http://slamonline.com/online/2008/09/an-evening-at-the-garden/

Thank Marcel Mutoni, JonesOnTheNBA.com, and SLAMOnline for the dope trip down memory lane!


Air Jordan I Lo Black & White Cement's


On last Friday we posted pictures of two of the new Air Jordan I Lo's dropping this winter. Today new pictures popped up on NT of the Black Cement and the White Cement Air Jordan I's not featured on the Jordan Brand site yet.




For some reason the Black cements just don't do it for me, but the White Cement I's look beautiful!

Stay tuned for info on the release dates.