Everybody wanted to be Like Mike.
Michael Jordan was graceful in the air, possessed elite talent, and had this immeasurable desire to always compete (and win) at the highest level. The former North Carolina Tar Heel elevated the game to a whole new level and became a global icon.
In the eyes of many, he was a person who simply could not make mistakes. Jordan was the perfect role model for everyone, and not just for aspiring basketball players.
But the narrative slightly changed when Sam Smith, a journalist for the Chicago Tribune, published the book titled “The Jordan Rules: The Inside Story of a Turbulent Season with Micahel Jordan and the Chicago Bulls”.
“I was shocked when it exploded like it did, but the book was popular because it made it public that Michael Jordan was not perfect – not everybody loves him. He wasn’t particularly beloved by his teammates,” said Smith during the episode.
With a number of behind-the-scenes information now out in the open, Jordan’s reputation to the public was slowly losing its luster. Suddenly, people became more critical of what he was doing off the court.
This peaked when Jordan was reportedly seen hanging out with his family and friends in the Atlantic City Hotel on the eve of game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against rivals New York Knicks. The Bulls would eventually lose the game, 96-91, and go down 0-2 in the best-of-seven Playoffs series.
Jordan did not violate any team/league rules or even State laws by traveling away from the city of New York, but it tarnished the expectations people had of him. They began to question Jordan’s commitment to the game and even tackled his habit of gambling.
The “gambling problem” followed Jordan around as the media tried to squeeze out every ounce of information that they could get from him about this issue. This added stress to his already hectic schedule which led him to deviate from the media and keep his mouth entirely shut.
But luckily for the Bulls, the off-court negativity that was surrounding Jordan did not affect his performance on the court. After the loss in game 2, he led the team to four straight victories en route to their third consecutive NBA Finals appearance.
Coming into the first game of the NBA Finals versus the Phoenix Suns, Jordan finally ended his two-week media silence by having an interview with Ahmad Rashad from NBC Sports. In that interview, he clarified that he does not have a gambling problem and added, “(S)oon when I walk away from this game, I think that’s the only thing that people are gonna say was a bad thing about Michael Jordan.”
Fast forward to today, a lot of people won’t probably remember (or at least point out) Jordan’s off-court drama during his playing years. His greatness on the court and his impact worldwide has absolutely eclipsed all the negatives.
The blemished reputation didn’t completely stop the public from idolizing one of the all-time greatest that ever played the sport. Jordan was still their basketball hero, their inspiration.
Everybody still wants to be Like Mike.