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News » Michael: In their words

Michael: In their words

Michael: In their wordsFor 13 seasons, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was the envy of the NBA for one reason: Michael Jordan.

Because of Jordan, the Bulls led the league in attendance, marketing revenue, TV ratings and merchandise sales and romped to six NBA titles in eight years.

Jordan didn't end his career with the Bulls . He came out of a second retirement to play for the Washington Wizards, whom he also partly owned, and he's now part-owner of the Charlotte Bobcats.

''But Michael will always be a Bull,'' Reinsdorf said. ''And people will always remember him as a Bull.''

So when Jordan is inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday, Reinsdorf will be there. But not just to congratulate Jordan.

''It's going to be a great weekend for Bulls fans and the organization because three other former members of our organization also will be honored,'' Reinsdorf said. ''[Former Bulls player and coach] Jerry Sloan will be inducted as a coach. [Former Bulls coach] Doug Collins will get a media award. Johnny 'Red' Kerr [former Bulls coach and longtime radio-TV announcer] will [posthumously] receive the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award [for 50 years of service as a player, coach, administrator and broadcaster].

''As for Michael, I think it will be an honor for the Hall of Fame to have him in it [rather] than the other way around. Scottie Pippen will also go into the Hall of Fame someday. But Michael will be the first player [of the dynasty] honored. And the other honors will give our fans more to cheer for because it's all about the fans.''

Reinsdorf has countless memories of Jordan's greatness on the hardwood. But one he has shared with few people involves the time Jordan retired from Basketball the first time to try to play for Reinsdorf's White Sox.

''When it was announced Michael was going to play for us,'' Reinsdorf said, ''Walter Hriniak was our batting coach. He called me up and started screaming at me, 'Why are we doing this? It's a publicity stunt. It's a joke.' Then I said, 'Just wait until you meet Michael.'

''On the first day of spring training, Walter went up to Michael and said, 'Are you serious about this or is this just a lark?' Michael said, 'I'm dead serious.' Walter said, 'Then meet me at 7:30 in the morning at the batting cage.' And every morning, Michael and Walter would work until Michael's hands were bleeding.

''At the end of spring training, Walter came to me and said, 'I have never worked with anybody who worked harder than Michael Jordan.' To this day, Walter will tell you that. And that is the same work ethic that Jordan applied to everything he ever did: The way he played, the way he drove his car, everything with intensity.''


David Falk, the man behind the marketing of Michael Jordan, knows what the Bulls star did to open doors for those who came behind him. ''Working those 15 years with him, we were able to accomplish a lot of great things that helped other players, helped the league and grew the game,'' said Falk, Jordan's longtime agent.

North Carolina coach Dean Smith helped bring Jordan and Falk together. Smith had a good working relationship with ProServ, which was run by agent Donald Dell, who previously had negotiated NBA contracts for former Tar Heels James Worthy, Phil Ford and Tom LaGarde.

When Dell hired Falk to work for him in 1984, he put him in charge of signing and representing NBA players. Although Falk did not negotiate Jordan's first contract, he laid the groundwork for his record financial successes by adding unprecedented blockbuster endorsement deals, movie contracts and business investments.

''He took my marketing plan to heights neither I nor anybody else ever could have imagined,'' said Falk, who was hailed as the second most important person in the NBA to commissioner David Stern and for 12 years was listed among the Sporting News' ''100 Most Powerful People in Sports.''

At Jordan's peak, he earned back-to-back Bulls deals paying him more than $30million along with endorsement deals with Nike, Gatorade, Coca-Cola, Wheaties, Rayovac, McDonald's, Ball Park Franks, Wilson Sporting Goods, Hanes and MCI.

''For the last 25 years, people around the world have been trying to analyze what makes Michael Jordan Michael Jordan, so that they maybe could produce another,'' Falk said. ''But if you could reverse-engineer the qualities that Michael has -- his jumping ability, his quickness and whatever else -- you'd still never have another like him, even if you had lightning to strike the mixture. Michael is the most rare combination of an individual who blended incredible God-given physical and mental abilities into a genuine winner.

''He was a great student of the game, was respectful of the past, was the most psychological competitor at his position than anybody I've ever met. It's flattering that other players try to emulate facets of his game.''


Doug Collins and Michael Jordan always shared a special bond. Jordan admired Collins' coaching so much that when he decided to end his second retirement for a last hurrah with the Washington Wizards, he insisted that Collins leave the broadcasting booth and return to the bench.

''He was a champion and an ultimate competitor with an incomparable will to win,'' said Collins, who coached Jordan with the Bulls from 1986-89 and then with the Wizards from 2001-03. ''He was also the best player at both ends of the floor. For him to hire me to coach him a second time was the greatest compliment he could have given me.''

It's fitting that Collins also will be honored during the Basketball Hall of Fame ceremonies Friday, though not as a player (a former Illinois State star, Collins had his pro career cut short by a knee injury). Collins and longtime New York sports columnist Peter Vecsey will receive the Curt Gowdy Media Award.

Many feel Collins got a raw deal when the Bulls fired him after his third season, just when the Bulls were about to evolve into a championship team. Collins was replaced by Phil Jackson, who guided Jordan and the Bulls to six titles. But Collins says he has no hard feelings, even though many feel he could have done the same.

''I was happy to get the opportunity to be a bridge and coach that took the Bulls to where they could start winning championships,'' Collins said. ''It's been 20 years since I coached the Bulls . But every time I come to Chicago, fans treat me like a king.

''Coaching Michael again was a priceless honor. To see him at age 40 and 41, with a bad knee, night in and night out, go out there and just grind it out left me speechless. Once, after he scored just eight points in a game at age 40, he he looked me in the eye and said, 'Do you think I can still play? You're my coach. Tell me the truth.' And I said, 'Yes, you can still play.' He came back two nights later and scored 51. Then he followed that up with 45, then followed that up by scoring his 30,000th career point against the Bulls . That's Michael.''


David Stern became NBA commissioner in 1984, the year Michael Jordan began his career with the Bulls . Stern knows better than anyone what Jordan has meant to the NBA.

''Because of his presence at a particular time in the history of our league, the multiple championships of the Bulls , his extraordinary competitiveness, his athletic prowess and marketability, Michael stands at a special place in the development of the NBA as a global sport,'' Stern said. ''After all of the other accolades come in, all well-deserved, what stands out especially meaningful to me is the fact the league grew tremendously on a global basis when Michael and the Bulls were coming into prominence.

''[What impresses me about] the way Michael got to be great was the fact he had to overcome losses to other teams like Boston or Cleveland or Detroit that had dominated the Bulls . So it isn't as though he stepped fully grown onto the NBA stage. He grew into his greatness, and his journey was fascinating to watch. Stars on other teams were shining brightly. But Michael, after those [six] championships [in eight years], shone the brightest of all.''

Will there ever be another Michael Jordan?

''It's interesting to me that when the Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain rivalry ended, people said there would never be another rivalry like that, but there have been,'' Stern said. ''When Magic Johnson and Larry Bird retired, people said our league would be the worse for it. But we still got better even though you never duplicate or replicate those former great players like Magic, Larry, [Julius Erving], Elgin Baylor, Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] and [Bill] Russell or their situations. So the answer is yes.

''Right now, it's not about any one player, but about players coming onto a stage that Michael Jordan, along with other great players, helped to construct. But Michael is transcendent. He is up there with Muhammad Ali and Pele.''

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: September 11, 2009


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