Talking about Michael Jordan is talking about a lot of great things, about a life full of stories, achievements, and success in almost every aspect of it. MJ is a legend not only for basketball fans but for anybody who has a little interest in sports, no matter what game they play or follow. Jordan is a brand and not only for his shoes but for everything that comes with his name.
Getting to meet him is a dream for every basketball fan, but that also includes current and former NBA players. The Athletic conducted a poll to ask anybody who has met MJ, from friends, former teammates, rivals, bosses and people working for him, what they felt the first time they met the GOAT.
They got all kinds of responses. Starting from his days as a college player to these times, where he’s the owner of the Charlotte Hornets.
David Falk, Jordan’s agent for his whole career, remembered he met Michael when he was a ‘skinny freshman’ in North Carolina.
“It was a fluke, it wasn’t really a planned meeting, but we had a lot of clients from the University of North Carolina,” Falk said. “I had a client named Michael O’Koren who played for New Jersey. We had to do something, I had to do something with him in the western part of North Carolina. We actually drove out there, and when we finished we stopped by coach (Dean) Smith’s office to let him know that everything had been taken care of.
“I’m in his office and these two freshmen walk in. One’s a guy named Lynwood Robinson, who I never heard of, but he was this stud recruit. And the other was a tall, skinny freshman named Michael Jordan. And coach Smith said, ‘David, say hi to Michael Jordan.’ I remember, God, the guy’s shoulders were broad. He was really slim. And that was it, like a one-minute meeting, which to this day he doesn’t remember."
He then said their first official meeting was in 1984 when they had a meeting and talked with MJ about the things they could do together while Michael only observed and analyzed what everybody was saying.
Dominique Wilkins, one of the greatest dunkers in history who lost to MJ in the 1988 dunk contest, already knew His Airness from his college days, keeping that memory forever.
“He was something else, something else, man,” Wilkins said. “I remember him walking into our locker room in Chicago (April 1987) and he walked right by me. And I’m like, what the hell is he coming in our locker room for? And he walked by me, walked by Kevin (Willis), and he tapped Randy Wittman on the leg and he said, ‘Lace ‘em up, it’s gonna be a long fucking night.’ And he walked out. He had 60 that night.”
Gary Payton, one of Jordan’s most remembered rivals, believed he sent a message to the Chicago Bulls legend during the preseason in his rookie year in 1990. Little he knew Jordan was ready to cook him once they met in the regular season.
“I went at him in the preseason and he didn’t forget it,” Payton said. “We played him for the first time in the regular season. He walked on the court, and I was talking mad, crazy. He only played like 8, 9, 10 minutes in the preseason game, and he went over and told B.J. Armstrong and Pippen, ‘I got the rook. I got him all night.’ He got me in foul trouble real quick. I sat down, he played like 10 minutes of the game, he had like 35 points. He walked over and said, ‘Young fella, preseason ain’t what’s happening. This is what’s up.’ It was like, welcome to the NBA and many more.”
Scottie Pippen, MJ’s Robin, remembered the way Jordan acted when he entered the NBA. Scottie’s rookie season was Jordan’s third in the league and things weren’t that good from the get-go between Michael and Pippen.
“Michael was a little distant. He was more … he was competitive, that was kind of his drive in those days,” Pippen said. “I remember Michael said, ‘Well, we got another one of those Arkansas boys’ when I was drafted. Knowing the Bulls had drafted Pete Myers, he was an Arkansas kid, from the University of Arkansas (at Little Rock). He was actually from Mobile, Alabama. That’s kind of all I remember.”
Steve Kerr, who won several titles alongside Jordan, also shared his memory of meeting the No. 23. Kerr explained he thought he was doing a great job guarding Jordan only to find out his rival hadn’t taken any shot during the six minutes of their first clash.
“I think guarding him was the first time I actually met him,” Kerr said. “Craig Ehlo was injured (for the Cavs), so I started at the 2 in that game. I guarded Michael and he guarded me. Talk about the all-time mismatch physically. I was a buck-eighty. I remember I made the first shot of the game with him on me, felt really good about that, and then six minutes into the game he hadn’t scored. I was thinking, sitting there during a timeout, ‘Michael hasn’t even scored yet. I’m doing pretty well.’ I thought about it and I realized he hadn’t even taken a shot yet. He’s been passing to all his teammates. ‘Why hasn’t he shot yet?’ And then over the next four minutes he just torched me. Made like six straight shots and then Lenny Wilkens took me out. By the end of the game he had like 48, I finished with two. Just that first bucket of the game. That was my welcome to the ‘Michael Jordan World’ moment.”
Chris Mullin, a Golden State Warriors legend and teammate of Jordan on the ‘Dream Team’, revealed he had known His Airness since they both were teenagers, with Michael impressing him right away.
“It was at the McDonald’s All-America game in Wichita, Kansas,” Mullin said. “I remember we had one of those early morning practices and everyone was kind of sitting around, trying to wake up, and he was out there running around, dunking already. It was like, ‘Who is this guy?’”
Current Los Angeles Clippers head coach, Doc Rivers, first met Michael when the two were at a showcase in high school before facing the GOAT in the NBA playoffs.
“He was a junior in high school and I was a senior,” Rivers said. “Everybody was talking about Buzz Peterson (Jordan’s eventual teammate at North Carolina; Jordan was the best man at Peterson’s wedding). Buzz was my roommate, at the sports festival. And then the games start, and as we were leaving I said, ‘I don’t know about Buzz Peterson, but whoever that Michael Jordan guy is, he’s going to be amazing.’ And unfortunately I was right.”
A rookie Dwyane Wade met Jordan in the most bizarre conditions. Michael wasn’t allowed to enter Wade’s draft party in Chicago. The Miami Heat legend couldn’t believe the situation and went to check on Jordan, who only wanted to greet him.
“I just got drafted to the Heat, and then going back to Chicago after that, they had a big draft party,” Wade said. “And I’m inside the draft party, and it was poppin’. I remember my cousin came and got me, and he was like, ‘Yo, Jordan’s here. They won’t let him in.’ I’m like, ‘What, man? Stop playing with me.’ And he was like, ‘Bro, I’m serious. Michael Jordan is outside with like 50 people. They won’t let him in.’
“So we run out the door, run up front where they won’t let him in. ‘Why y’all won’t let Jordan in?’ Somebody was like, ‘He wouldn’t pay.’ I’m like, ‘What?’ So I run outside and Michael Jordan is out there on a motorcycle, surrounded by like 30 dudes. I run up to him. I’m in awe, of course, a young kid. And he said, ‘I just wanted to come by and show you some love.’ I think he said something about them trippin’ at the front, or something like that. But he’s like, ‘I just wanted to come by and show you some love. Congratulations on getting drafted.’ And I was just like, ‘Man, thank you for coming.’ I couldn’t believe it. ‘Thank you for coming. You want to come in?’ And he’s like, ‘Nah, nah, we good. I just came by to show you some love.’ And he rode off on his motorcycle.”
One of the latest examples we could see about NBA players meeting Jordan for the first time is Terry Rozier, who signed with the Hornets the last offseason. Terry is expected to lead this struggling team to compete for something in the Eastern Conference, and having MJ as his boss is a great motivation for him.
“It was at the Aria in Vegas, we got lunch and we were outside,” Rozier said. “He was telling all his stories, about him lifting every day before the game, and him going against the Pistons, and they were putting him on his butt because of how physical they were. He had to go and get stronger.
“It was just, I was looking in a daze while he was talking. It was crazy, like ‘I’m really here talking with Michael Jordan, he’s sharing all these stories and giving me all this game?’ It was crazy. It was my first time with him and it was probably the best meeting I’ve ever had.”
If any of us were to meet Jordan for the first time, we wouldn’t know how to act. Jordan’s legend is huge and meeting him is a dream for every NBA fan and player. All these stories show how good he was since he was a teenager, how he developed his career and how ferocious he was as a competitor. No doubt why they call him the GOAT.
His docuseries ‘The Last Dance’ is set to begin this Sunday and all the memories people have from MJ only increase the hype that already is around the documentary.