NBA insider David Aldridge has been commissioned by NBA.com to do a piece in observance of Michael Jordan’s induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame next week. He has decided to compile an oral history that he has asked me to contribute to. Please find a few of my observations below.
I am a music business veteran who grew up in New York with family ties in North Carolina, and I now live in Charlotte. When it comes to Michael Jordan, I am a particularly schizophrenic basketball fan. I am a lifelong die-hard Knicks fan and a UNC Tar Heel supporter since my teens. It pleases me to see that two of my cut ’em and they’ll bleed blue friends, Jewel Love & Kenny Smith have been invited to contribute as well.
Michael Jordan’s play as an undergrad in Dean Smith’s system was a joy to behold, and contributed significantly to my overall appreciation of Chapel Hill tradition. During the ’81-’82 NCCA basketball season, I was a DJ at WQMG-FM Greensboro and caught most of the UNC schedule on TV. Chapel Hill’s season was one long highlight package. I especially remember an offensive rebound and put back that Ralph Sampson was on the business end of, during the second regular season UNC vs. Virginia game. Having followed his exploits the entire year, I was not surprised to see Michael cash one for all the marbles in New Orleans later that year. It would prove to be a harbinger of the frustration that Pat Ewing (and I) would experience as a result of Michael’s competitive instincts and unbridled need to win.
Once Michael became a pro, the pride that I felt because of the success of a favored son of my mother and father’s home state began to turn into something else; to me, he justifiably became the enemy, as a result of earning the right to be called the greatest Knick killer of all time. He was a disruptive figure and an obstacle to all that was good from my mid 20’s to my mid 30’s. If one’s greatness is determined by the greatness of one’s enemies, then I am one of the greatest basketball fans in the country. I hated that guy with a passion.
THE KNICK KILLER
I’ve met Michael three times. We have a few friends and many acquaintances in common. Most recently, I ran into him last year on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend here in Charlotte. My old friend Q-Tip was in town to do a show in support of his latest release. We ran into MJ as we were going to the show. The Celtics had played his Bobcats earlier that evening and I asked if they had won. He graciously replied “No.” It’s interesting to see how he has had to learn how to handle losing later in life, as he’d helped to teach me earlier, through his consistent mistreatment of my beloved Knicks.
The second time we met, I was having dinner at New York’s Coffee Shop with the noted journalist and screenplay writer Barry Michael Cooper. It was early November of ’93. The leaves had fallen and you could smell basketball in the air. It was the beginning of his first retirement. We were seated in a banquette in the back and Michael was in a booth in the front. I walked up to his table to remind him that we’d met in the same restaurant the previous year when he was with Spike Lee and Charles Oakley (a great Knick). I told him that I didn’t want to interrupt his meal but I was dining with the author of “New Jack City” and that I would bring him over to introduce them to each other in a bit. Less than 20 minute later, the most famous athlete of our era made his way over to our table through a packed joint and introduced himself. He was thoughtful, polite and humble with a mild exception; he threatened to come out of retirement by the end of the season and crush my dreams of a Knick title one more time.
FILMMAKER/JOURNALIST BARRY MICHAEL COOPER
The first time we met, I was at the Coffee Shop in May of ’92 having brunch with Russell Simmons, Christy Turlington and a date. It was a gorgeous spring afternoon and we’d caught a playoff matinée earlier that day at the Garden. One of the partners in the restaurant came over to tell us that Spike would be bringing Michael and some friends by. I was in full Knick regalia; a blue windbreaker, new blue Nikes, Gap jeans and shirt, and a fresh, crispy, blue, orange and white Knick baseball cap. At the time, Chicago was defending their first of the Jordan/Pippen/Jackson titles and they were riding high. First year Knick coach Pat Riley had led his team into Chicago and stolen the series opener and he would have gotten the second one too, if not for some late game heroics from BJ Armstrong.
An impromptu table was improvised for the Jordan/Lee party. Michael was at the head of one end of the table. Russell, Christy and my date went and spoke to His Airness, I kept it moving and went down to the other end of the table to speak to Oak. I felt the need to stress the importance of hitting his free throws to him. I also spoke to Spike and his old partner Monty Ross. I was just about to leave when Michael made a huge smile, extended his hand toward me and said. “Hi, I’m Michael Jordan. Don’t be mad.”
MY BRUNCH COMPANIONS
Here is the link to David’s entire piece on MJ @NBA.com