MJ On His Competitiveness

He cursed a few times at a journeyman shooting guard. Okay, and?

Jim Rome
May 12, 2020 - 10:11 am
Michael Jordan

USA Today

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It’s been a day and a half since everyone saw episodes 7 and 8 of The Last Dance. And it was a jam-packed couple of hours. The murder of his father, the retirement from basketball, taking up baseball, coming back to basketball, Scottie Pippen refusing to enter a game when the final play wasn’t drawn up for him, and then refusing to say that he wouldn’t do it the same way again. And so much more.

But the moment that really sticks out above all the others is the one that comes at the end of the 7th episode. That is where you get this from Michael.

First off, how about that weird sound from Michael when he’s mimicking someone who says he’s a tyrant? Oohhooohhh

"When people see this, they're going to say 'Well, he wasn't really a nice guy, he may have been a tyrant.’ Well that's you, because you never won anything.”

And he punctuates that by effectively pointing at everyone with both fingers. If you think he’s not a nice guy, if you think he’s a tyrant, you’re a loser.

Then he goes into this part: “I wanted to win, but I wanted them to win and be a part of that as well."

In other words, I was doing it for them. It actually sounds like the thing you’d hear in a movie when a father is trying to explain why he was such a hardass to his kids. I was doing it for you.

Then we get a montage of all the celebrations, on the court, in the locker room, on the plane, at parades. The joy that comes with winning.

And then it comes back to Mike in his house. And he’s getting emotional. Really emotional. It’s striking, because this is a guy who is really guarded and even throughout this series, has been extremely careful about the image that he wants to portray.

"I don't have to do this. I'm only doing it because it is who I am. That's how I played the game. That was my mentality. If you don't want to play that way, don't play that way."

And then he calls for a break as the emotions get the best of him.

So what’s that about? Why is he getting so emotional there? Is it just a matter of him hitting that glass next to him pretty hard during the shoot and he’s a little sauced and the emotions are getting the best of him?

Could be. I mean that clip is from the same sit-down as the early episodes when that tumbler was incredibly fascinating and everyone was tracking how it rose and fell over the course of the episode.

So maybe it is just a matter of being sauced and getting kind of weepy. But maybe there is something else there.

Is it about him saying that it’s not easy being him? Maybe. But we already know that. Nobody would doubt that.

Is it about him trying to say that he’s not the monster he’s been made out to be? But he’s the one who keeps trying to tell us that he’s a monster. 

Why would you get so emotional about being a tough teammate? It’s not new information. Everyone has know about this for decades. Literally decades. The only people who would watch this and be shocked about Jordan being an a-hole teammate are people who didn’t follow basketball or weren’t alive at the time.

And even when we do see it, after all the buildup and all the hype about him being terrible to teammates, the clips that we see are pretty much garden-variety junk talking at practice. There’s kind of a feeling of letdown. Like, that’s it? That’s the monster we’ve been hearing about? He cursed a few times at a journeyman shooting guard. Okay, and?

Conor McGregor was way darker and nastier on Twitter within the last 24 hours. I didn’t hear MJ saying he was going to feed Bill Cartwright to the floor or wear Jud Buechler’s teeth as a necklace.

We hear about the Steve Kerr incident, but as any former or current player would tell you, fights in practice aren’t that unusual.

All of his teammates talk about it in a rather matter of fact way. They guys who received the abuse aren’t the ones crying, the guy who doled it out is. How weird is that?

We spend a lot of time learning about his work in molding Scott Burrell, but if he was molding Burrell, it didn’t really seem to work, because Burrell was gone from the team after one year.

But he really wants you to know about what he was doing and why he was doing it.

And how weird is it that he really, really wants people to know he was an a-hole and then gets emotional when he justifies it.

You would think that a true a-hole would say, yes, I did all that, what’s your point? Our goal was to win basketball games, not make friends.

But Jordan can’t say that without breaking down and then calling for a break in filming. Why is that the place where he gets so emotional that he has to stop.

I really don’t know. He’s been so unapologetic for who he is and who he was. For how badly he wanted it; and how tough he was on everyone around him in pursuit of his goals.  But he made it clear, there was a price to be paid; and he had negotiated that price with himself long ago: and clearly it was worth it. Or was it? I would say it was, but again, why did he get so emotional that he had to stop taping when talking about his mentality: not when talking about his father, but rather his approach: maybe he does ask himself if it was all worth it: maybe it’s a helluva lonlier at the top than it appears: maybe it is all consuming, and he had to give up a lot of other things and relationships to pursue it. Maybe there was no on off switch and he had to make massive, painful sacrifices along the way to keep that championship machine churning. 

Is he wondering if it was all worth it? And is he trying to justify that? Because it’s clear the journey took a toll on him.

And it’s fair to ask: is he happy? He has everything you’d want from a material standpoint and from a legacy standpoint, but Kobe sure seemed happier in retirement than Jordan has.  

We’re probably never going to know what was going on in his head during that clip. Or why he wanted everyone to see it. Because he could’ve had it taken out if he wanted to. But for some reason, that was something he wanted to keep in. I’m not exactly why he choked up in that moment although I just shared a few thoughts on it: I’m curious, what do you think? Why do you think he had to stop taping while talking about is mentality and his approach?