Playboy: How did you get the news about Magic?
Jordan: His agent, Lon Rosen, left me a message at practice and he said it's an emergency, he's got to talk to me. When I called him back, he told me, "Magic's having a press conference today. He's going to retire. He tested positive for HIV."
Playboy: Where were you when he told you?
Jordan: I was driving home. I almost drove off the road. I said, "This has to be some kind of sick joke." He said, "Well, Earvin wants to talk to you." So he gave me Earvin's number and I called him at home. He was as calm as you and I. I said to him, "Damn, you're calmer than I am. I'm about to drive off the road." He said, "I just want you to continue on with your life. I'm going to be fine, my baby's going to be fine, my wife is fine."
Playboy: Before Magic's announcement, did players ever talk about AIDS?
Jordan: We were aware of it, but most guys never thought of it happening to heterosexuals. It was always gays, drug users and people who got it from transfusions. But it slapped me right in the face. From all angles, it slapped me.
Playboy: Have you been tested?
Jordan: I've been tested for the last two years.
Jordan: Because I've had insurance policies that demanded it.
Playboy: Would it surprise you if there were other sports figures who tested positive?
Playboy: Would it have surprised you before Magic's announcement?
Jordan: One of your prime personalities has gone public and said he got it through promiscuity. He wasn't the only promiscuous athlete. I'm pretty sure he won't be the last.
Playboy: Tell us about life on the road in the N.B.A.
Jordan: There are a lot of things being said about the opportunities you have on the road. Sure, you have opportunities, you have opportunities everywhere. After the game, you see different women. Players have always been knowledgeable about that, to say who's who and what's what. If you don't listen, then you're putting yourself at risk.
Playboy: And there are guys who don't think or listen.
Jordan: Magic said it himself: You never think it can happen to you. Next thing you know, you're stung by a bee.
Playboy: Are guys really going to learn this lesson, or is it just a passing concern?
Jordan: It's going to cut down some of the playing around. But I also think it's going to allow for both men and women to be more open-minded about safe sex. I think Magic is going to make players say, Hey, don't be afraid to ask this person. Now it's a given: You have to talk about it.
Playboy: It used to be that a player's primary concern was not getting someone pregnant----
Jordan: Or getting V.D. or herpes. Now you pray for that.
Playboy: What was your relationship with Magic early on in your career?
Jordan: I liked him when I was in high school. They used to call me Magic Jordan. My first car had a license plate with Magic Jordan on it. It was a 1976 Grand Prix.
Playboy: Things were pretty strained between you when you first got into the league, weren't they?
Jordan: There was a little bit of envy because of the way I came into the league. Magic came in with even more flair and even more success. And he should have been even bigger than I was in terms of endorsements and business opportunities. But he wasn't marketed that way. And I was fortunate to have good people. So there was some envy.
Playboy: How did the two of you get over it?
Jordan: During my third year, he invited me out to play in his summer charity game. We ironed out our differences in private in the locker room and we began a relationship.
Playboy: There are some differences you haven't ironed out. What's the story with you and Isiah Thomas and the alleged Jordan freeze-out at the 1985 N.B.A. All-Star game? Do you think they were really denying you the ball?
Jordan: If you go back and look at the film, you can see that Isiah was actually doing that. Once it started getting around that he was freezing me out, that's when the ill feelings started to grow between us.
Playboy: There were some problems even before the game, weren't there?
Jordan: That was my first All-Star game. I stayed in my room most of the time because I didn't know what to do. None of my teammates were there. I didn't want to be out in a situation that I wasn't comfortable with. The one time I did go out, I got on an elevator with Isiah Thomas to go downstairs for a league meeting. That was the first time I met him. And I said, "Hello, how ya doin'?" That's all I said. I was really intimidated because I didn't know him and I didn't want to get on his nerves. I didn't want to seem like a rookie. You know, to just be so stupid. So I was quiet. I stayed in the corner. When I went down in the room for the meeting, I still didn't say anything. After the weekend was over, it got back to me that I was arrogant and cocky and I wouldn't even speak to Isiah on the elevator, that I gave him the cold shoulder. And I'm saying Isiah Thomas initiated it all.
Playboy: How did that make you feel?
Jordan: I was really disappointed and upset because I never wanted to step on anybody's toes. When I came into the league, I considered myself the lowest on the totem pole. I'm a rookie, now let me work my way up. When I started with the Bulls, they wanted me to be a vocal leader, but I told coach Kevin Loughery that I didn't feel comfortable doing that. We had all these guys with six or seven years in the league and I was in my first year. How could I tell these guys this and that? The best way I could do it was just to go out and play hard. And that's the way I've always treated it. They took that as disrespect and misinterpreted that whole weekend.
Playboy: The next game after the All-Star break was at home against Detroit. How did you react?
Jordan: Normally, I would smile and enjoy myself, but I was serious the whole game. It was a grudge game from my standpoint. And the next day, the headlines read Jordan Gets His Revenge, Scores 49. That's all Isiah needed to see. It was a competition from that point. I always tried to respect him and be kind, but I always would hear talk that he was saying things about me behind my back. I just said, Well, I'm gonna stop trying to be nice. Screw it. Just play basketball. We don't have to be best of friends.
Playboy: Was that experience ultimately good for you?
Jordan: Well, it taught me about the jealousy that you deal with on this level. But at the same time, this is a business. I'm going to take advantage of all the opportunities. If they were in my shoes, they would do the exact same thing.
Playboy: Other players were jealous of your success in endorsements and business dealings?
Jordan: Right. But why must I squander my opportunities because those guys never got that opportunity? They don't want me to have it and they're going to be pissed at me if I do it? Screw that. And some people may view that as wrong. I see people writing letters to the editor: "I'm tired of seeing Michael Jordan's face everywhere." Who are you? Because if you were where I am, you'd be doing the same thing. I'm not going to let that bother me. This is a business. I want to take advantage of my opportunities and walk away from the game financially set. I'm not doing anything that anybody else in my position wouldn't do.
Playboy: When did you adjust to being a celebrity?
Jordan: My fourth year.
Playboy: Not until then?
Jordan: I was really liking it up until about my fourth year. But that's when you start getting tired. Your moods start to change. People start taking advantage of your niceness. And you want more time for yourself. You change your whole attitude. I'm starting to be more open about everything. Before I was hesitant about saying how I feel.
Playboy: What do you mean?
Jordan: I'll tell you if I don't like something. Before I would just keep it to myself. Now I'm becoming a little more opinionated because people have become more opinionated about me.
Playboy: Let's talk a little about your public image. Why didn't you go to the White House when President Bush invited the team?
Jordan: I didn't want to go. I had something else to do. Before I would have said, "Well, I had my reasons." I'd do it in a very respectful way. But that's none of your business. The Bulls knew I wasn't going, so why must I tell you? Go ask them why I didn't go. They knew. I make my stand now because it's easy for people to take advantage of me and become more opinionated about things that I choose to do. I may not be in agreement with what people want me to do. Who gives a damn? They don't live the life that I try to live. Do I ask them why they go to the bathroom?
Playboy: They don't have to deal with what you deal with.
Jordan: Right, they don't. People say they wish they were Michael Jordan. OK, do it for a year. Do it for two years. Do it for five years. When you get past the fun part, then go do the part where you get into cities at three A.M. and you have fifteen people waiting for autographs when you're as tired as hell. Your knees are sore, back's sore, your body's sore, and yet you have to sign fifteen autographs at three in the morning.
Playboy: What happens if you don't?
Jordan: Somebody will take a shot, saying, "Oh, look at him." On one road trip, we got into Denver at three in the morning and there were people sitting in the hotel lobby. I was tired. I said, "I'm sorry, please, I'm tired." Then I heard, "I guess that's the Jordan rules." I just kept on walking. One of these days I'm going to say, "Go screw yourself." Maybe when I'm walking out of the league.