Playboy: Tell us about your championship season. Was it as turbulent as it was described in The Jordan Rules?
Jordan: I haven't read it.
Playboy: In the book, Sam Smith remarked on all the tickets you got to a sold-out game in last year's finals. The implication was that you were being afforded preferential treatment. Are your Bulls tickets free?
Jordan: I buy every damn ticket. Ain't nobody giving me tickets. I pay for all those fifty-dollar box-seat tickets I give to little kids. For all the loose tickets that I may have after a game that I do not use and I give to [Bulls forward] Scottie Pippen, give to [Bulls forward] Horace Grant, give to people, I pay for them all. I don't ask them to pay me back. I spent one hundred thousand dollars on tickets last year that I didn't get back. That's money that I paid the Bulls and other teams. So don't bitch at me about all the tickets I spread around.
Playboy: Another anecdote, which presumably shows you as a selfish scorer, had Bulls center Bill Cartwright talking about a game against New Jersey. According to Cartwright, you were complaining that coach Phil Jackson took you out of the game to keep you from scoring more.
Jordan: Sam Smith says Cartwright said I was bitching about not getting fifty points and that everyone could have scored twenty instead. That's the biggest lie in America. The whole offense is set for Cartwright to score as many points as he can. If he can't score, that's his damn problem. All I can do is throw him the ball. I can't make him move.
Playboy: What about the charge that you want only to score?
Jordan: I don't go out and just try to score. I score because there is an opportunity to score. It doesn't matter who scores. If you have an opportunity to score, you score. And we win. Smith made it seem like I was selfish in that sense, that all I thought about was getting my points when actually I wasn't worried about that. I was worried about winning. Who cares what happens with the points?
Playboy: The scoring title doesn't mean anything to you?
Jordan: It doesn't even faze me anymore. If I win the scoring title this year, I win it. If I don't, I don't. I know I could win it if I wanted to. But I just don't try to chase it anymore. I let whatever happens happen.
Playboy: What was your contact with the author?
Jordan: [Bulls vice president of operations Jerry] Krause and I are the most criticized people in the book, but we're the only two that didn't go to lunch with this dude. It's like he was planning to kill us anyway, so why take us to lunch?
Playboy: Did you expect that this sort of thing would happen to you one day?
Jordan: I knew people were going to start taking shots at me. You get to a point where people are going to get tired of seeing you on a pedestal, all clean and polished. They say, Let's see if there's any dirt around this person. But I never expected it to come from inside. Sam tried to make it seem like he was a friend of the family for eight months. But the family talked about all this hatred they have for me. I mean, if they had so much hatred for me, how could they play with me? Why didn't they go to [Bulls owner] Jerry Reinsdorf and ask him to trade me? I don't know how we won if there was so much hatred among all of us. It looked like we all got along so well.
Playboy: Do you look at your teammates and wonder to yourself if they really said that stuff?
Jordan: I can imagine some of the things being said from anger of jealousy or disappointment. But I could see Sam Smith actually manipulating, putting words in their mouths, to get his meaning from the situation. Let's say Horace Grant was upset for one game about not getting enough shots and maybe I had a lot more shots than anybody else. Sam can sense that anger, get over there and ask him all kinds of questions. In the book, Sam makes it appear to be a problem all season long. Actually, it's just one game.
Playboy: Anything else bug you about it?
Jordan: He really exploits certain things. I've heard there was a story about how Pippen, Grant and I were talking about our sons' penises. He said we spent thirty minutes debating whose son had the biggest penis. What's the purpose of that being in the book? You know it's kidding, so what?
Playboy: Let's get back to the championship drive. You seem to feel that it wasn't enough to win the N.B.A. title, you had to do it the right way.
Jordan: When we were beating Philly in the play-offs last year and Detroit was going against Boston, everyone was saying, "I hope Boston wins." I said, No way. If we're going to go, we have to go the hardest route, or else as a team, we're going to get criticized for it. First of all, Scottie Pippen would never redeem himself from having those three headaches, or whatever he had, in the final 1990 conference championship game against the Pistons. As a team we would never live it down because we always faltered under Detroit's pressure. No one really gained respect from Detroit players.
Playboy: It would have reflected badly on you, too.
Jordan: All of that would have been right on my shoulders. Yeah, you won a championship, people would have said, but you didn't go through Detroit to do it. I didn't want that crap to happen. I wanted to go the hardest route.
Playboy: There was also the matter of how you compared to Magic and Larry Bird,
Jordan: When it came to comparisons, this is what always knocked me out of the top two players: People would always say, "All these great plays and he's never taken his team to a championship." So I wanted to go through one of those two. It worked out perfect.
Playboy: Magic made his teammates better. That's something you've been accused of failing to do.
Jordan: The championship was my opportunity to show I'm not just a scorer. That was the challenge when everyone tried to make it a one-on-one situation, Magic versus Michael. I realized that. But you know, I told people that if we got to the Finals, we were going to win, if I have anything to do with it. I might never get this opportunity again. And when I got to the Finals, all I tried to do was plug holes--scoring, passing, rebounding, whatever--just as they had portrayed Magic as doing.
Playboy: Was there a particular moment in the year when you thought, Maybe we can go all the way?
Jordan: When we beat Detroit before the All-Star game.
Playboy: That early?
Jordan: We beat them in Detroit. We hadn't beaten them in Detroit for about ten games, and once we did, it gave us confidence. We needed to know that we could beat them on their court. In the conference championship series the year before, we had defended our home court well. But we went up there and got stomped in game seven.