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Playboy Interview: Michael Jordan
  • February 16, 2012 : 20:02
  • comments

Playboy: You don't seem like a very political person.

Jordan: I always keep my political views to myself.

Playboy: But there are others who want you to be more up-front.

Jordan: Look at what happened in North Carolina. I got criticized for not endorsing Harvey Gantt, the black guy who was running for the Senate against Jesse Helms in North Carolina. I chose not to because I didn't know of his achievements, I didn't know if he had some negative things against him. Before I put myself on the line, at least I wanted to know who this guy was. And I didn't, but I knew of Jesse Helms and I wasn't in favor of him. So I sent Gantt some money as a contribution. But that was never publicized. It was just that I didn't come out publicly and do an endorsement.

Playboy: How do you handle pressure from Jesse Jackson and other activists?

Jordan: I never bow to that pressure because I always keep my opinions to myself. I avoid those types of endorsements from a political standpoint. That's just me. That's my prerogative to do so. If you don't like it, lump it.

Playboy: How did you react when Operation PUSH called for a boycott of Nike?

Jordan: It was a valid point. But if you're going to take that stand about having blacks in more controlling or executive positions, do it with every shoe company. Don't pick the one on top and say, Hey, there aren't enough blacks involved. Because you're targeting Nike while Reebok and all these others are going to gain from us being attacked. That's not fair. Say the whole shoe industry does not have enough blacks in powerful executive positions. OK, I'm with you. Maybe we have to change that. I'm saying, come to the black people involved and ask us, Well, are blacks being promoted in higher positions? We could have said yes. John Thompson is on the Nike board of directors. I hope I can be put on the advisory board, and we're starting to move up. Naturally, you still want to have more. I think PUSH helped get more blacks involved in the business side. But they approached it from a bad angle.

Playboy: You like to play golf, but there's no sport with a richer history of exclusion. Do you think that has irritated some in the black community, that you play at exclusive clubs in spite of their policies?

Jordan: I think I'm opening the door for blacks to be involved. I was getting more opportunities to go to these clubs. Sam Smith wrote in his book that I would have been declined membership at a Jewish golf course, but that's not true. I never applied. The only golf courses that I applied to, I got accepted. He had me saying that if I won the lottery, I'd go out and buy a golf course and keep out all the Jews. Well, why would I have to win the lottery? I could go buy one now.

Playboy: Where are you a member?

Jordan: I'm a member in Chicago at Wynstone, at Wexford in Hilton Head, and in Rancho Sante Fe at a place called the Farms. I'm a member at the Governor's Club in Chapel Hill.

Playboy: Do you pay the regular members' dues and fees?

Jordan: Yeah, I pay. I went through the normal procedures of getting in. I never want it to be a privilege. I don't want to be a token.

Playboy: When was the first time you ever had to deal with racism?

Jordan: When I threw a soda at a girl for calling me a nigger. It was when Roots was on television.

Playboy: How old were you?

Jordan: I was fifteen. It was a very tough year. I was really rebelling. I considered myself a racist at that time. Basically, I was against all white people.

Playboy: Why?

Jordan: It was hundreds of years of pain that they put us through, and for the first time, I saw it from watching Roots. I was very ignorant about it initially, but I really opened my eyes about my ancestors and the things that they had to deal with.

Playboy: How long did it take you to get over that?

Jordan: A whole year. The education came from my parents. You have to be able to say, OK, that happened back then. Now let's take it from here and see what happens. It would be very easy to hate people for the rest of your life, and some people have done that. You've got to deal with what's happening now and try to make things better.

Playboy: What did you think you'd be when you grew up?

Jordan: A professional athlete.

Playboy: How early did you begin thinking that?

Jordan: I always thought I would be a professional athlete. I always loved sports. I knew one thing I didn't want was a job. Me and working were never best friends. I enjoyed playing.

Playboy: Your dad once said that you were the laziest kid he had.

Jordan: He doesn't lie. He tried to change me, but it never worked. He couldn't keep me from playing sports. I think my first job was in the eleventh grade and I quit after a week.

Playboy: What was it?

Jordan: I was a hotel maintenance man. I was cleaning out pools, painting rails, changing air-conditioner filters and sweeping out the back room. I said, never again. I may be a wino first, but I will not have a nine-to-five job.

Playboy: You had a bad experience with swimming when you were a kid, didn't you?

Jordan: I went swimming with a close friend one day, and we were out wading and riding the waves coming in. The current was so strong it took him under and he locked up on me. It's called the death lock, when they know they're in trouble and about to die. I almost had to break his hand. He was gonna take me with him.

Playboy: Did you save him?

Jordan: No, he died. I don't go into the water anymore.

Playboy: How old were you?

Jordan: I was really young. About seven or eight years old. Now I ain't going near the water. I can't swim and I ain't messing with the water.

Playboy: Even when you go on a boat?

Jordan: Not without a life jacket, I won't. Not a little boat, either. It has to be a big boat for me.

Playboy: It doesn't bother you to say that, does it?

Jordan: No. I don't give a damn. Everybody's got a phobia for something. I do not mess with water.

Playboy: Were you always a star in sports?

Jordan: No, but I had ambitions of being one. All I wanted to do was play all the time. I used to give up whatever allowance I had to my brothers, for them to wash dishes for me and clean the house.

Playboy: Did it bother your father?

Jordan: My father is a mechanical person. He always tried to save money by working on everybody's cars. And my older brothers would go out and work with him. He would tell them to hand him a nine-sixteenths wrench and they'd do it. I'd get out there and he'd say give me a nine-sixteenths wrench and I didn't know what the hell he was talking about. He used to get irritated with me and say, "You don't know what the hell you're doing, go on in there with the women."

Playboy: Were you popular with girls in high school?

Jordan: I always thought I would be a bachelor. I couldn't get a date.

Playboy: Come on.

Jordan: I kidded around too much. I always used to play around with women. I was a clown. I picked at people a lot. That was my way of breaking the ice with people who were very serious. I was good in school. I'd get A's and B's in my classes but I'd get N's and U's in conduct because I was kidding around, talking all the time.

Playboy: We've heard you did some serious preparation for bachelor life.

Jordan: I took home economics from seventh through ninth grade. They were easy classes, we got to eat and I was always a greedy person with food. And you got to do things. I always thought I'd be doing my own sewing and cooking and cleaning.

Playboy: What can you do?

Jordan: Oh, I can sew shirts, I can make clothes.

Playboy: Still?

Jordan: I could hem pants right now. I can cook and clean and all that stuff. But do I do it? No. I don't want to. But I could if I had to.

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