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Playboy Interview: Michael Jordan
  • February 16, 2012 : 20:02
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Playboy: Did you watch basketball much as a kid?

Jordan: I used to watch a little A.C.C. college basketball because we never got professional basketball on TV where I lived. I didn't know anybody in the N.B.A. I only knew David Thompson, Walter Davis, guys from my area.

Playboy: When you were a high school senior, did North Carolina recruit you?

Jordan: They were recruiting me when I was in the eleventh grade. My high school coach wrote to them, so they sent a scout down. I went to North Carolina with the Five-Star camp, even though Dean Smith didn't want me to go.

Playboy: Why not?

Jordan: He tried to keep me hidden. If I was at Five-Star, they would open up the doors of the schools and everybody would notice. I won about ten trophies in two weeks. I was an all-star and the M.V.P. for two weeks in a row and my team won the championship both weeks. I was racking it up. Then everybody started recruiting me.

Playboy: Was North Carolina your first choice?

Jordan: I always wanted to go to UCLA. That was my dream school.

Playboy: Why?

Jordan: Because when I was growing up, they were a great team. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, John Wooden. But I never got recruited by UCLA.

Playboy: Even after your success in the Five-Star camp?

Jordan: By the time they wanted to recruit me, they had heard that I was going to stay close to home, which was not necessarily true. I also wanted to go to Virginia because I wanted to play with Ralph Sampson for his last two years there. He was going into his junior year. I wrote to Virginia, but they just sent me back an admission form. No one came and watched me. Then I visited North Carolina and I was happy with the atmosphere, so I committed early.

Playboy: Weren't you planning to play baseball in college, too?

Jordan: I wanted to, but I got talked out of it. I still want to play baseball. I may play Triple-A ball this summer. I keep trying to talk to the people in Charlotte. You know George Shinn, the guy who owns the Charlotte Hornets? [Hornets players] Muggsy Bogues and Dell Curry played for his minor-league baseball team last summer. I told them I want to go play baseball. They don't believe me. I'm serious. I may think about football, too. I ain't going across the middle, though. I'll do down and out.

Playboy: If you made a run at baseball, what position would you play?

Jordan: Well, I used to be a pitcher. But I'd probably throw my arm out just learning all the different things. I'd much rather try to start out in the outfield or first base. I'm going to do it. But I would never want just to step right into the majors. Players would get pissed at me. I don't want that animosity. I want to start off low and work my way up.

Playboy: You have had four pro coaches. Whom did you like to play for the most?

Jordan: Who was best for me? Kevin Loughery.

Playboy: Why?

Jordan: He gave me the confidence to play on his level. My first year, he threw me the ball and said, "Hey, kid, I know you can play. Go play." I don't think that would have been the case going through another coach's system. Look what Loughery's doing right now with Miami. He's doing exactly what he did to me. He's giving those guys so much confidence, he's giving them an opportunity to create their own identity as players. With other coaches, you have to fit into their systems.

Playboy: Even Doug Collins?

Jordan: No, I just felt Doug would have tried to manipulate me. For that sense of control, power. I saw that with the way he dealt with Pippen and Grant. I would have been able to deal with it because I respect all my coaches. But Loughery never tried to do that. I could relate with him as a friend.

Playboy: What about Phil Jackson as a coach?

Jordan: Phil's a good coach. He has some Dean Smith credentials out there. He's relaxed, he's knowledgeable. He's a philosopher about everything. He believes in sharing the wealth among everyone, yet he believes in not trying to overshadow his team.

Playboy: The Portland Trail Blazers had a shot at drafting you. How would that have changed your life?

Jordan: I wouldn't have had all this opportunity from a business and financial standpoint.

Playboy: Would your life have been any easier?

Jordan: No, this has gone exactly the way I wanted it to. Portland already had Clyde Drexler, so it would have been dumb for me to go there.

Playboy: Did your success with Nike surprise you?

Jordan: Yeah, that was something. First I thought it was a fad. But it's far greater now than it used to be. The numbers are just outrageous.

Playboy: When did you really start getting into the business end of it?

Jordan: Four years ago.

Playboy: Not until then?

Jordan: In my first four years, I just loved playing basketball and didn't worry about the money part of it. But I was being tutored and educated by ProServ.

Playboy: What do you mean tutored?

Jordan: Tutored about financial things, you know, monthly ledgers, where your money comes from and where it goes. My parents did a good job, too. They, as well as ProServ, helped educate me when I really didn't have the interest in it. But it's getting closer to the point where I will step away from the game, so I better have a good handle on it.

Playboy: Do you want to have a certain number of millions in the bank when you retire?

Jordan: I've provided for when I walk away from the game, from Nike and all the other outlets.

Playboy: I heard about a Canadian company that wanted to pay you a ridiculous amount of money to fly up for one day.

Jordan: Yeah, they wanted me to sign autographs for a quarter of a million dollars. The autograph stuff drives me crazy. People are dangerous.

Playboy: Didn't you almost get stampeded in Houston once?

Jordan: There were four or five security guards, five thousand people had me circled, and I was only supposed to be signing for one hour. We got to ten minutes before I had to leave, and people were wanting more autographs, so they started closing in on me. The tables were breaking and little kids were getting pressed up front because the bigger people were pushing from behind. The security guards couldn't do anything. I finally got the security guards around me and started pushing my way through the crowd. I almost got killed getting out of there. I haven't done any autograph sessions since. Never again.

Playboy: Do you have other limits about what you will and won't do for money?

Jordan: My time is very important to me, as well as being credible about what I endorse. If I endorse McDonald's, I go to McDonald's. If I endorse Wheaties, I eat Wheaties. If I endorse Gatorade, I drink Gatorade. I have cases of Gatorade, I love drinking Gatorade. I don't endorse anything that I don't actually use.

Playboy: What have you turned down?

Jordan: Two or three years ago Quaker Oats came to me to endorse Van Kamp's pork and beans--Beanee Weenees, I think it was called. You ever heard of Beanee Weenees pork and beans? It was close to a million bucks a year. I'm saying, Beanee Weenees? How can I stand in front of a camera and say I'll eat Beanee Weenees? If I wanted to be a hardnosed businessman, I could have been in a lot of deals, like the one with Johnson Products. I had a deal with them for their hair-care products. I had two or three more years on that deal when I started losing my hair. So I forfeited the deal. But if I had wanted to be greedy, I could've said, Screw you, you didn't know my hair was falling out so you owe me money. But I didn't.

Playboy: Your Gatorade ad raises a question--what do you like to be called?

Jordan: They used to call me Mike in grammar school, in high school. When I got to college, everyone called me Michael. It was like a maturity thing. When you're a little kid, they call you Mike. Mike quit this, Mike quit that. As you get older, it's Michael this and Michael that. Now in the pros, it's Air this, Air that. Things change.

Playboy: Once and for all, which is it: Mike or Michael?

Jordan: Mike.

Playboy: Which individual games stand out in your memory?

Jordan: The sixty-nine-point game against Cleveland stands out. The sixty-three- point game at Boston stands out.

Playboy: Do you ever watch any of them on tape?

Jordan: Not anymore. I used to. I really don't watch myself play as much. I used to about three or four years ago, just for motivation. When I'd get home and I didn't have anything to do, I'd watch a game, get myself ready and sometimes even watch one before a game. If we're gonna play Detroit, I'll watch a Detroit game. One we won. I don't want to watch a game we lost.

Playboy: Did you watch that Boston game a lot?

Jordan: The sixty-three-point game? No, I didn't. Because I always knew we'd lose. Every time I'd watch it, we'd lose. We should win. I don't watch that one.

Playboy: When you get in the zone, like you do in those games where you get fifty or sixty, do you feel it coming on that day, in the locker room, on the bench?

Jordan: No, I feel it when the game starts. You just start getting on a roll. Everything that you do is working. You get steals, your offensive game is working. You just take control of it. You're in tune with everything that's going on. You control the tempo, you control everything. It's like you can do anything, you can take your time, you say anything to people, you seem to be just like you're on a playground all by yourself.

Playboy: Can you dictate it now? Can you get yourself in the zone?

Jordan: I get into it in pressure situations. Somehow you feel the pressure. Either you do it now or you don't do it at all and it starts to kick in. But to explain it you'd have to be a psychologist.

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