Playboy: Is basketball a refuge for you?
Jordan: When I step onto the court, I don't have to think about anything. If I have a problem off the court, I find that after I play, my mind is clearer and I can come up with a better solution. It's like therapy. It relaxes me and allows me to solve problems.
Playboy: One constant in your career is that when you are sick or hurt, you often unload on somebody. Why?
Jordan: I have an uncanny way of focusing when I get hurt. I concentrate on playing and not worrying about the injury. I don't try to be aggressive or to let the injury take me out of my game. I relax and let the game come to me.
Playboy: Do you have any superstitions?
Jordan: I go through the same routine before every game. I lace up my shoes in a certain way. I wear my Carolina shorts all the time. I wear new socks every game, new shoes every game. And I always notice where my wife or my parents are so I don't have to worry if they got in an accident or didn't get the tickets or whatever.
Playboy: Where do you think you fit in the game? Are you the best?
Jordan: I can't ever say that I'm the best. I think I play both ends and do more than people perceive. I'm not just an offensive player. I play both ends. I can pass, I think I can play defensively as well as offensively. I don't think most stars can say that they try to do that. You can't say that I'm a one-dimensional player or a two-dimensional player.
Playboy: If you had to put a team around you, what's the one quality you'd want?
Jordan: Heart. That would be the biggest thing. I think heart means a lot. It separates the great from the good players.
Playboy: Aside from the shots, what else do the great players have?
Jordan: Mental toughness. When you need a basket, you have to have the confidence in yourself to go out there and hit three great shots. You know you have to do it. That drives me.
Playboy: What's your all-time starting five?
Jordan: Me and Magic, Bird, Worthy, McHale or Malone, David Robinson or Abdul-Jabbar.
Playboy: And you can beat anyone ever?
Jordan: I did this with Jerry Krause once. He chose Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Jerry West. At small forward he had Dr. J. The power forward was Gus Johnson. I told him I'd kill him. Of all players, the all-time greats, he left off Magic and he left off Bird. He was excluding me. He put West at two [shooting] guard.
Playboy: What if you couldn't pick yourself?
Jordan: I would put West at two, too.
Playboy: You've never been the highest paid basketball player and probably never will be. Do you resent that?
Jordan: Since I came into the league, I've never griped about my contracts. I've signed them and I've honored them every year. If anybody stepped up and wanted to give me a raise, I'd accept it. But I'm not going to bitch about it, because I signed the contract. When Patrick Ewing renegotiated his contract last year, he had leverage. He had an option to get out of his contract. And he was going to get the money no matter what. If I play out my contract, I won't be able to get another contract until five years down the road. Who knew this was going to happen three years ago when we did my deal? No one could tell that salaries were going to jump out of the deck. Hot Rod Williams created a whole salary outburst. When I signed my deal for three-and-a-quarter million or whatever I make this year, I was in the top three. Now three years later, you have rookies coming out making two-and- a-half or three million, so they're pushing the salaries up. How can I get a new deal? Do I start bitching? Do I go and gripe to the press saying I deserve more? Everybody knows I deserve more money, but I actually signed the contract. If my boss decides to give me a raise, great. But bitching is not fair. I've always considered myself a fair person. You guys in the press can put the pressure on him. I won't. I hope Reinsdorf is thinking about it. If it happens, great. If it doesn't, then I was screwed again. Am I upset about it? No.
Playboy: Is there anything you do on the basketball court that still surprises you?
Jordan: I basically expect anything. Isn't that wild? I used to surprise myself a lot: certain moves, how I'd get out of trouble. But at some point, you accept the talent that you have, you accept your creativity.
Playboy: Are you going to need some other creative outlet when you retire?
Jordan: Golf could do that for me. Because you've got to create shots in certain situations. And the competition is always going to be there. I think it's even greater in golf because you know your opponent is always consistent: You know the course is going to shoot par every day. You always wonder, especially in my profession, what it would be like if I had to play against myself in a one-on-one game. Well, golf is that way because you compete against yourself in a mental way. That's the challenge.