ESPN Exclusive: Michael Jordan Reflects on Legendary Career
On the day of his induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, Michael Jordan discussed his legendary career in an exclusive one-on-one interview with ESPN’s Michael Wilbon. The interview first aired during the 12-3 p.m. ET live edition of SportsCenter. ESPN will televise the Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony tonight, Friday, Sept. 11, at 6:30 p.m.
(Click above image for full interview)
Excerpts from the interview:
On his initial reaction to the Hall of Fame nod:
Jordan – “It’s not that I didn’t embrace it as an opportunity, as an accomplishment, as a privilege. I just didn’t think I was ready for it now…it’s a tremendous accomplishment, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to diminish that for anybody else. For me, it signifies something so finite and the end of something. Basketball is my love, always has been, and I can’t ever envision an ending of something like that…that passion I have for the game until I’m dead and gone.”
On anything he didn’t accomplished on the court:
Jordan – “In terms of accolades, or in terms of my level of the game of basketball, I felt like I enhanced it to the maximum when I retired in 1998. I won every accolade – individually, team oriented, things of that nature…so, when you look at that, no, I don’t think there is anything out there that I feel like I left on the table.
“The biggest thing about it, for me, was staying on that highest level of excellence, showing that it’s not easy to get there or, once you get there, it’s harder to stay.”
On being called the greatest basketball player of all time and if he wants to be known that way:
Jordan – “I don’t want it, in a sense, because I think it disrespects Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, all the guys…I never had a chance to play against. Whatever anybody’s saying I am, I never had a chance to compete against other legends prior to me…I would have loved to have played against them, but I never did.
“If you asked me, I would never say I am the greatest player and that’s because I never played against all the people that represented the league prior to Michael Jordan.”
On finding a passionate alternative to basketball:
Jordan – “Nothing is going to equal basketball…for me, I feel like I am the most fierce competitor there is. I don’t think I am ever going to find something that equals the game of basketball for me. Golf comes close but, even then, it’s not a mastery for me in that game.”
On whether he regrets retiring in 1993:
Jordan – “No, I never regret it. I think, at that time in my life, I needed that break because I lost the desire for what the game represented. It was very commercialized for me in 1993…I was on every Wheaties box and every Gatorade bottle and things of that nature, but my passion for the game was kind of lost…in the midst of so many things going on around the game.”
On body vs. mind when facing retirement:
Jordan – “The body is probably the biggest thing that makes us walk away from the game because we can’t respond physically. Mentally, I still think I’m just as sharp as when I played the game…probably even sharper. It’s a big distinct difference.”