While attempting to uncover a certain fact about Michael Jordan, an extended Google search proved futile. The fact would be wonderful to know because it would be a way of tormenting Jordan, and that’s always been fun to do because that’s what he’s always done to everyone else.
In searching the internet, however, I couldn’t find out what time Jordan was born 50 years ago today. I’d like to know because if it was more than a few seconds after midnight on Feb. 17, 1963, that would mean Jordan was not the first baby born on that day.
And if Michael is not first, it absolutely destroys him.
The stories of Jordan’s competitiveness are part of his legend, of course, and since I was fortunate enough to cover the NBA and work at the league office for most of Jordan’s career, I witnessed my share of them.
My all-time favorite behind-the-scenes moment occurred in 1992 at the Tournament of the Americas in Portland. Jordan and the Dream Team were playing in the Olympic qualifying tournament, and it was a foregone decision that a group of writers and public relations executives were going to have a Larry Bird League.
I had named our fantasy league in Bird’s honor five years earlier because we adopted his simple system of determining the best player. Bird added points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks and subtracted missed field goals, missed free throws, turnovers and fouls and whoever had the most points or highest average was the best player.
(By that time, I had told Bird that I had eliminated fouls from his system. When he asked why. I pointed out that giving a foul was sometimes a good play and also that superstars sometimes got favorable calls. “Sometimes?” Bird said, smiling. “Hell, superstars get all the calls.” He endorsed the change.)
I do believe we had a first in taking fantasy basketball international, and it was challenging. Some of us had covered the Olympics in 1988 and were familiar with players from Brazil, Canada and Puerto Rico. But also in Portland were teams from Argentina, Mexico, Panama and Uruguay. Their leading scorers were going to produce fantasy points and we had only a vague idea of who they were.
It was clear the Americans were going to win by as many points as they wanted, but Jordan had been on two title teams and played long seasons. It was not important for him to dominate players from other teams who probably would have struggled in YMCA leagues.
Still, someone had to score the points, get the rebounds, etc., so NBA PR chief Brian McIntyre drafted Jordan. Later at the team hotel, McIntyre told Jordan, who said that was a mistake because he planned to defer, play defense and not play many minutes.
“You shouldn’t have taken me,” Jordan told McIntyre.
Sure enough, the scoring was spread around in the first few games, so McIntyre walked up to Jordan one night and said: “I took your advice.”
“I traded you,” McIntyre said.
Jordan grimaced and said, “Traded me? For who?” We can’t remember for sure, but McIntyre believes it might have been Oscar Schmidt from Brazil. Regardless, it was somebody obviously inferior to Jordan – but also someone who would get more fantasy points.
The next game against a team none of us can remember, Jordan started, played a few minutes, came to the bench, rested, then went to the scorer’s table to re-enter the game. The buzzer sounded and as he walked onto the floor, he looked at McIntyre sitting courtside and said: “You f***ked up.”
He then went nuts, put on a crowd-pleasing show, and looked at McIntyre several times after scoring baskets.
Now, we’re talking fantasy basketball at a tournament where the U.S. won games by anywhere from 38 to 79 points. And Jordan felt slighted because of a fantasy league.
Yes, the man was competitive.