O dia em que vi Kobe Bryant jogar: sim, foi incrível

Foi uma pequena-grande loucura. Era 13 de Junho de 2010. Saimos de madrugada de Washington D.C., onde estávamos a passar uma semana de férias, para apanhar um avião para Boston. Era uma ocasião especial. Nessa noite, os Boston Celtics recebiam os Los Angeles Lakers para o jogo cinco da final da NBA. Os bilhetes tinham sido comprados ainda em Lisboa após o segundo jogo da série e chegado pelo correio algum tempo antes da partida para os Estados Unidos. Nessa altura ainda havia a possibilidade de aquela ser a partida decisiva. Mas, entretanto, com duas vitórias para cada lado, tinha-se tornado uma partida à melhor de sete.

Chegámos cedo ao estádio recentemente inaugurado. O mítico Boston Garden tinha sido demolido e substituído pelo novíssimo TD Garden. E o ambiente era uma loucura. Verdes (da casa) e amarelos (visitantes) misturavam-se nas ruas numa convivência aparentemente impossível para quem está habituado ao comportamento dos adeptos europeus. Dançavam e provocavam-se mutuamente. Mas a rir e a dançar.

Como muitos dos adeptos, fomos para a zona do parque de estacionamento ver as estrelas chegar. Era longe, por isso só conseguimos distinguir o pequenote Nate Robinson. Quando a hora se aproximou entrámos para sentir o ambiente. E foi incrível. De um lado estavam Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce e Ray Allen. Do outro Paul Gasol, Ron Artest, Derek Fisher e, sobretudo, Kobe Bryant. Ah, havia também Lamar Odom, o sexto jogador dos Lakers que, cada vez que tocava na bola era brindado com gritos de “ugly sister”. Odom era então casado com a “menos interessante” das Kardashians. Uma maldade, com bastante piada…

Havia várias lendas em campo. Mas uma brilhava mais do que todas as outras. Naquela noite vi Kobe Bryant em acção. A determinada altura do terceiro período, com a equipa a perder, marcou 19 pontos consecutivos para os manter na luta. Triplos, alley-oops, lançamentos de dois, entradas para o cesto, fez um pouco de tudo.

Naquela noite, os seus 38 pontos não foram suficientes para ganhar. Do outro lado, os 27 de Paul Pierce chegaram para carregar a equipa da casa para uma vantagem que viria a revelar-se insuficiente. De regresso a Los Angeles, os Lakers venceram os dois jogos que restavam para conquistar o campeonato por 4-3. Vimos esses dois últimos jogos já em Washington, pela televisão. Foi o último título conquistado por Kobe, o quinto. Quando lhe perguntaram o que significava, nem hesitou: “tenho mais um do que o Shaq”.

Ontem ele despediu-se do basquetebol com mais uma exibição épica: 60 pontos que levaram a equipa à vítória. Outro daqueles jogos que ao longo dos últimos 20 anos fizeram dele uma lenda. E que me vão fazer poder dizer com orgulho: “eu vi o Kobe jogar – e foi incrível”.

O galo de Barcelos que não deu assim tanta sorte aos Celtics

Calculo que poucos saibam, mas ontem à noite realizou-se o draft da NBA. O quê? Em resumo, é o sorteio anual em que as equipas da melhor liga de basquetebol do mundo ficam a saber em que posição poderão escolher os jogadores universitários ou estrangeiros disponíveis para a época seguinte. E o que é que isso tem a ver com o galo de Barcelos? Tudo.

Uma das equipas com maiores expectativas a ficar com a primeira posição do draft – e logo a escolher o melhor jogador no mercado – era a dos Boston Celtics. Acontece que o novo embaixador dos Estados Unidos em Portugal, Robert Sherman, além de ser natural de Boston, é um grande fã dos Celtics e amigo pessoal de um dos proprietários da equipa. E, para dar sorte, decidiu enviar a Steve Pagliuca um galo de Barcelos pintado pelos marines norte-americanos que vigiam a representação diplomática dos EUA em Lisboa.

Perante a curiosidade da imprensa, Pagliuca explicou a história que tornou o galo de Barcelos um símbolo de sorte: “Há uma história de um homem que viajava de Espanha e que era acusado de roubar prata e acabou condenado è morte. Ele disse ao juiz que o galo ia saltar do prato se ele estivesse inocente e isso aconteceu. Por isso eles não o enforcaram. Mais tarde ele foi a Barcelos e fez a estátua que se tornou um símbolo de boa sorte”.

Com o galo de Barcelos na mala, Steve Pagliuca viajou para Nova Iorque para assistir ao sorteio. É um tipo supersticioso: além do símbolo português levava uma gravata que lhe tinha sido oferecida pelo mítico treinador Red Auerbach e que tinha usado no jogo decisivo de 2006 em que os Celtics se sagraram campeões frente aos Los Angeles Lakers. Mas os amuletos não lhe serviram de grande coisa: os Boston acabaram por ficar com a sexta escolha do draft. Não é mau. Mas não é brilhante.

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O MVP dos MVP’s

A discussão será eterna: quem é o melhor jogador? Da minha parte não tenho dúvidas. Mas nada melhor do que fazer uma comparação estatística, de dados concretos, entre os três mais dominadores basquetebolistas dos últimos 30 anos. Detalhe: as primeiras 10 épocas de Michael Jordan são na realidade oito. Nos restantes dois anos ele esteve ocupado a jogar…basebol.

A eficácia contra o espectáculo

Esta noite os Miami Heat e os San António Spurs disputam o segundo jogo da final da NBA. Fica aqui a comparação entre as duas equipas.

O primeiro basquetebolista gay (pelo menos publicamente)

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay. I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.”

Esta semana a Sports Illustrated tem uma das capas mais memoráveis de sempre. Não pelo brilhantismo gráfico mas por uma imagem que irá ficar para a história. Através da revista, Jason Collins torna-se o primeiro atleta da NBA a assumir publicamente a sua homossexualidade

A reportagem foi preparada em grande secretismo. No início de Abril, um jornalista disse ao editor que um jogador da NBA poderia sair do armário. Não sabiam quem era, nem onde estava. Só a 24 de Abril, quando já estavam em Los Angeles e a caminho da casa do atleta souberam quem ele era. Durante todo esse tempo o tema não foi discutido na reunião de editores. Só o jornalista e os editores responsáveis sabiam o que estava a ser preparado. O texto só ficou fechado na passada sexta-feira. E os bastidores deste trabalho foram contados aqui e aqui pelos responsáveis da SI.

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Para finalizar, Jordan em HD

Treinar com uma lenda viva

Ter o melhor jogador de basquetebol de todos os tempos como patrão tem alguns problemas. Mas também alguns benefícios. O melhor de todos eles é ter a oportunidade de jogar contra uma lenda viva. É o que acontece ocasionalmente aos jogadores dos Charlote Bobcats, apesar de a equipa continuar a ser das piores da NBA.

“It’s got to be the shoes”

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São provavelmente os ténis mais famosos do mundo. Pelo menos no que ao basquetebol diz respeito. Os anúncios feitos por e com Spike Lee tornaram-se icónicos. Durante anos o All Star Game era aguardado com expectativa por todos os motivos e mais um: a revelação dos novos modelos da Air Jordan. Ainda tive alguns. Já vão no 28º número. Mas estes foram os primeiros. A lista completa está aqui.

Uma conversa com Mike

Quando foi criada, nos anos 1990, a Slam Magazine sobreviveu em grande parte graças a Michael Jordan. As capas com o atleta dos Chicago Bulls eram das mais vendidas e a relação entre Jordan e a revista manteve-se. Quando celebrou o 100º número, em 2006, a Slam voltou a colocar o melhor jogador de todos os tempos na capa. O título, Jordan Forever. 

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Everyone knows he’s the greatest. Almost no one can get him to sit down and talk about it. We’re happy to be the exception. You asked for Michael Jordan. SLAM got him.

words Ryan Jones | @thefarmerjones

It isn’t accurate to say that SLAM exists because of Michael Jordan. But it is fair to say we probably wouldn’t be here without him. Let me explain.

This magazine debuted in 1994—when, you might remember,  Michael Jordan was a minor league baseball player. He wouldn’t appear on a SLAM cover until our sixth issue, by which time he’d  returned to professional basketball; this was good news for the game in general and our little magazine in particular. Would we have lasted past that second year without Mike to carry the game? Probably. Maybe? Actually, it’s better that we never had to find out.

Personally, I never needed Michael Jordan. As a SoCal kid growing up in the 1980s, I had Magic, Cap, Big Game and the rest of the Showtime Lakers, which was more than enough. I had a dope team to cheer for, incredible players to idolize and an epic rivalry to fire me up. The only kid I knew who wasn’t a Laker fan was a Celtic fan, for which we killed him pretty much daily; beyond that, it sort of seemed like the rest of the NBA existed only to fill out the schedule.

Like most kids, I had a pretty narrow view of the world. Eventually, I figured things out. Seems a lot of people did need Mike, and a lot of other people who might not have actually needed him, billions of them, got down anyway. He had that effect on people. In a lot of ways, he still does.

Long before we counted the thousands of Reader Poll ballots you sent in, we had a feeling. We knew this issue needed to be epic, and that only a handful of cats could even be considered for the front page. But there are times—and this was one of them—when we’re a little too close to the game. We couldn’t call it, so we hit you, and we waited for a call back. Three questions, and three answers, would decide it.

Q: Who’s the best NBA player of the SLAM era?

A: Sweep.

Q: Who’s your favorite NBA player of the SLAM era?

A: Landslide.

Q: Who should be on the cover of SLAM 100?

A: Not even close.

That ended up being the easy part. The seemingly impossible came next. We gotta get Mike. Only Mike doesn’t need to get got. The truth is that, strictly speaking, we’d never really gotten Michael Jordan. Not completely, and not our way—our photographer, our interview, one on one. Worldwide exclusive, just like it says on the cover. But for this, there really was no choice. We needed Mike.

We got him back in December, believe it or not, on a single-digit day in Chicago. We got him after a few months of pitching and selling and asking very nicely and almost but not quite begging, and we got him, I’m certain, because we convinced Michael and the people he trusts that our readers and his truest fans are one and the same. You asked for it—demanded it, actually—and we passed on the message. Michael, to his credit, heard you loud and clear.

The occasion, held at a studio on the fringe of downtown Chicago, was a commercial shoot for the Jordan XXI, the predictably great clip featuring kids recreating classic MJ moments. Jordan’s role, as you’ve seen by now, is limited to those final few seconds: arms crossed, head nodding approval, a subtle smile on his face. The implication is that, like Michael, we’re watching the legacy—his DNA, according to the XXI’s ad campaign—being passed on to and embraced by the next generation. It’s a sales pitch, of course, but given where Michael is both personally and professionally, it’s an easy one to believe.

Michael Jordan is done playing basketball. We know that now, and with the likes of Kobe, LeBron, Dwyane, Carmelo and others doing their thing, that reality has gotten easier to accept. But it’s one thing to inherit DNA; cloning is another matter, and no one yet has managed to clone the total package of athleticism, work ethic, focus and ridiculous competitiveness that made Jordan the greatest to ever play the game. And we’re not expecting it to happen anytime soon—if ever. Even if one of these young cats can match his six rings and 32,292 points and five MVP trophies, it’s hard to imagine anyone equaling Mike. He was, and remains, singular. And that’s why we’re here.

It’s been years since Michael Jordan agreed to pose for the cover of a basketball magazine, or any magazine, really. Dude doesn’t need the press, doesn’t need to take time out for SLAM or anyone else, not to tell stories, not to sell shoes. But we’re glad that, just this once, he made an exception. And while we’d never claim to speak for the man, we think we know why he said yes. Asked if he still plays an active role in the design and production of his signature line, Jordan told us, “I will always be involved with something that has my name on it.”

We know he was talking about the shoes, but he just as easily could’ve been talking about the game itself.

SLAM: We’re here for a commercial shoot for the XXI, so let’s start with the shoes—two decades in, you’ve still got the hottest kicks in the game. Why do you think the brand has maintained such popularity?

Michael Jordan: Well, I’m not really surprised, because we’ve always been able to connect—connecting to kids and getting feedback, coming up with new concepts, finding new styles. The credit goes to our whole team, that we research it enough to figure out, OK, this is gonna be something kids really like. And I guess with feedback from the kids, we’ve been doing a pretty good job.

SLAM: Do you have a favorite?

MJ: I have some very sentimental favorites. You know, the XI is one of my favorites, the III is definitely one of my favorites, and XIII. If I had to pick one of them, I’d have a tough time. I’d probably have to pick…III.

SLAM: It’s rare in sports that everyone seems to agree on who’s the best player in a particular sport. How important is that legacy to you? Does it matter to you at all?

MJ: No. The fact that I’ve survived 20, 21 years, and to still have people talk about me—not like I’m dead, but just the impact I’ve had on the game. But when they start comparing who’s the best of all time, I never can accept that role, because there are a lot of guys who influenced my game, and if I didn’t see those guys, there’s no way my game would’ve evolved. So for me to steal things they’ve taught me and then get the credit is not fair. So I always step away from that.

SLAM: Just the same, your impact on the game, specifically on the next generation—marketing, endorsements, even the business model for guys like LeBron and Carmelo—is pretty much unprecedented. Which aspect of that are you proudest of?

MJ: What’s important to me is when they’ve been given these opportunities away from the game, it doesn’t affect what they’ve done on the court. I pride myself in terms of, no matter what endorsement contracts I signed, it never affected what I was doing on the court. The basketball court was always my refuge, in terms of where I could go and really be creative, and everything else fell off of that. And the thing I try to teach Carmelo and some of our athletes is that no matter how much we try to promote and market you as an individual and a person and a basketball player, you’ve still gotta go out and play the game of basketball—for the reasons you played the game from Day One, which is for the love of the game and not for the dollars that you get paid away from the game of basketball.

SLAM: Do you think that this sort of understanding is missing with a lot of the younger players coming up now?

MJ: No, it’s just something for us to teach ’em, to not be so quick to jump into. When we played, they didn’t have to market us as much as our game marketed ourselves. Today, it’s a little bit different. You market the players before their games have evolved. We want to make sure that if we’re gonna market a player, he can stand up to it.

SLAM: The prominent young guys in the game right now—do you think they’re doing a good job with that so far?

MJ: For the expectations they have to deal with, yeah. That’s a difference from when we were young. The expectations weren’t there. Now it’s way out there, and obviously I have to take some of the credit—or blame, either way you want to look at it—that more kids are coming in today looking at the business side of what their skills can provide for them instead of looking at what the game is gonna provide for them. So there’s a lot more of that, but I think that it’s unfair, because it’s tough pressure that they have to deal with, and we never had to deal with that. They’ve done a good job and have still been able to showcase their talents, which is ultimately how they’re gonna be remembered.

SLAM: Looking back on your own career now, is there a single moment that makes you the proudest?

MJ: That’s tough…I mean, you can think of bookends. Hitting my shot at North Carolina started everything for me, and hitting the shot in Utah pretty much ended—I mean, you got Washington after that, but I don’t count that. That’s some teaching, that wasn’t basketball at the highest level. But those are bookends for me. Those are two things that I guess engulf my whole career, from 1982 to 1998.

SLAM: To flip that, is there one disappointment that stands out?

MJ: I would never say a disappointment, because with that disappointment you always feel like you want to change something. So I take disappointment as a learning experience. You know, if you look at all the disappointments that I’ve had in my life, I’ve learned something from it, and I’ve rarely made the same mistake twice. So I have to take the disappointment along with the good.

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SLAM: Beyond the winning and losing, whether it was high school, college, shooting around with your sons, whatever, when have you just been happiest playing the game?

MJ: I guess my happiest was when I first got to Chicago, and I found out I could play on this level, and started to feel the enthusiasm coming within this city. The motivation they gave me each and every day to go to my job—even though it’s five degrees out there. You know, it was fun to go to work and then go out and showcase your talent in front of starving fans. That to me was very gratifying.

SLAM: Who was your favorite guy to go against?

MJ: Myself.

SLAM: I guess I meant other than that—let me put it this way: Was there an opponent you enjoyed beating the most?

MJ: Yeah, I enjoyed beating Detroit, in all honesty, because of the hurdle that we had to overcome with them and the way that we did it, and the gratification we got out of seeing them walk off the court without shaking our hands. I mean, that to me said, “Job well done.” But I guess if I can really elaborate on why I said myself more so than another athlete—

SLAM: Of course.

MJ: It’s because a lot of times I had to battle with myself to keep challenging myself. When you get to a certain pinnacle, you’ve got to find some ways to keep going out there and play 82 games, playing the Clippers or Lakers or whoever, and keep ’em on the same pedestal. That to me is why I would say my biggest battle was myself.

SLAM: You played on the original—well, the only real Dream Team—

MJ: Thank you for saying that. [Laughs]

SLAM: Yeah, I always catch myself. There’s only been one, only will be one. But if you could create a “dream team” of guys from your era, you and four other guys, who do you put around you?

MJ: Oooh—In our era? That’s tough…the point guard is Magic Johnson, without a doubt. I would have a tough time at the small forward position, because that’s taking Scottie Pippen and Larry Bird and splitting ’em…

SLAM: If I give you a sixth man, you can go with that?

MJ: Yeah, I can go with that. At the power forward…Charles is gonna be mad, but I know Charles never played defense. Man, that’s another tough one…At center I’d go with Olajuwon, that’s without a doubt. I mean, I never saw Jabbar in his prime, and Patrick, and I love Patrick, but I would have to say the versatility of where the game was going, Olajuwon was by far the best at the center position. And even Shaq, he’s the dominant center of today, but if you ask him back when he first came in, if he doesn’t say Olajuwon then he’s got a little amnesia. At the four, you’re talking Kevin McHale, you’re talking Karl Malone and then you’re talking about James Worthy. I’ma take James because I’m a Carolina guy.

SLAM: Speaking of the Tar Heels, how nice was it for you to see them get back on top last year?

MJ: Well, it was good for Coach Williams, and he’s gonna get all the credit, but who goes unnoticed is Matt Doherty, who recruited all the guys, and Coach Williams took the team and won with it. But I’m happy for the program to get back to where it needed to be, and I think they will continue to do that.

SLAM: At the moment, you’re mostly out of the game of basketball. What keeps you busy now, and what future do you think you have in the game?

MJ: My kids keep me busy. I go and watch all their games. I live vicariously through them, and they’re gaining more of what the expectations are gonna be for them. My oldest takes pride in going out and representing the Jordan name, and my youngest hasn’t quite got it, but he’s got the athleticism and the ability to do it eventually. They’re gonna keep me connected to the game. I’ll look for ownership somewhere down the road—I’m patiently waiting—and even then, if that does happen, I don’t know what my commitment will be, depending on the stage of my life and where my kids are. They mean everything to me right now, and I try to be there as much as possible for them so they can make the right choices. They give me so much gratification watching them play—even though I yell a lot—but I enjoy watching them. So that’s my activity right now, and that’s gonna be my activity for some time.

As melhores imagens da carreira

Foram muitos anos, muitas imagens. Aqui estão algumas das minhas favoritas, reunidas pela Sports Illustrated. São apenas 100.

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A maldição de se chamar Michael Jordan

50 anos, 50 capas

Quantos atletas podem orgulhar-se de ter estado 50 vezes na capa da Sports Illustrated? Não faço ideia. Mas sei que Michael Jordan é um deles.

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“Não envergonhem os meus sapatos”

No início da época 1995-1996, todos os olhos da NBA estavam sobre Michael Jordan e os Chicago Bulls. O melhor jogador de todos os tempos tinha regressado da aventura no basebol a meio do campeonato anterior, só para ser eliminado nos playoffs pelos Orlando Magic. A eliminatória ficou marcada por inúmeros erros de Jordan. As criticas sucederam-se (para além de jogar com o número 45): já não tem o jeito, perdeu a intensidade, a época dele passou, etc, etc, etc. Jordan ouviu e respondeu – dentro de campo. Em Junho de 1996, os Chicago Bulls eram a melhor equipa da NBA com um registo histórico de 70 vitórias. Já nos playoffs, o número 23 deu uma entrevista ao jornalista Scoop Jackson, que fez a capa da Slam Magazine. Saiu isto:

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by Scoop Jackson

You guys. That’s how Michael Jordan refers to you if you have a mic in hand, if you’re media. It’s a generalization that many of us can do without, but coming from Mike…well, you know.

There’s a bit of ignorance in all of us “guys” that makes us think that Mike ain’t talking to us when he makes the reference. Once Mike acknowledges you, everything changes. You become best friends, roots. The mind games start: “You guys?” Naw, Money ain’t talkin’ to me. Mike’s my man. We tight. He knows me, calls me by name. He might be talkin’ to all these other chickenheads, but we go back like his old hairline. I’m special. He ain’t talkin’ to me.

Yeah, right. Wake up. Understand, Michael Jordan sees over 100,000,000 microphones a season. The hands and arms attached to those mics represent another world. “You guys” is as personal as it gets with Mike. And until you spend some time with him, you don’t understand how lucky you are. “You guys” becomes special, an endearing term. Soon, you begin to realize that, as general as it is, it’s not often that you get to hear those words. Jordan’s rules.

“You guys need me?” Michael Jordan sticks his head out of the back door in the Chicago Bulls locker room. Nobody moves. Scottie and Dennis have everybody on lock down. Mike shrugs, “Cool.” As he turns to exit, a small hand grabs his arm. A front. “Yo Mike, who’s the last person to beat you in a one-on-one?” It’s been one year since he came back to the stage, and 14 years since he introduced himself to the world and Georgetown. He’s gone the distance to prove that. No doubt, he’s the baddest mf that’s ever going to play ball, but there are still places he won’t go. This is one of them. For a man who has built his entire life on relevance, having substance and meaning, trivial pursuits (dumb-ass questions) simply aren’t his steelo. With a classic, no-you-don’t-stop-me-for-that look, he puts my head to bed. No answer. You guys are a trip.

Two weeks later. After serving the Knicks to solidify the league MVP drama, Jordan steps away from the horde of mics and lights and enters another zone. He spots the naps and gives me the nod; I follow. As we exit the shelter, leaving all other media behind to fiend for more locker room quotes, Mike puts his arm around my shoulder and asks, “Did you get that?”

“Oh, yeah, good lookin’,” I spit.

Then he drops the image, “No problem Dog, anytime.” Dog. The universal term of kinship, brothahood…friendship. Me and Mike. No mo’ Mars. As Patrick  Ewing and Charles Oakley push me aside for more pressing conversation, I give Mike a pound; he gives me the wink. What else are friends for? Oh, by the way, this is what Money gave his Dog:

SLAM: Your love for basketball. How deep is it?

MJ: My love for the game is very deep right now. It’s as deep as it’s ever been. That’s why I came back last year. I enjoyed baseball after I retired, but basketball gives me something more. I have never enjoyed a season as much as the one we are having right now. Scottie has matured, and the team has really gelled. The guys on this team really get along; there is no jealousy or  animosity. We just play ball, win and have fun.

SLAM: Are you in a groove?

MJ: I don’t know—you tell me. I feel very comfortable. I feel in control of my game. I feel like I’m right back at the same level that I was at before I retired, maybe in some ways better mentally. I worked real hard to get back to where I am.

SLAM: But I mean, right now you’re rollin’. Your game is on-on, you know what I’m sayin’? What does it feels like when you get in one of these grooves? What goes through your mind?

MJ: To keep it goin’, you know. Just try to find certain rhythms, certain tendencies throughout the course of a game—throughout the course of the day—that maintains so that it continues. That’s important.

SLAM: Is that hard?

MJ: Yeah it’s hard. Especially if everybody doesn’t take it the same way, or take the seriousness of it every single night. I mean, I joke and I kid around, but once I step in between those lines, I like to maintain the same attitude I had the game before, you know?

SLAM: OK, let’s go back. The game of  basketball itself is one of culture. As a brotha who’s considered the essence of the culture, explain to me what you feel the importance of streetball is to the total game and what it represents?

MJ: I think playing basketball on the street is what the game should be about. Especially for the youngsters. I will encourage my kids to go out with their friends to the playgrounds, get a game and play. For as long as they want. You develop friendships, competition and teamwork on the playground. I can’t imagine a better way to spend time.

SLAM: Were you a playground legend?

MJ: [Giving up that look again] Next…

SLAM: So are pick-up games still important to you? I mean, I heard your brother Larry used to…

MJ: Man, my older brother Larry used to kill me! He was older and bigger than me. He would beat me, talk to me and not let me forget about it. What that did for me was make me work that much harder to beat him. He had no idea that I was going to end up taller than him. I look at my games with him as a great experience when I was young, because I developed my love for the game and it made me work harder to get better.

SLAM: So besides Larry, who’s the best ballplayer that you’ve played against that we’ve never heard of?

MJ: [The look again] Next…

SLAM: A’ight, one by one, how did the old school influence your game? Elgin Baylor, Julius Erving, David Thompson, Connie Hawkins…How did they influence your game?

MJ: I was different. Growing up in North Carolina, I wasn’t exposed to basketball nationally—I just followed North Carolina and wanted to go there. I used to watch David Thompson and Walter Davis. Then when I met and talked to [Coach] Dean Smith, I knew…

SLAM: You knew what?

MJ: I knew [UNC] was the place for me.

SLAM: What means the most to you right now?

MJ: Right now?

SLAM: Right now.

MJ: Simple. Staying healthy and winning another championship.

SLAM: It’s crunch time now—aren’t you getting tired? I mean, this is your first full season back in a couple. Wassup? You’re making it hard for Phil to give you some rest.

MJ: You should know me by now—I haven’t changed. This is the most challenging part of the season, and I thrive on it, on this type of competitiveness. I just try to elevate my game and everyone else’s game surrounding me. To some degree, that’s the type of thing I thrive on; I enjoy it. I want to make it tough for Phil to take me out, because I enjoy playing in these types of circumstances. Hey Dog, I’m getting old, and I may not get these thrills too often anymore [laughs].

JUL96

SLAM: Seventy.

MJ: It was not a goal. It was not something we started out the season [trying] to achieve. But when it got within reach, we wanted to do it. Don’t forget, we didn’t start out the season saying we were going to win 70 games. We started out the season saying we’re going to win a Championship. This team has a lot of confidence. We have a good rhythm to the way we play. We believe we can win every game we step out on the court to play. We know how to focus on games, especially when we didn’t do well the game before.

SLAM: Like that 20-point loss to the Knicks…

MJ: Next…

In the first game of the season, Jason Caffey got nervous. In his first game as a pro, he began to feel that the Bulls were losing by eight to Charlotte at the half because of him. Never pressed, Mike pulled him to the side outside of the locker room and taught.

“I told him, ‘Just play the game of basketball,’” Jordan says. “‘It’s simple. If you can’t remember the plays, it’s cool. Don’t worry about it. Just do the things that got you here. Set a screen, get a rebound. Just play ball.’”

Caffey didn’t play much better in the second half, but Mike did. He took his own advice and simply came out and played ball. The way only he knows how. Lead by example. Move as a team, never move alone. Yo son, just do it.

It would seem impossible to stay motivated to do something you were already the best at. But Jordan still finds challenges. At times, even he doesn’t feel like he’s the best in the game. It’s not humility or humbleness, it’s honesty. Despite everything, Jordan still feels that there’s a lot of Jason Caffey left in him. There’s still a lot to learn, there’s still room for improvement. That the only difference between him and Caffey is experience. The game of basketball tells him this every night, and he does more than listen; he pays attention and builds. Life to Jordan is not a game, but basketball is life. As he goes, so does the game. But he’ll be the first to tell you that it’s never all about him.

SLAM: You still get motivated?

MJ: Each time I step on the basketball court. I have a motivation either to prove something to myself or to prove something to you or to the other team. I don’t like to lose. This team doesn’t like to lose. That’s motivation within itself. It’s a definite and a don’t. Either way, you don’t want to lose and that’s the motivation.

SLAM: Game situation. Score tied in the fourth. What do you personally put on yourself in those situations?

MJ: It’s just a matter of bucking down and making some big plays. Usually, I can get a team ignited and pull off a stretch [run]. It’s important to get that first burst of energy before the other team does, because if they get it before you do, they’ll get more confidence—and that’s the one thing you don’t want to happen.

SLAM: OK, no more game Qs. If you only had $5, who would you pay to see play ball?

MJ: I would pay to see Scottie Pippen play. I think he is the ultimate team player. A guy that can score, pass, rebound and play  defense. I also think he’s great to have in the locker room. We have been closer this year and I have really enjoyed that.

SLAM: I heard through the grapevine that you and Scottie have never played each other in a one-on-one. Drop the diplomacy. What would happen if you two went at it?

MJ: I honestly don’t know. I don’t know what would happen, but there’d be a lot of talkin’ going on. Sometimes we are on opposite teams in practice and go at each other. That’s always fun, but my  team usually wins.

SLAM: As a fan of basketball, what has been your biggest thrill? In other words, outside of your personal accomplishments, what has given you the greatest joy? What has made you smile the most?

MJ: One of the things I can say that I enjoy the most is watching my teammates grow and become part of something special. Guys like Randy Brown, Steve Kerr, Luc Longley, Bill Wennington, Ron Harper—they have never been part of a championship-type team like we have right now. Now that they have a chance, I want them to enjoy it, because they know how hard it is to get there. But we haven’t gotten there yet. I just have to make sure I do what I have to do so that we can get there.

SLAM: What’s the biggest difference in you since you came back? Besides that turnaround jumper.

MJ: [Laughs] I think I’ve matured. I’m in more control of my personal life, as well as my basketball life. I went and took a break from “you guys.” I think my last two years away made me a more mature person to deal with a lot of things surrounding my life in general. I’m just in better control of myself right now. I’m glad to be back. And I think I deserve to come back and play the game I truly love.

SLAM: Are you that good?

MJ: I’m alright.

SLAM: Have you ever seen anybody do anything on the court that made you say, “Damn, I wish I could do that?”

MJ: I’m telling you, Scottie does a lot of things on the court that amaze me. He moves really well and has those long arms and legs, and basically has no weaknesses. Also, he’s matured and is confident of his role on this team. At times, he amazes me.

SLAM: There’s one question I’ve always wanted to ask you…when you see other players wearing Air Jordans—your shoes—what do you say to ’em?

MJ: I tell them, “Don’t embarrass my shoes.”

SLAM: You say that to everybody?

MJ: Everybody that wears ’em.

SLAM: What do you have to say to people who claim that you aren’t the same player you were before you left? That you lost it?

MJ: For all those people who say I lost a step, I think I’ve proved that there are other ways to make that step [smiles].

SLAM: Yo Dog, wassup with the new contract next year?

MJ: Next…

Kobe, é assim que se ganham jogos no último segundo

As imagens icónicas de Deus num campo de basquetebol

A carreira de Michael Jordan está recheada de momentos memoráveis. Tive o privilégio de assistir a muitos deles quando ocorreram (pela televisão, claro). Outros, como o registado nesta foto, vi-os quando ele já era um atleta consagrado. A imagem mostra o lançamento da vitória do então caloiro da Universidade de North Carolina contra Georgetown, na final do campeonato universitário. Na época, tornou-o conhecido nos Estados Unidos. E foi apenas o início do que se seguiu. Podem vê-lo na fotogaleria da revista Sports Illustrated. Basta clicarem na foto.

Photo: Heinz Kluetmeier/SI

Photo: Heinz Kluetmeier/SI

Michael Jordan: os melhores momentos

 

Position: Guard
Birth Date: February 17, 1963
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Height: 6’6″ (2.0 m)
Weight: 216 lbs. (97.85 kg)
College: North Carolina
Experience15 years
Jersey: 23
All-Star Selections: 14
All-NBA Selections: 11 (10 1st-team)
MVP Awards: 5
NBA Championships: 6

Michael Jordan is a Hall of Fame shooting guard who played in the NBA from 1984 to 2003 for the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards. Winner of five regular-season MVP awards, he is widely considered the best basketball player ever to play in the NBA. Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA titles, and was voted the Finals MVP a record six times. Michael Jordan scored more points per game than any player in NBA history, with a 30.1 average, and his 32,292 career points scored rank as the third-most in NBA history. His career postseason scoring average of 33.5 points is also the best in NBA history.

Michael Jordan was a 14-time All-Star, averaging 20.2 points per All-Star game, and became the only player to ever record a triple-double in an All-Star Game when he achieved the feat in 1997. He was named Defensive Player of the Year in 1988, and was on the All-Defensive First Team nine times. Michael Jordan also held the record for consecutive games scoring in double-digits (866). In 1996, Jordan was named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.

Michael Jordan became a world-famous star as his Bulls kept winning, and he kept scoring. He graced the cover of countless magazines, including Sports Illustrated a record 51 times. He also had his own line of basketball shoe — the introduction of the Nike Air Jordan, embroidered with Jordan’s signature symbol of him jumping in the air, basketball in one hand and legs spread, would boost Nike as one of the world leaders in sports merchandise. With countless endorsements to his name, Jordan would revolutionize the sports merchandising and marketing industries.

Aviso aos leitores

O melhor jogador de basquetebol de todos os tempos (desculpa lá, Lebron James) faz 50 anos. Por isso, o dia de hoje é dedicado ao Deus que se disfarçou de homem para calçar uns ténis da Nike: Michael Jordan.

MJ

Happy birthday Mr. Johnson

Passaram dois dias, mas nunca é tarde para homenagear um dos melhores jogadores de basquetebol sempre. Earvin Magic Johnson fez na terça-feira 53 anos. É caso para dizer Happy Birthday Mr. Johnson (e já agora, cliquem no link para descobrirem ou reverem algumas coisas sobre ele)