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Be like Mike? No thanks

By Rick Reilly

See what he did there with the headline? Clever! If we’re lucky this column will be filled with more “subtle” and “funny” references. Also, this is a ridiculous premise. You will never convince me some small part of the pasty white, nerdy and no longer culturally relevant Rick Reilly wouldn’t trade lives with the best basketball player ever.

Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame talk was the Exxon Valdez of speeches.

Ha … oh, wait, on second thought that is awful. His speech is “considered one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters ever to occur at sea?” It led to the deaths of tens of thousands of animals and, to this day, remains a fairly significant problem?

Psst, Rick, when you’re going to use an environmental disaster as a joke, you should use one that isn’t still causing a great deal of suffering … just a suggestion.

It was, by turns, rude, vindictive and flammable.

Just when I thought the Exxon Valdez joke had run aground (see what I did there?) Rick ties it all back together! Who cares if it doesn’t make sense?

And that was just when he was trying to be funny.

Oh … I laughed (as did the crowd) at those parts*.

*The parts where he was successfully being funny.

It was tactless, egotistical and unbecoming.

Look, Rick Reilly has been inducted into the basketball hall of fame on 19,768 separate occasions (they do a bad job of keeping count) so he KNOWS how to give one of these speeches. He’s like the Emily Post of hall of fame speeches except that one of them is a man*.

*It’s Emily Post

When it was done, nobody wanted to be like Mike.

You might be tempted to think of this as totally unsupportable hyperbole of the most egregious kind. But Rick Reilly polled literally everyone in the world and found that even the poor and starving were so shocked by this speech that they would rather not be incredibly rich, talented, successful, famous and not on the verge of a painful death.

It’s so aggravating when sports writers do this sort of thing, the assumption that their moral outrage is everyone’s moral outrage.

And yet we couldn’t stop watching.

I haven’t seen what sort of audience share the speech drew but we can safely assume that billions of people not only stopped watching, they never started.

Because this was an inside look into the mindset of an icon who’d never let anybody inside before.

Yes, nobody … well, except his family, friends, coaches and teammates … just those losers. What Ricky means to say is that Jordan has never done one of those soft-light, over the top, faux weepy pieces where he bares pre-approved parts of his soul to a hand picked journalist who tosses him a series of softball questions and pathetic one-liners. This is already – and clearly – an attack piece by a columnist who feels slighted.

From what I saw, I’d never want to go back.

Wait … back where? Back INSIDE Jordan? Ummmm … oh dear lord … I feel sick … I just threw up in my mouth. Hold on.

OK, I’m back. Sorry, I had to go shotgun a gallon of whiskey and huff 23* gallons of paint while crying softly in order to forget that last sentence.

*Jordan tribute!

Here is a man who’s won just about everything there is to win — six NBA titles, five MVPs and two Olympics golds.

True and, since we’re talking about his Hall of Fame induction speech, relevant. Oddly enough, Jordan rattled off none of these facts. That’s probably because he’s such a self involved jerk.

And yet he sounded like a guy who’s been screwed out of every trophy ever minted.

I (literally) have a trophy for a fourth place finish in a Laser Storm* tournament which I am 100% certain Jordan does not care about not winning.

*Not an actual storm

He’s the world’s first sore winner.

Rick Reilly folks! Bringing you jokes you already thought of and reacted by saying “huh … yeah … I’m never going to say that out loud” and never thought of again until now!

In the entire 23-minute cringe-athon, there were only six thank yous, seven if you count his sarcastic rip at the very Hall that was inducting him.

Oh wow, that I did not know. In order for a speech to be Classy (as defined by the sportswriters of America) it must include at least 79 thank yous, tears (crocodile accepted) and one story in which the honoree relates a “humorous” exchange with a sportswriter. After all, without sportswriters, sports are just an entertaining diversion devoid of maniacal shouting and poor writing.

“Thank you, Hall of Fame, for raising ticket prices, I guess,” he sneered.

I don’t recall the exact price Jordan quoted but, assuming he wasn’t exaggerating (something Rick Reilly would NEVER do) – and I’ve not seen anyone say he was wrong – I remember thinking 1) wow, that is insanely expensive and 2) really Hall of Fame? You CHARGE the people who are being inducted? That’s ridiculous … and remember, if Jordan had to pay, so did the rest of the inductees who are all presumably more classy than Jordan.

By comparison, David Robinson’s classy and heartfelt seven-minute speech had 17. Joe Montana’s even shorter speech in Canton had 23.

Rick, you are pathetic. You’ve set up this ridiculous premise in which an athlete has to cross some magical threshold for total thank yous and you’re ripping Jordan for falling short of that. I couldn’t help but notice you wrote this entire piece without ONCE noting what a great job our troops are doing. Therefore you hate America and, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say, actively support al-Qaeda.

Who wrote your speech Mike? Kanye West?

Ta da! Who wrote this column Rick? Mad libs? That’s actually unfair, a Mad Libs column would have some chance of actually being funny and poignant and this piece is neither of those things.

Not that Jordan’s speech wasn’t from the heart. It was.

Not that Rick writes sentences which follow the negation rule. He doesn’t.

It’s just that Jordan’s heart on this night could give you frostbite. Nobody was spared, including his high school coach, his high school teammate, his college coach, two of his pro coaches, his college roommate, his pro owner, his pro general manager, the man who was presenting him that evening, even his kids!

“I wouldn’t want to be you guys if I had to,” he said as they squirmed in their seats.”

Here’s the great thing about a column like this, you can cherry pick parts of a speech and, since they are completely devoid of context, you’re free to make it seem as if the speaker is foaming at the mouth. It’s easier to lump all of those people together and act like Jordan attacked each of them (he did not) and went on some maniacal rant (again, not true) because it fits with your personal bias. Note that while Rick asserts Jordan went after several people, he provides ONE quote to support this. That’s because providing the rest would prove that this entire premise is faulty, at best.

He even mocked his own brothers, calling them maybe 5-foot-5 and 5-6. Actually, they’re about 5-8 and 5-9. Michael was the one blessed with the height gene, not the tact one.

OH MY GOD HE MOCKED HIS OWN BROTHERS? DID YOU TELL MOM?

Jordan had decided that this was the perfect night to list all the ways everybody sitting in front of him had pissed him off over the past 30 years: Dean Smith, Doug Collins, Jerry Reinsdorf, Pat Riley, Isiah Thomas, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, George Gervin and Jeff Van Gundy. It was the only one-man roast in Hall of Fame history.

There’s a word for what you’re doing here Rick, it’s called lying. Did he rib some of those people? Yes, he did, in the very same sort-of friendly trash-talking for which Jordan became famous. But the Bird, Magic and Gervin stuff? That’s a blatant lie.

Only very little of it was funny.

Much like your career … hey ya! Oh, you should also note here that the audience was laughing throughout the speech, often heartily. But, again, that fact would be inconvenient.

Jordan owes a roomful of apologies.

To whom does he owe an apology and for what? Isn’t it odd that Rick didn’t bother to contact a single “victim” of the Jordan speech? Wouldn’t a quote or two have made his case that much more compelling? He didn’t because 1) the people in the speech aren’t mad and 2) Rick is lazy.

But it’ll never happen. I know firsthand. He once told me, “You know you don’t get no apologies in this business.”

Ah, there it is. This entire, poorly written screed is all because Rick Reilly is a 6-year-old girl* who holds a grudge over some perceived slight. That’s very classy Rick.

*Literally true

He was like that Japanese World War II soldier they found hiding in a cave in Guam 27 years after the Japanese surrendered. The only difference is, Jordan won! What good is victory if you never realize the battle is over?

Other differences: Jordan is tall, black, American, famous and still alive. Also, he doesn’t lean on the same tired metaphors because he’s too lazy to think of something else.

This is how Jordan really is, I just never thought he’d let the world see it.

Wait, I once read a column that called him an “icon who’d never let anybody inside before.” Oh wait, that was this column. I understand that the very act of churning out coherent thoughts is tough on you Rick but at least be consistent within the SAME COLUMN. Iuahds8duydoisuv siov … whoops, sorry about that, I blacked out from sheer anger and passed out on the keyboard.

His old Bulls’ assistant coach, Johnny Bach, told me early on, “This guy is a killer. He’s a cold-blooded assassin. It’s not enough for him to beat you. He wants you dead.”

Well, this is obviously a literal truth, it’s why Jordan was able to score 32,932 points and coldly murder over 17,000 opponents. You want to get mad at him for the genocide but he’s so darn likable! Oh Mike, you crazy blood thirsty psychopath.

I covered his entire career and saw examples of it throughout.

See what Rick did there? He managed to work himself back into the piece! That’s a nifty trick that we like to call narcissism. Oh well, at least Rick isn’t accusing someone else of that.

Saw him break Rodney McCray in after-practice, $100 shooting games, humiliate him until McCray lost his stroke.

Yes, it’s Jordan’s fault that Rodney McCray struggled from the floor, lots of 31-year-old backup small forwards thrive at that point in their careers. Oh, whoops, Rick failed to mention that. He’s such a thorough journalist; he simply forgot that McCray was at the tail end of a 10-year career the ONE season he played with Jordan. Rick is so totally immersed in the details; he just forgot McCray was known as a defensive specialist which was why Jordan liked going against him. He also forgot to note that McCray shot a very respectable .451 from the floor in that awful year he won a ring with the Bulls. It must have been terrible for McCray to end his career by winning a ring. Poor guy.

Watched him race his car up the shoulder of Chicago interstates just because he didn’t have the patience to wait in traffic.

Watched Rick write sentence fragments because he’s a terrible writer and a hack. Also, I’m calling bullshit here. Ten dollars says Rick never saw this but, rather, heard it and is passing it off as if he did.

Heard how he’d kept his friends confined to his hotel room at the Barcelona Olympics so he could play cards — and keep playing until he won. For Jordan, it was never enough to win. He had to have scalps.

Note that in a column in which Rick has felt free to engage in blatant lies, here he feels the need to equivocate and qualify. Although the scalps part is true, the people of Spain scream in terror whenever ‘Space Jam’ airs over there, it’s like a horror movie for those people.

Now here he was, in Springfield without a filter or a PR guy to cut him off, while his staff must’ve been covering their eyes.

My guess is they were thoroughly enjoying the speech and proud since, you know, he was being inducted into the hall of fame.

And suddenly, it hit you: Michael Jordan is the guy who gets up at the rehearsal dinner, grabs the mike and ruins the night.

One, it’s mic, not mike you twit. Secondly, if Michael Jordan got up and grabbed the mic at 99.9% of rehearsal dinners in America, the night would go straight to awesome. Every guy in the room would be begging him to speak, you would instantly have a legendary rehearsal dinner.

The thing Jordan doesn’t understand is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Terry Bradshaw won four Super Bowls and gave one of the greatest speeches in the history of the Hall of Fame. “Folks!” hollered. “You don’t get elected into the Hall of Fame by yourself! Thank you number 88, Lynn Swann! Thank you, Franco Harris! Thank you Rocky Bleier! What I wouldn’t give right now to put my hands under [center] Mike Webster’s butt just one more time! Thank you Mike!” He thanked linemen, tight ends, everybody but the ushers.

Have you bothered to look at Terry Bradshaw’s career numbers? He’s the most overrated quarterback in NFL history. His career completion percentage is under 52%, he threw 210 interceptions and got sacked 307 times. His career QB rating is 70.9, never ONCE in his career did he crack 90. He thanked all of those people because he HAD to, they made him.

Had Jordan been in his shoes, he’d have said, “Hey, Steve Kerr! Remember when I kicked your ass in that fight?”

Steve Kerr played basketball, why would Jordan bring him up in a hypothetical NFL hall of fame speech?

Jordan owes a roomful of apologies. But it’ll never happen. I know firsthand.

Sigh … it’s all about Rick folks, this tells you everything you need to know. He’s so much more knowledgeable than anyone else because he talked to Jordan a few times. That’s all you need to have an intimate understanding of another human being.

Before his second comeback — with the Washington Wizards — I was the first out with the story by a month. Jordan and his agent, David Falk, denied it, said I was crazy, practically said I was smoking something. Then, after a month of lies, Jordan admitted it was all true. I saw him in the locker room before his first game back and said, “You wanna say something to me, maybe?”

And he said, “You know you don’t get no apologies in this business.”

Rick, I apologize for calling you a 6-year-old girl, you’re just a pathetic, jealous, bitter, unfunny, untalented hack. Six year old girls still have a chance to make something of themselves.

So I wouldn’t hold your breath.

I won’t hold my breath (again, very original turn of the phrase) for the apology that is completely unnecessary.

They called it an “acceptance” speech, but the last thing Jordan seems to be able to do is accept it’s over. In fact, Jordan hinted that he might make yet another comeback at 50.

You don’t understand jokes, do you?

I just hope Comeback No. 3 doesn’t come with a speech.

It probably would since, you know, that would make sense.

Because then I’m really screwed.

On the one-in-a-million chance that Jordan attempted a third comeback, I will publicly wager $100 here and now that he would not, even once, mention Rick Reilly.

To be fair, Rick wasn’t the only guy to write a piece like this one but since he was the latest to the game and put no thought into this whatsoever (and because he sucks) he deserves my scorn. I also want to acknowledge here that I borrowed this line-by-line takedown format from the now (sadly) defunct firejoemorgan.com. If you ever have some time to kill, go there and read the archives, pure brilliance.

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2 Responses to “Michael Jordan, a Hall of Fame Speech and One Whiney Columnist”

  1. Great job brother!

    If I have to read one more single piece about Jordan’s speech, I’m going to throw up all over my keyboard…

    Oh wait, I just did. :wink:

    Talk about a story that should have never gained any legs… what a travesty. I personally enjoyed MJ’s speech and just don’t even remotely understand the stink.

  2. [...] Thank you number 88, Lynn Swann ! Thank you, Franco Harris! Thank you Rocky Bleier! What I wouldn’t give right now to put my hands under [center] Mike Webster’s butt just one more time! Thank you Mike!” He thanked linemen, tight ends, …Continue Reading [...]


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