By Jan Hubbard
The sports world spent most of two decades witnessing the savage competitiveness that was Michael Jordan and, frankly, not only enjoyed it, but also idolized it. When he was a player and got that nasty, comic book-superhero look in his eyes while staring down a challenger, everyone – with the notable exception of opponents – loved it.
That includes, you’ve got to think, all current players.
For Jordan, games were combat, a test of wills, and he elevated them to levels that teetered between exhilarating and unhealthy. When Jordan became involved in a gambling controversy, it was his father who famously said his son did not have a gambling problem; he had a competition problem.
In 1992, a few of us got a glimpse of the raw Jordan – one that teammates saw daily and opponents saw nightly – while the Dream Team was in Monte Carlo preparing for the Barcelona Olympics. In a scrimmage that has become known as the greatest game never filmed, the Dream Team was divided into two squads – one led by Magic Johnson; the other by Jordan.
By the time the 10 or so media members who were covering the team got into the small arena, where the Dream Team had played a game in front of the royal family of Monte Carlo a couple of nights earlier, Jordan’s team had the lead and he was being quite vocal about it.
We learned later that Magic’s team had jumped out to a 14-2 lead and Magic and Charles Barkley began taunting Jordan. Ultimately, however, it wasn’t enough that Jordan answered by bringing his team back to victory; he was intent on loudly shoving the triumph through their ear drums.