Bill Russell may have won more championships, and Wilt Chamberlain may have scored more points in an individual game. But Michael Jordan is, to this writer and many others, the Greatest of All Time, and with good reason. Before His Airness first stepped foot on an NBA court, nobody had shown his prodigious ability to score and play defense equally well, while soaring to the sky for breathtaking dunks and not having a single weakness as a player. The likes of LeBron James may have something to say about one day being like Mike, but at the end of the day, nobody's done it better than Michael Jordan himself.
That isn't to say that Michael Jordan, basketball player extraordinaire, ambassador for the sport, and role model to fans young and old, was a saint. His storied NBA career, not to mention his less-storied run as an NBA executive, was checkered by controversy at times, and there are aspects about his life that he wouldn't want fans to remember.
There's no doubt that Jordan would want you to remember his NBA championship rings, all the records he set as a player, and all those moments of late-game heroics he engineered. But he's also got some things he'd prefer that you forget, and we've got 15 of the more noteworthy, and possibly shocking ones right here.
15 His First Bulls Team Had A Losing Record
When Michael Jordan was picked 3rd-overall in the 1984 NBA draft, it didn't take long for him to dominate, as he easily won Rookie of the Year honors with averages of 28.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg, and 5.9 apg. He also helped the Chicago Bulls post an 11-game improvement over the previous year's record. Thing is, the Bulls still finished 38-44 in 1984-85, and lost 3-1 to the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of that season's playoffs.
You would think a transcendent talent like Jordan would immediately turn a losing team into a contender, like Larry Bird and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did in previous years. But one man can only do so much, and that one man was surrounded by selfish, one-dimensional scorers like Orlando Woolridge and Quintin Dailey, and a who's who of mediocre big men that included Steve Johnson, Dave Corzine, David Greenwood, and an aging Caldwell Jones. That's not exactly a recipe for a championship, even if the active ingredient was already there, and then some.
14 The All-Star Game Freeze-Out
When you're an NBA rookie averaging damn close to 30 points a game, you're sure to get a lot of ooh's and aah's from rival players, even your fellow superstars. But what Michael Jordan got as a rookie starter in the 1985 All-Star Game was an apparently jealous young veteran suiting up for the East at point guard – the Detroit Pistons' Isiah Thomas.
It's long been suggested that Thomas was behind the "freeze-out" of Jordan at the 1985 All-Star Game, as he and several other teammates deliberately refused to pass the ball to the future GOAT. As a result, Jordan was held down to just 7 points on 2-for-9 shooting, marking the worst All-Star Game performance in his career. All-Star Games are supposed to be a chance for the NBA's best players and the fans to have some fun, but if the stories are true, it was no fun for Thomas to be usurped as the best young backcourt man in the NBA at the time, and he let that be known by freezing MJ out.
13 His Second Comeback With The Wizards
You just knew that even in his late-30s, just as he was ostensibly enjoying his second and supposedly final retirement from the NBA, that Washington Wizards VP of Basketball Operations Michael Jordan wanted to be back on the court, routinely posting 30-5-5 stat lines, tormenting opposing defenders, and sticking his tongue out as he posterized yet another one of those defenders. Sure enough, the unthinkable happened in the 2001-02 season, as ol' #23 was back...in the Wizards' blue, bronze, and black.
At 38 years old, Jordan was still better than most players at least a decade younger than he was. But his shots weren't falling as often as they did, especially from beyond the arc, where he shot just 24 percent combined in his two comeback seasons. All in all, he averaged 21.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, and 4.4 apg on 43 percent shooting as a Wizard, playing extremely well for a man his age, but substantially far removed from his glory days with the Bulls.
12 MJ The Bully?
Michael Jeffrey Jordan is no John Bradshaw Layfield or Richie Incognito – he was, for the most part, a positive, if super-intense presence in the locker room who got along with his teammates. But there have been stories alleging that His Airness wasn't particularly fond of two once-stellar veterans brought in to help the Bulls as role players.
In Bill Cartwright's case, the injury-prone center was acquired by Chicago in 1988, and immediately earned the derisive nickname "Medical Bill" from Jordan. And MJ would reportedly throw Cartwright under the bus by throwing him bad passes in practice. He did, however, play a key role in the Bulls' first three-peat by playing good defense in the paint, so we're assuming he did prove to be a more than competent teammate at the end of the day.
That wasn't the case with Rodney McCray, a former two-time All-Defensive forward who lasted just one season with the Bulls (1992-93), yet may have had his confidence permanently ruined by Jordan supposedly taunting him non-stop during practice. That turned out to be his last NBA season, despite the fact he was just 31 at the time, and a competent starter prior to his decision to chase a ring in the Windy City.
When Michael Jordan announced his shocking retirement from basketball at the age of 30, his #23 jersey was retired at the start of the 1994-95 season, with the thought that he wouldn't be coming back, at least not anytime soon. But with the Bulls struggling to keep themselves above the .500 mark that season, in came MJ to save the day, as he un-retired on March 18, 1995, coming back to play the final 17 regular season games and two playoff series that season.
There was one little problem, though, and that was his jersey number – with #23 hanging up on the rafters, Jordan had to use #45, which was his jersey number during his ill-fated minor league baseball stint. (Oh, we'll get to that!) He was still better than just about anyone in the NBA at that time, but he was clearly rusty, and it was Orlando Magic guard Nick Anderson's comment that #45 "doesn't explode like #23 used to" that prompted MJ to start wearing his old number ASAP. (It didn't help the Bulls beat the Magic in the Eastern Conference semis, though.)
10 His Gambling Problem
Michael Jordan’s proclivity for gambling is one well-known example of his weaknesses away from the basketball court. And he was known to bet big, BIG money, not on his own games like disgraced MLB legend Pete Rose did, or any other kind of basketball game. Instead, he won and lost millions of dollars in casinos, and made ridiculously big bets when playing golf with his millionaire buddies. And, as former Bulls point guard Jay Williams once claimed, he even bet on rock-paper-scissors. Would you believe His Airness would sometimes go as far as betting $100,000 on rock-paper-scissors?
It’s a good thing Jordan’s personal demons did not include drink and drugs, like in the cases of many a sports superstar. But gambling wasn’t the worst of his vices. As you’ll learn later on in this article, there was one vice MJ had that ultimately cost him hundreds of millions of dollars when a key person in his life finally said "enough is enough."
9 His Sons' Failed Basketball Careers
Michael Jordan had two sons with his ex-wife Juanita, Jeffrey Michael and Marcus James. But unlike Rick Barry's sons, who at least had decent NBA careers, and Kobe Bryant, Kevin Love, Andrew Wiggins, etc., who all outshined their role player dads in the pros, Jeff and Marcus couldn't combine to make up 5 percent of what their dad achieved as a basketball legend.
Jeff Jordan, who is the older of the two, played three years for Illinois as a walk-on, hinting at his lack of high school notoriety. He then transferred to the University of Central Florida, where he continued to be invisible on the stat sheet – he averaged only 1.6 points and 1.2 assists in his combined Illinois/UCF career. Marcus was much better, averaging 12.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in his three-year career at UCF, but even that, and his famous family name, wasn't enough to get him a D-League stint. He's since moved on to business, running a shoe store called Trophy Room in Orlando, Florida.
8 His Son Marcus' Shenanigans
As we mentioned above, Marcus Jordan was Michael Jordan's more accomplished son by a longshot, enjoying a decent career at Central Florida and shifting his attention to business when basketball didn't work out for him. But he was also by far the more troublesome one, with his lack of judgment oftentimes getting the better of him.
In college, he had gotten his entire school in trouble when he proved so loyal to his dad that he wouldn't wear a shoe that wasn't made by Nike. Bad move, as UCF lost its deal with Adidas. He had also gotten arrested in 2012 after an argument with two women, with cops describing him as "very animated, intoxicated, and uncooperative." And in one of the most boneheaded moves an athlete at any level could make, he had previously propositioned an adult film star via public Twitter post, and not via DM. What were you thinking, Marcus? What were you thinking?
7 He Sucks At Baseball
We've established numerous times in this article that there's hardly a thing Michael Jordan can't do right as a basketball player, if any at all. But as a baseball player, Jordan was the equivalent of a sub-35 percent-shooting backup guard in the D-League struggling to average 5 points per game in 20 minutes of play. In other words, he flat-out sucked.
There was a lot of media interest when Jordan signed a minor-league baseball contract with the Chicago White Sox in February 1994. And as he suited up in the outfield for the Double-A Birmingham Barons, he was barely above the Mendoza Line, hitting just 3 home runs on a .202 batting average. He did improve his clip to .252 in the Arizona Fall League, but luckily for his fans, MJ returned to what he does best early in 1995, announcing his NBA comeback with two simple words – "I'm back." Thank goodness he was.
6 His Hall of Fame Induction Speech
Hall of Fame speeches are supposed to be humbling moments where great players, regardless of their sport, thank the people who helped them along the way in their path to greatness. Michael Jordan wanted none of that when he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009. Sure, the tears he cried were genuine, and you can be rest assured we will get to that. But he did, albeit in a mostly joking manner, make sure to tear down everyone in attendance whom he didn't get along with at some point or another, and even cracked some jokes at the expense of his obviously less-talented sons.
You may either love or hate His Airness' Hall of Fame induction speech, but you might want to forget how arrogant Jordan may have sounded at several points in those fitting 23 minutes he was allowed to speak.
5 Michael Jordan, Basketball Executive
Consider for one moment that this is the same man who won six NBA Championships with the Chicago Bulls, including two three-peats, five MVP awards, and 10 scoring titles in his prestigious career. Now consider what he's done as Washington Wizards part-owner and VP of Basketball Operations – drafting Kwame freakin' Brown #1 overall when the Wiz could have had Pau Gasol, or even Tyson Chandler. And as Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets owner, he's the man responsible for drafting Adam Morrison, and giving superstar money to journeymen such as Nazr Mohammed and Matt Carroll. And while he hasn't messed up too badly as of late, the Hornets are still running in place as an average-at-best NBA team.
Yes, it's true that Jerry West, who was one of the greatest guards of his generation, became a legendary executive after his legendary playing career. But on-court greatness doesn't always translate to managerial brilliance when building a team, and Michael Jordan is proof positive of the latter.
4 Killing Kwame's Confidence
Michael Jordan's talent was only matched by his intensity and desire to win, and that helped him in his quest for individual greatness, not to mention, helped him help the Chicago Bulls become the NBA's team of the '90s. As mentioned, his track record as an executive wasn't quite as good, with the Wizards' decision to pick Kwame Brown 1st-overall in the 2001 draft standing out as an especially bad move. But how much of a hand did MJ have in Brown's failure to achieve anything close to NBA stardom?
Multiple reports suggest Jordan's style of "motivation" did have a lot to do with Brown becoming one of the biggest NBA busts in recent memory, as he would often single out the teenager for the worst tongue-lashings, even going as far as to call him homophobic names. It didn't do him any favors, and you've seriously got to wonder if things would have been different if Jordan didn't go all drill sergeant-y on the once-promising youngster.
3 He's Not The NBA Career Scoring Leader
Super-casual fans who may not care much for the oodles of numbers registered throughout NBA history may assume that Michael Jordan is the NBA's leading scorer of all time. They would be wrong – he is actually 4th, with a career total of 32,292. He was, in fact, overtaken at 3rd by Kobe Bryant – one of the best out there in "being like Mike" – during his penultimate NBA season in 2014-15, while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone are 1st and 2nd respectively, owing to the fact they played 20 and 19 NBA seasons respectively.
Jordan, on the other hand, played "only" 15 NBA seasons, and had played less than 20 games in two of those seasons. He certainly would have had a chance to surpass the Big Fella and the Mailman in terms of career scoring, had he not had two short-lived retirements and stayed healthy all throughout, but it is what is, and MJ has to settle with being just the 4th-leading career scorer in NBA history.
2 The Crying Jordan Meme
We told you about the event where this sports meme came from – MJ's Basketball Hall of Fame induction in 2009. And we probably don't need to remind you that the Crying Jordan meme is one of the most popular of its kind, and one of the most popular memes, regardless of category. Apparently, the man himself is aware that the meme exists – who wouldn't be? – and it would seem that the only thing he wouldn't like about it is if it were used for commercial purposes.
But MJ probably would want you to forget what the meme is used for, given his exalted status as the GOAT of professional basketball – it's used to signify abject failure. Someone's potential game-winning field goal goes wide? Crying Jordan. 80 percent free throw shooter bricks both charities and costs his team the game? Crying Jordan. Girl you fancy put you in the friend zone? Crying Jordan. The man is synonymous with winning, yet the image of him crying at his Hall of Fame induction symbolizes losing or failing in epic fashion? Something doesn't quite add up.
1 His Record-Breaking Divorce Settlement
Michael Jordan retired from the NBA with a career scoring average of 30.1 ppg. But as it turned out, he was just as good at scoring away from the court. As a player, reports of Jordan's extracurricular activities away from home would pop up from time to time, and there have been numerous claims that he would pay his mistresses an unreal amount of money to keep quiet about their hanky-panky. In the end, Jordan's first wife Juanita Vanoy had had enough, and the couple called it quits in 2006 after 17 years of marriage.
We'd be preaching to the choir if we once again brought up Jordan's numerous achievements and records as a player. But if there's one record he'd like you to forget, that's the fact that his divorce from Juanita made him $168 million poorer, making it the largest divorce settlement involving a professional athlete. And it's a record that still stands to this day, meaning all the more reason for MJ to want this record buried in the deepest recesses of your memory.