Michael Jordan is almost universally recognized as the preeminent player in NBA history. The 6-foot-6, 215-pound Jordan captured every noteworthy award over his 15-year career in the association. More significantly, “His Airness” piloted the Chicago Bulls to six championships. Jordan, a five-time MVP, 14-time All-Star and 10-time All-NBA First Team selection, retired for a third and final time as a Washington Wizard in April 2003. Despite being off the hardwood for approaching two decades, current NBA standouts still rave about Jordan’s legacy, accomplishments and overall impact on the game.
"Every kid that wanted to play basketball, that could play, that couldn't play, you tried to emulate Michael Jordan," said Dwyane Wade, 35, a native Chicagoan and 12-time NBA All-Star.
"That's why there will never be another one of him. He’s the first of his kind. Everything he did was groundbreaking. He did it with so much flare and so much pizzazz that even today people are still trying to be like Mike. Kind of look back at all the things he did, so many years ago in the NBA, that still lives on today. What he's been able to do to stay this relevant, in this role, the way he has, is phenomenal."
Jordan, who purchased the Charlotte Bobcats (now the Hornets) from Bob Johnson in May 2010, is an insatiably competitive man who ranks among the world’s five richest African-Americans. While often an invaluable attribute, Jordan’s unbridled ambition also infuriated many of his peers. Thus, let’s review eight players who absolutely loathed the polarizing Michael Jordan and seven who adored him.
15 HATED: KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR
Michael Jordan may be an even better marketer than he is a basketball player. A consummate businessman, Jordan refuses to discuss controversial social topics to ensure maximum profits for his merchandise. In stark contrast to M.J., Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is an outspoken activist who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom award from former President Barack Obama in November 2016. Abdul-Jabbar has publicly decried Jordan’s unwillingness to speak about human rights issues in the name of money.
"You can't be afraid of losing shoe sales if you're worried about your civil and human rights,” said Abdul-Jabbar, 70, a 19-time NBA All-Star who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September 1995.
“(Jordan) took commerce over conscience. It's unfortunate for him, but he's gotta live with it."
14 LOVED: BILL WENNINGTON
Although not exactly a superstar or household name, center Bill Wennington helped the Chicago Bulls win three consecutive titles from 1996 through 1998. However, Wennington’s indelible moment as a Bull occurred against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on March 28, 1995. Only 10 days after declaring “I’m back,” Jordan utterly ravaged the Knicks’ defense and recorded what Spike Lee famously called "a double nickel." With the score knotted at 111-111, Jordan drove the lane and dished the ball to the 7-foot, 245-pound Wennington for an uncontested game-winning dunk.
“Even though he had 55 points, it still came down to winning for him,” said Wennington, 54.
“He was OK not winning it himself; whoever was open was going to get the ball. That’s the type of player he was, and that was what is so unique and special about Michael. All he wanted to do was win. He could score 30 points or more every night, but he understood what it took to win. To win consistently, it had to be a team effort.”
13 HATED: RICHARD HAMILTON
Michael Jordan and Richard Hamilton were teammates on the Washington Wizards for the 2001-02 campaign. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Hamilton, who Washington drafted seventh overall in 1999, asked “His Airness” about joining the Jordan Brand team.
“He’d look at me and say, ‘Hey Rip, my sneaker’s for All-Stars,’” said Hamilton, 39. “And at that time, I’m like wow, really?”
Hamilton averaged 20.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists over 63 games in his lone year alongside Jordan. Washington sent Hamilton to the Detroit Pistons in September 2002. The two-time Big East Player of the Year found his groove in Motown and became a three-time All-Star. More importantly, Hamilton was a key contributor to the Pistons’ 2004 NBA title squad. Hamilton was probably too unseasoned to broach business with “His Airness.” Regardless, Jordan didn’t have to be so arrogant and spiteful and Hamilton evidently hasn’t forgotten the nasty exchange.
12 LOVED: B.J ARMSTRONG
The Chicago Bulls selected University of Iowa point guard B.J. Armstrong with the 18th pick in the 1989 draft. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Armstrong served a pivotal role in the Bulls’ first three-peat dynasty from 1991 through 1993. Jordan befriended Armstrong and considered him to be something of a younger brother.
“So much has been said about Michael Jordan as a basketball player, but when I played with him, the Michael I knew was just Michael,” said Armstrong, 49, an All-Star in 1994.
“I guess more than anything is that I got to experience the human side of the so-called gladiators, warriors and heroes that we worship. Nonetheless, I got a chance to see the human side of all those people. Michael was, and is, a good friend, and he was a great teammate.”
11 HATED: ISIAH THOMAS
Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas are personal and professional foes. Thomas’ Pistons consistently overwhelmed, and battered, Jordan’s Bulls in the late 1980s. Finally, after years of frustration, the Bulls unceremoniously swept the two-time defending champion Pistons in the 1991 Eastern Conference finals. Thomas and his fleet of “Bad Boys” refused to shake hands with Jordan and the Bulls following the humiliating series. One year later, a vengeful M.J. threatened to boycott the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona if Thomas made the Dream Team. Jordan’s ultimatum resonated with the selection committee and Thomas was essentially banned from the squad.
“Jordan didn’t want to play with Isiah,” said Dream Team member Clyde Drexler.
“Two championships in a row, always an All-Star. And Isiah can’t make it? I didn’t like that. It’s not the players’ choice. It’s who’s supposed to be there. If you don’t like me, I don’t give a f***. We’re competitors. You’re not supposed to like me. But when one player has the ability to leave another player off, we’ve lost control of the system.”
10 LOVED: CHARLES OAKLEY
The Bulls obtained Bill Cartwright from the New York Knicks for Charles Oakley in June 1988. Jordan admired the 6-foot-8, 245-pound Oakley and depended on the surly muscleman to safeguard him from cheap shot artists. M.J. was furious when Oakley got shipped from the Windy City to Gotham and he told Sam Vincent and Scottie Pippen to shun the 7-foot-1, 245-pound Cartwright. Eventually, after “Medical Bill” physically threatened “His Airness,” Jordan learned to appreciate Cartwright’s presence in the paint. Nevertheless, Jordan’s bond with Oakley remains strong. In fact, the association’s commissioner, Adam Silver, contacted Jordan to serve as a peacemaker between Oakley and Knicks owner James Dolan following their ugly confrontation last winter.
“In an effort to find a path forward, New York Knicks owner Jim Dolan, Charles Oakley, and I met today at the league office, along with Michael Jordan, who participated by phone," Silver said in a statement.
“Both Mr. Oakley and Mr. Dolan were apologetic about the incident and subsequent comments, and their negative impact on the Knicks organization and the NBA. Mr. Dolan expressed his hope that Mr. Oakley would return to MSG as his guest in the near future. I appreciate the efforts of Mr. Dolan, Mr. Oakley and Mr. Jordan to work towards a resolution of this matter.”
9 HATED: ROBERT PARISH
Robert Parish was named one the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996. The 7-foot, 235-pound Parish won three rings as a Boston Celtic and was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 2003. A 43-year-old Parish inked a two-year pact with the Bulls in September 1996. Per usual, the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Jordan tried to torment an outsider. Much to his embarrassment, a 33-year-old Jordan quickly realized that “The Chief” was not a man to provoke. As reported by Jackie MacMullan of ESPN, in one of his first practices with the Bulls, Parish botched one of the plays and was amused to find Jordan jawing at him just inches from his face.
“I told him, ‘I’m not as enamored with you as these other guys. I’ve got some rings too,’” Parish recalled. “At that point he told me, ‘I’m going to kick your ass.’ I took one step closer and said, ‘No, you really aren’t.’ After that he didn’t bother me.”
8 LOVED: TONI KUKOC
The Chicago Bulls took small forward Toni Kukoc with the 29th overall pick in 1990. The 6-foot-10, 235-pound Kukoc didn’t sign with the Bulls and he kept playing professionally in Europe. Finally, after Michael Jordan retired, Kukoc became a Bull in the autumn of 1993. Kukoc immediately proved to be a formidable figure on the hardwood and he flourished in the Windy City. However, when Jordan reappeared in March 1995, Kukoc’s game drastically improved.
“Michael also understood that everything came in time with practice and learning how to trust your teammates and coaches,” said Kukoc, 48. “We played with each other and we helped each other. That was the biggest thing about those Bulls teams. We gave everything to each other for each other, and that’s what led to our success.”
Kukoc earned the 1996 NBA Sixth Man of the Year award and he was an invaluable contributor to the Bulls’ teams that won three consecutive crowns from 1996 through 1998.
7 HATED: STEPHON MARBURY
Stephon Marbury MAY BE a more prominent individual in China than Michael Jordan is. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Marbury, a two-time All-Star, didn’t realize his full potential while employed in the association. Ironically, at the somewhat advanced age of 33, Marbury matured into an icon after signing with the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) in January 2010. Marbury’s dominated overseas and he’s secured three CBA championships over the past seven years. Off the court, Marbury has consistently bashed Jordan for the obscene costs of his sneakers.
“I hate that this dude won’t change that. Greedy! Michael Fake Jordan is a sell out. #Period. He forgot which hole he came out of.”
The line of shoes that Marbury endorses are valued at $14.98.
6 LOVED: STEVE KERR
Approximately four months after the Bulls were ousted by the Orlando Magic in the 1995 playoffs, Jordan was obsessed with regaining his unrivaled status on the hardwood. Consequently, Jordan practiced maniacally throughout the team’s training camp that autumn. During one scrimmage, the 6-foot-3, 175-pound Kerr was tenaciously guarding Jordan. MJ was irritated by Kerr’s resilience and responded by striking him in the face. The lopsided scrap helped Kerr gain Jordan’s unwavering support and respect. Less than two years later, on June 13, 1997, Jordan entrusted Kerr to take the decisive shot against the Utah Jazz in the finals.
"(Jordan) said, 'Be ready. (John) Stockton is going to double-team me,'" Kerr recalled. "And he was right."
Kerr nailed a jumper to cement the Bulls’ fifth championship.
5 HATED: REGGIE MILLER
Michael Jordan attacked Pacers star Reggie Miller during a contest at Indianapolis’ Market Square Arena in February 1993. Rod Thorn, the league's former vice president of operations, blamed the entire scuffle on Jordan.
"Michael threw a punch that connected and that's an automatic one-game suspension," said Thorn. "In looking at tapes, in my mind, Michael was the aggressor in the whole incident."
Thorn’s ruling didn’t faze Jordan and he continued to mock the 6-foot-7, 195-pound Miller.
“It’s like chicken-fighting with a woman,” said Jordan of Miller, a five-time NBA All-Star.
“His game is all this flopping-type thing. He weighs only 185 pounds, so you have to be careful, don’t touch him, or it’s a foul. On offense I use all my 215 pounds and just move him out. But he has his hands on you all the time, like a woman holding your waist. I just want to beat his hands off because it’s illegal. It irritates me.”
4 LOVED: JOHN PAXSON
John Paxson won a trio of trophies with, and coached, Michael Jordan. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Paxson was chosen by the San Antonio Spurs out of Notre Dame with the 19th pick in 1983. San Antonio opted against retaining Paxson and the sharpshooter signed a free agent deal with the Bulls in July 1985. The gritty Irishman was a reliable ballplayer who secured the Bulls’ first three-peat by swishing a three with seconds remaining in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals.
“I know I’m biased because I played with him, but in my mind, he’s easily the greatest player to ever play,” said Paxson, 56, who Phil Jackson hired as an assistant coach for the 1995–96 season.
“The stories are legendary about him on the practice floor. There was something unique about what was inside of him. The challenge was always there for him, and that’s a unique trait that you don’t see in athletes too often. The great ones seem to have it.”
3 HATED: MUGSY BOGUES
Point guard Mugsy Bogues was an electric playmaker and stout defender. Bogues, a first-team All-ACC selection in 1987, is also 5-foot-3, 135 pounds. Bogues, Larry Johnson, Alonzo Mourning and Glen Rice made the Charlotte Hornets a proficient squad in the mid-1990s. In a 1995 first round playoff series against the Bulls, Jordan was defending Bogues during a critical possession with the Hornets losing by one point. “Shoot it you f****** midget,” Jordan yelled at the former Wake Forest star. Bogues accepted Jordan’s challenge, hoisted an errant shot, and Chicago won 85-84 to advance to the second round.
Multiple insiders claim that Bogues’ confidence was ruined and he never recuperated from “His Airness’” insult. Trash-talking is absolutely a part of sports. Still, Jordan’s harshness exceeded acceptable boundaries and Bogues’ lingering bitterness is understandable.
2 LOVED: SCOTTIE PIPPEN
Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan were arguably the most prolific tandem in the annals of the NBA. It’s a realistic possibility that Jordan wouldn’t have seized a single crown without the 6-foot-8, 230-pound Pippen running alongside him as a Bull. Still, in many respects, Jordan honed Pippen’s skills and helped him mature into one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.
“(Jordan) was very competitive, so he went at me and that helped me learn,” said Pippen, 51, a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer.
“You continue to compete against the very best every day, and you will get better, or you’ll be embarrassed. A lot of my instincts came from guarding Michael all the time in practice.”
Considering he made the NBA All-Defensive first team on eight occasions, it’s safe to presume that Pippen learned a lot from Jordan.
“Michael had a long and healthy career, and he’s looked at as the greatest player to play the game,” said Pippen. “And there’s no accolade for that.”
1 HATED: KWAME BROWN
“What did I see in Kwame Brown when I drafted him? I, along with everyone in that draft, wanted Kwame Brown because of his athleticism, his size, his speed,” said Jordan, who served as the Washington Wizards’ president of basketball operations. “He was still a talented 18-year-old, 19-year-old kid.”
Unfortunately for Brown, Jordan vacated the front office to play for the Wizards and the two were forced to work together from 2001 to 2003. Jordan regularly belittled the 6-foot-11, 290-pound teenager and shattered his self-worth.
As detailed by L. Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated, “As a leader Jordan proved more tormentor than mentor. Many Washington players got the business end of a Jordan harangue, but he designated second-year forward Kwame Brown as the whipping boy, referring to him, as reported by The Washington Post, as a ‘flaming ******.’ A source told SI that Jordan ritually reduced Brown to tears in front of the team.”