Michael Jordan Still Flying High

Michael Jordan Talks To <b>Ed Bradley</b> About Gambling, Basketball, Business And Privacy


At the height of his stardom in the NBA, Michael Jordan walked away from a game he conquered to a game that conquered him.

He retired from basketball in 1993 and tried his hand at baseball with the Chicago White Sox. Over the course of his one full season in the minors, he struck out 114 times, and made 11 errors. Most would consider that a failure, but for Jordan it was just another challenge.

He didn't consider his experience in baseball a failure.

"But people would look at those numbers and say, 'Hey man, you couldn't cut it,' " Bradley says.

"That's people's perception of what the standard is. I wasn't expecting myself to be Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds or anyone like that. I was trying to understand and play the game, enjoy the game, and see if my skills could compete on that level," Jordan says.

His newest testing ground is motorcycle racing; he sponsors a team and enjoys speeding around the track at up to 150 miles an hour. Despite being dangerous, Jordan says he enjoys the rush of the sport.

Jordan seems to live his life on the edge, knowing that it could all end at any moment. In 1993, his father James Jordan, his first coach and closest confidante, was robbed and murdered, at random, in North Carolina.

"The thing that I looked at when my — the death of my father, unfortunately, it happened at the hands of another human being. Which in essence, that is very difficult to deal with. Just the notion of being able to kill someone. But I had him for 32 years and he taught me a lot in 32 years. You know how many kids get that opportunity? Very few in today's society get the chance to spend that much time with their parents, and get that type of influence," Jordan says.

Jordan says his mother, Delores, and his late father were his biggest role models — hardworking, generous and disciplined. He says fans should look closer to home for inspiration, rather than looking to big name athletes for direction.

"We can give impressions, we can give examples. But to implement those you have to be people closer to them, to see that individual, see those kids day in and day out," says Jordan.

What does Jordan say to those who criticized him for not being more outspoken on political and social issues like Mohammad Ali, Arthur Ashe or Jackie Robinson?

"It's a heavy duty to try to do everything and please everybody. My job was to go out there and play the game of basketball as best I can and provide entertainment for everyone who wanted to watch basketball. Obviously people may not agree with that, again I can't live with what everyone's impression of what I should or what I shouldn't do," says Jordan.

One stain on Jordan's otherwise clean image was the allegation that he had a compulsive gambling problem. The NBA cleared him in 1993, after conducting two investigations. But today, Jordan admits he's made some reckless choices at the gambling table with his money.

"Yeah, I've gotten myself into situations where I would not walk away and I've pushed the envelope. Is that compulsive? Yeah, it depends on how you look at it. If you're willing to jeopardize your livelihood and your family, then yeah," says Jordan.

"And you're not willing to do that?" Bradley asks.

"No," Jordan replies.

Jordan's father said his son didn't have a gambling problem, but a competitive problem.

"I want to win. I want to go out on a limb and win," says Jordan. "And sometimes that can take you past the stage that you know you probably should take a step back from. Sometimes I don't look at that line. I just step over that line. But once I step over it and I feel the lack of success, it's very embarrassing things. So you look at yourself in the mirror and say, 'I was stupid. I was really stupid.' But we all are. But you have to be able to look in that mirror and say that you're stupid."

Perhaps Jordan's biggest professional failure was his tenure with the Washington Wizards. In 2000, he became a part owner and top manager of the team and then decided he could make a bigger contribution by going back on the court. Although he had moments of greatness, his knees began to fail him and he announced he was done as a player.

Soon after, the Wizards unceremoniously fired him.

"Did you see getting fired coming?" Bradley asks.

"No. If that was the case I obviously wouldn't have went back to play," Jordan says. "Because I felt like I played injured, I went through surgery. And I didn't have to do it, but I did it with the benefit of trying to help an organization to get back on their feet. And the gratitude that was given, it was your service is no longer wanted or needed. So I felt like I was used in a sense. But we've all been in situations where we've been used. And we regret what we've, you know, but you learn."

And after his long career, Jordan can't keep silent about the state of basketball today. He says that too many young players are overpaid and overindulged, affecting their work ethic and hurting the game he loves so much.

"The kids today, they are being given things that they haven't earned," Jordan says. "I don't want to seem like an old-school, traditional, bitter type of guy. You ask me and I'm telling you. I think the game is being cheated because of the success that's being given prior to them earning it. Simple as that."

Michael Jordan is not ready to walk away from basketball completely. He hopes to own an NBA team someday. And while he knows he'll never play again, he is cocky enough to think he could.

Asked, if at age 42 he could play again in the NBA and make a contribution, Jordan says, "Oh, yeah. Sure. Even though, physically I can't do it. The mind says, 'Yeah, I can still do it. And I still think I can do it better than most in the NBA."