What was that?
Whatever it was, it wasn't good. It rivaled anything you can name through the decades as the most brutal Hall of Fame acceptance speech ever. Soon after receiving a standing ovation of 73 seconds from a packed and adoring house at Springfield Symphony Hall, he went from sobbing to reflective to vicious.
I mean, where is Sandman (you know, that guy who yanks terrible acts off the stage at the Apollo Theatre) when you need him?
It was this brutal Friday night: Anybody who bothered Jordan mentally, physically or spiritually in hoops during his 46 years was assassinated with his tongue. The coach who cut him from his high school team in Wilmington, N.C. Buzz Peterson, who was named high school player of the year in North Carolina over Jordan. His archenemy with the Chicago Bulls, Jerry Krause. Several NBA coaches who worked for his teams and against his teams. Doubting media types. Opposing players Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, George Gervin, John Starks and Byron Russell.
Oh, and Jordan even gave a gentle whack to the knees to Dean Smith. According to Jordan, he still is miffed that his former head coach at North Carolina told Sports Illustrated in 1981 to go with four Tar Heel starters on its cover instead five, which would have included the freshman Jordan.
If that wasn't enough, Jordan looked at his two sons and daughter, shrugged and then said, "You guys have a heavy burden. I wouldn't want to be you guys."
Nice touch, Michael. So was this: With youngsters watching back home during this prime time telecast, Jordan turned to David Thompson nearby and said, "I know I shocked the (bleep) out of you." He was referring to Thompson's likely reaction after he received Jordan's call to be his presenter for the event. Thompson is a fabled alumnus of North Carolina rival North Carolina State.
In other words, it was a blessing that those who decide such things blew it this time. Jordan's meltdown aside, they needed one ceremony for the only person that folks really cared about among this year's class, and they needed another for those deserving but thoroughly misplaced inductees not named Michael Jeffrey Jordan.
I mean, what were those who run the Hall of Fame thinking?
They weren't. Well, unless they were omniscient enough to see Jordan racing in his Air Jordans toward that lamp shade.
That said, you can't turn Jordan into a basketball immortal with others, no matter who they are or what their qualifications. It also doesn't matter that such a move of designating Jordan as a solo induction act would be unprecedented. He is peerless, and come to think of it, they sort of understood as much around here.
You could tell by the way they decided to have John Stockton, David Robinson, Jerry Sloan and Vivian Stringer arrive for the evening festivities one by one -- long before Jordan's considerable entourage. Those others had two motorcycle policemen leading their shiny Rolls Royces to the red carpet that stretched from the edge of Court Street to the aged steps of the hall. Then, as the largest crowd in the 50-year history of this event roared in the distance, Jordan arrived with four motorcycle policemen and a couple of more cops next to his antique car on bicycles.
They applauded the others. They roared for Jordan.
To say this was awful timing for those others to join the elite of the hoops elite with Jordan is to say the man of the moment fired the only blatant air ball of his life earlier in the day. That's when a considerably more humble Jordan stood at a podium inside of the Hall of Fame's center court, studied those across the way with only thoughts of impossible dunks, Craig Ehlo and an eternally wagging tongue on their minds and said with a straight face, "Contrary to what you guys believe, it's not just me going into the Hall of Fame. It's a group that I'm proud to be a part of, and believe me, I'm going to remember them as much as they remember me."
Doubtful. Still, there are many things to remember about those others, ranging from their accomplishments on the court to their speeches on Friday. While dribbling down the stretch of his talk, a highly emotional Robinson implored everybody to have God walk with them "they way He walked with me." Then came Stockton, who left his typically stoic ways to choke on his words when discussing his deceased mother.
Later, Stringer spoke about how we all go "through our trials and tribulations" while referring to the tragic death of her husband and her battle with cancer. Then Sloan gave a sometimes funny and often poignant review of his life that would have ended 32 years ago had he taken a head coaching job at Evansville, his alma mater. Months after he turned it down, the team plane crashed and killed everybody on board.
Jordan was last to take the stage.
At one point near the beginning of Jordan's speech of 21 minutes and 30 seconds, he asked those listening, "What is it about me that you don't know?" He proceeded to give us the answer in detail -- unfortunately.