Michael Jordan—the name itself conjures images of slam dunks, six NBA Championships, and an unparalleled work ethic. Dubbed the greatest basketball player of all time, MJ has legions of fans worldwide. But not everyone is on the MJ love train.
Whether due to personal grudges, competitive rivalries, or ideological differences, some people aren’t fans. This blog post will talk about the world of Michael Jordan detractors, a fascinating realm few dare to explore.
While this topic might ruffle some feathers, our aim is to present a comprehensive view of MJ’s complex persona. Our list includes players, coaches, journalists, and even some unexpected entries. Let’s jump in, shall we?
19. Nick Anderson
Number 45 Isn’t 23
Nick Anderson is best known for stealing the ball from Jordan in the 1995 playoffs, leading to a Magic win. After that game, Anderson said, “Number 45 isn’t 23,” referring to MJ’s jersey number at the time.
The comment clearly got to Jordan, who switched back to his iconic No. 23 jersey for the next game.
Anderson hasn’t backed down from his comments and has stated that while he respects Jordan, he was never intimidated by him.
18. Ron Harper
The Other Side
Ron Harper was originally drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers and was on the losing end of “The Shot” against Jordan. Later, he would become a teammate on the Bulls, but his initial experience framed his view.
Though they won titles together, Harper has described his relationship with Jordan as complicated, mentioning the difficulty of playing with someone so demanding.
Their years as teammates haven’t erased Harper’s initial experiences, and he has a more nuanced view of Jordan than most.
17. John Starks
Knicks vs. Bulls
John Starks had several memorable clashes with MJ during the Knicks-Bulls rivalries of the ’90s. While Starks had his moments, he usually ended up on the losing side.
Starks has admitted that those losses still sting, and though he respects Jordan as a competitor, one gets the sense that he’s not hanging up a poster of MJ anytime soon.
Years after retiring, Starks still holds a competitive grudge, a testament to the intensity of their matchups.
16. Jalen Rose
Jalen Rose, a player and now media personality, has subtly taken jabs at Jordan over the years. While he’s respectful of Jordan’s impact on the game, his commentary often highlights the supporting cast that helped MJ attain his status.
The Supporting Cast
Rose likes to point out that players like Scottie Pippen were instrumental in Jordan’s success, emphasizing that basketball is a team sport.
While Rose may publicly admire MJ’s skill set, there’s a detectable undertone of reservation in his praise.
15. Oscar Robertson
The Old Guard
NBA legend Oscar Robertson has been outspoken in saying that Jordan was not the most challenging player he would have had to defend against, pointing to players from his own era instead.
Robertson represents a generation that isn’t too thrilled with the idea that the NBA began and ended with Michael Jordan. While he acknowledges MJ’s skill, he also thinks that the ’90s NBA was weaker in terms of competition.
Questioning The Throne
Robertson is a skeptic of the “Jordan is the GOAT” narrative and has no qualms about voicing his opinions.
14. Horace Grant
Teammate and Critic
Horace Grant, a crucial part of the Bulls’ first three-peat, had his share of differences with Jordan. While they accomplished a lot together, they had a complicated relationship, to say the least.
Discontent and Accusations
Grant was vocal about his discontent with how Jordan treated his teammates, even accusing Jordan of being a snitch and fabricating stories in “The Last Dance.”
The Rift Continues
They haven’t mended fences. Grant respects Jordan’s game but is no fan of his personality or actions off the court.
13. Craig Ehlo
Craig Ehlo was the unfortunate victim of one of Jordan’s most iconic moments: “The Shot” in the 1989 playoffs. A defining moment for MJ, it was equally defining for Ehlo, albeit for the opposite reason.
Life After The Shot
Ehlo has repeatedly stated that he’s tired of being the footnote to Jordan’s greatness. He has subtly criticized the media for only focusing on MJ’s heroics and ignoring the defensive efforts that preceded “The Shot.”
He appreciates Jordan’s skills but is clearly not a fan of the narrative that paints him solely as the victim of MJ’s greatness.
12. George Karl
George Karl, the head coach of the Seattle SuperSonics during the 1996 NBA Finals, reportedly snubbed Jordan at a dinner during the series. This added extra fuel to Jordan’s already burning competitive spirit.
The Bulls won the series, and Jordan cited Karl’s snub as additional motivation. While some may say Karl should be thanking MJ for his notoriety, it’s evident there’s no love lost between them.
Karl has said he regrets the incident but maintains a critical stance towards Jordan, underlining the idea that while he may respect the player, he isn’t particularly fond of the man.
11. Clyde Drexler
Shadows and Comparisons
Living in the shadow of someone as great as Michael Jordan is no easy feat. Clyde Drexler knows this better than anyone. A Hall of Famer in his own right, Drexler often found himself compared to Jordan, and not always favorably.
1992 NBA Finals
The tension peaked during the 1992 NBA Finals, where Drexler’s Trail Blazers faced off against Jordan’s Bulls. MJ dominated, leaving Drexler in his wake, and any talk of Drexler being on par with him dissipated.
Drexler has been cautious in the media when discussing Jordan, perhaps indicating that he’s not particularly fond of the constant comparisons that seemed to define part of his career.
10. Steve Kerr
Punch Heard Around the World
Jordan’s competitive spirit sometimes spilled over into aggression, as Steve Kerr found out during a Bulls practice where MJ punched him in the face.
Aftermath and Apologies
MJ did apologize, and they moved on professionally, winning three NBA titles together. However, the incident left an indelible mark.
A Balanced View
Steve Kerr respects Jordan’s drive but is nuanced in his admiration. The Warriors’ coach doesn’t idealize MJ and acknowledges the complexities of their relationship.
9. Reggie Miller
Reggie Miller and Michael Jordan had an intense on-court rivalry. Tempers flared, trash talk was abundant, and both stars wanted nothing more than to defeat the other.
Their confrontations often escalated into physical altercations. One famous scuffle in 1993 resulted in both players being ejected from the game.
Though both are retired, the edge in their relationship still seems present. Miller has been more diplomatic in recent years but doesn’t shy away from mentioning the emotional and physical toll their rivalry took on him.
8. Stephen A. Smith
Renowned ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith has critiqued Jordan for his involvement, or the lack thereof, in political and social issues.
In various talk shows, Smith has expressed his disappointment, saying someone of Jordan’s stature should be more active in giving back to the community.
Agree to Disagree
While Smith remains an admirer of MJ’s basketball prowess, he clearly separates the player from the person in his assessments.
7. Charles Barkley
Friends Turned Foes
Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan were once close friends, but their relationship soured after Barkley criticized MJ’s management of the Charlotte Hornets.
Barkley mentioned that MJ couldn’t handle criticism and that his surrounding himself with yes-men was detrimental to his team’s performance.
Where They Stand Now
As of my last update, the two NBA legends have yet to reconcile. While they share a history of on-court battles and friendship, their future interactions remain uncertain.
6. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Civil Rights and Silence
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, another NBA legend, criticized Jordan for his lack of political activism, famously referring to him as more “commerce over conscience.”
Jabbar has publicly called out Jordan for not using his platform to address social issues, something Kareem has been vocal about throughout his life.
Respect but Not Admiration
While he respects Jordan’s basketball skills, the admiration seems to stop there. For Kareem, an athlete’s greatness also includes their contribution to social justice.
5. Robert Parish
As a part of the legendary Boston Celtics teams of the ’80s, Robert Parish has clashed with MJ on the court. He briefly played with MJ during his second stint with the Bulls.
Locker Room Tensions
Parish was not impressed with Jordan’s treatment of teammates, describing him as disrespectful. The two had a heated exchange that made it clear Parish wouldn’t tolerate MJ’s typical locker-room behavior.
Their time as teammates was short, and the tension between them remains a lesser-known but intriguing subplot in Jordan’s career.
4. Stan Van Gundy
It seems skepticism about Jordan runs in the family. Stan, Jeff’s brother and another prominent NBA coach has had his fair share of disagreements about MJ’s influence on the league.
Stan has criticized Jordan’s role as an owner, particularly during the 2011 NBA lockout, accusing him of pushing for policies unfavorable to players.
Stan has maintained his stance, suggesting that Jordan’s competitive nature may not necessarily translate into fairness off the court.
3. Jeff Van Gundy
The former New York Knicks coach ruffled feathers when he called Jordan a “con man” who befriended players only to gain a competitive edge.
The comments created a media storm, adding more fire to the already heated Knicks-Bulls rivalry of the ’90s.
Although years have passed, Van Gundy stands by his comments. He may respect MJ’s skills but has a rather skeptical view of his friendships in the league.
2. Jerry Krause
Architect and Adversary
As the General Manager of the Chicago Bulls, Jerry Krause built the team that helped Jordan secure six championships. Ironically, the relationship between the two was frosty at best.
Jordan was miffed at Krause for not giving enough credit to the players and overly crediting the organization. Krause’s decision to rebuild the team, leading to the departure of coach Phil Jackson, didn’t help matters.
Krause passed away in 2017, but the lack of warmth between him and Jordan persisted till the end. Even in the docuseries “The Last Dance,” Jordan did not shy away from expressing his feelings about Krause.
1. Isiah Thomas
Old Rivalries Never Die
The Detroit Pistons’ Isiah Thomas and MJ had one of the NBA’s most notorious rivalries. Detroit’s infamous “Bad Boys” were a roadblock to MJ’s early career, frustrating the Bulls in the playoffs with their physical play.
Rumors circulated that Thomas orchestrated a “freeze-out” during Jordan’s first All-Star Game in 1985, encouraging players to keep the ball away from MJ. Though Thomas has denied it, the rumor has lingered like a bad smell.
In interviews, Thomas still picks LeBron James over Jordan as the GOAT (Greatest of All Time). The two have exchanged jabs through the media, making it clear that they won’t be sharing Christmas cards anytime soon.
The world of sports often offers us narratives of heroes and villains, but the truth usually resides in a more nuanced middle ground.
Whether seen as a hero or a complex character with a blend of admirable qualities and significant flaws, Michael Jordan’s impact on basketball and the broader world is undeniable. So, what’s your take? Agree or disagree with the perspectives shared here? Let the conversation continue.