Michael Jordan was not only a behemoth on the court, he was also an expert in the art of psychological warfare. The proof with this resounding declaration against the competition, shortly before his second retirement in 1998… and as always with His Airness, he kept his word.
Who knows how many rings Michael Jordan might have won if he hadn’t retired from basketball in the 90s? Because the rear of the Bulls was launched on a series of impressive coronations, his franchise coming out of a three-peat when he announced his retirement in 1993, after the death of his father. Many are convinced that without this terrible incident, Chicago could have won many more titles than that with the number 23 at its head.
Instead, the NBA was allowed a bit of a change between 1993 and 1995, with other franchises seeing it as the perfect opportunity to ascend the throne while the six-time champion enjoyed baseball and golf. In the end, only Hakeem Olajuwon’s Rockets were able to really take advantage, with the Texans pulling off a back-to-back. Jordan also returned in the middle of their second title, and it was from the 1995-96 season that he started walking again in the league with Windy City.
If The Dream was able to seize the opportunity to devote himself in the absence of the superstar, others did not have this chance and the return of Her Majesty definitively buried any possibility of putting on a ring on her finger. One thinks in particular of monsters like Patrick Ewing at the Knicks or Charles Barkley, and it was even all the more cruel that the latter joined Houston and Olajuwon at the end of his career… in the company of Scottie Pippen, ex-lieutenant of MJ in Taurus. The irony is palpable.
Michael Jordan: “I loved depriving these guys of a title”
Coincidence or not, Mike had just had a thought for these two behemoths of the orange ball, just a few days before taking his second retirement from sport. As Chicago was preparing to play Game 3 of the 1998 Finals against Jazz, the person concerned submitted to an interview with ESPN. It was there that, all smiles, he claimed to have derived great pleasure from having deprived his peers of collective consecration:
You know, you can talk about it, I joke with my friends about it, Charles and Patrick and all those guys. I’m very proud to have made sure they didn’t win. I want them to win, but I don’t want them to win when I’m still active. I want them to feel like if they win a title, it’s not quite the same because they haven’t faced Michael Jordan.
A big fan of trash-talking on the court, Jordan obviously couldn’t let the opportunity slip away. The same observation can also be applied to the Jazzmen, led by the legendary duo John Stockton-Karl Malone, who however never won a title. His Airness himself made sure of it a few days after the interview, with his famous shot for the win nicknamed “The Last Shot” during Game 6. A real killer.
Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley & co. were deprived of a championship ring that they would not have stolen, and Michael Jordan absolutely loved torturing them in this way. A born competitor, the No. 23 refused to see the competition win in his place and he therefore set about martyrizing it from start to finish.