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One-on-One with Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan sits down for an exclusive interview with Marvin R. Shanken, Editor and Publisher of Cigar Aficionado.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Michael Jordan, July/August 2005

(continued from page 1)

MRS: How did the fans treat you?
JORDAN: Well, it was a little different because of Illinois playing in the finals. I live in Illinois. It was the first time [Illinois] had been to a title game in so many years. But my true heart was with Carolina. And I think the fans understood that. They weren't bitter that I was supporting Carolina or that I was wearing the Carolina blue.

MRS: I read that almost the entire starting team of North Carolina has opted to go into the NBA draft, including three juniors [Rashad McCants, Raymond Felton and Sean May] as well as freshman Marvin Williams. Is this good for the players?
JORDAN: Is that good? I can be biased from the outside looking in. I'm very supportive of the university, and I would like to see them have the opportunity to defend the championship. In that respect, I think the players should have stayed in school. Just from a selfish aspect, I wanted to cheer for my university. But I don't have the understanding of what the family situations were for these players, or what motivates them. Sometimes you have to follow your dream. Their decision also depends on what Coach [Roy] Williams advised them, and about what pick they would be. That team had accomplished a lot in winning a championship. That's the ultimate prize. I think what my mother would have told me, as long as you go back and get that degree, then I can understand the sacrifice that you make to leave school. [Editor's note: Jordan, who left college in 1984, received his degree from North Carolina in 1986.]

MRS: Are these early exits from college good or bad for the NBA?
JORDAN: That depends, too. I'm a firm believer that a player should be 20 years old or older before going to the pros. Anything less than that is potentially bad. You've got a lot of things you have to take into consideration. The lifestyle. Just the mental and physical demands of the NBA that these kids are going to be dealing with are tough. And their whole maturity level, not only for basketball but on the personal side, too, has to be taken into account. If I had been a freshman or even a sophomore, no matter how good I was, I don't know if I would have been ready for what I had to deal with in the professional ranks. But you got more and more young guys doing it. I am a firm believer that something is affected by leaving college early, or not going to college at all.

As an NBA executive, if you have to invest in a player, you want to see more of the product that you are going to invest in. Since you aren't going to see as many games [of those leaving school early] to be able to gauge the maturity of these guys' basketball talent, you're rolling the dice. You are gambling. If you don't gamble right, you're going to be set back two or three years.

Now how does it affect the colleges? Look at North Carolina. You have to rebuild that team. You've almost got to start up again with all new players.

But the impact is even spreading down into the high school ranks. Kids there are not really looking at academics. They just want to get good. If they can't get into a college, the first thing they're going to say is, Well, I'm going to go pro. That may not be the best thing for them. So this trend trickles down all the way into high school.

Michael Jordan portrait.
MRS: Are you saying that kids should not be allowed to go directly from high school into the pros without some kind of college experience?
JORDAN: That's exactly what I'm saying. I'm a firm believer in that. You can argue a lot of different situations, from social to financial. Maybe there has to be some type of arrangements, or agreement between the NCAA and the NBA, for those kids who are not financially stable. For them, there will always be pressure for going to the pros, to take care of their families.

MRS: What about players like Kevin Garnett? Kobe Bryant? LeBron James?
JORDAN: But you're talking about one player, LeBron James, who's been very successful in his first two years. Kobe [Bryant], Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, Jermaine O'Neal—all those guys took at least three years before they adapted to what they had to do as professional basketball players.

MRS: They probably don't know what they missed, but you knew because you experienced college. What's important about staying in college?
JORDAN: You get the chance to mature in college. They get a chance to deal with a lot of issues in college. There's the education aspect, too. College teaches you a lot. It teaches you about being on your own, making decisions and even handling bank accounts. Eventually, you're going to have to deal with those things anyway.

MRS: You mentioned Dean Smith in a very positive way. I've wanted to ask what influence Dean Smith had on you as a young player.
JORDAN: He taught me a lot about the game. Not just about the athleticism required to play it. I'm a firm believer that when you come out of high school, you are strictly athletic. You've got a lot of athletic talents. Very few players are taught the game the right way in high school. When you go into these college programs, which was the best thing that happened to me, they are going to teach you all aspects of the game of basketball so you can apply that to your athletic skills and develop them. Once you leave college, you are a complete basketball player. Athletically, you are complete. And you know how to utilize that athleticism, and you know how to play the game within the team concept. You got a lot of these kids coming out of high school who never really had the right coaching. They think they can get by with just athleticism. It's not that way. There is very little teaching in the pros. You don't have time to teach. You've got 82 games in a season.


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Comments   1 comment(s)

Ron Comrie — Lakewood Ranch, Florida, United States,  —  December 26, 2012 1:49pm ET

Can you please tell me the name/style of the Movado watch Michael Jordan is wearing on the cover photo? Thanks.


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