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Michael Jordan takes final shots at Hall of Fame induction

Emotional Jordan “thanks” those who lit his competitive fire but saves best shot for Jerry Krause.

 Michael Jordan speaks during his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on September 11, 2009, in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Michael Jordan speaks during his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on September 11, 2009, in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Originally published Sept. 12, 2009.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — After sitting through an eight-minute video of highlights and testimonials to his tremendous career, Michael Jordan approached the podium Friday night at Symphony Hall to thunderous applause with tears streaming down his face.

But anyone expecting perhaps the greatest competitor in NBA history enter the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame with overflowing sentiment and sweetness was soon jolted back to reality.

Jordan quickly regained his composure and talked about the competitive fire that fueled his accomplishments — and napalmed some of his former rivals — in a speech that was anything but sweet and sentimental.

That much was obvious early on when Jordan talked about why he chose former North Carolina State great David Thompson to be his sponsor instead of someone associated with his alma mater, North Carolina. He said he simply admired Thompson while he was growing up in North Carolina.

’”When I called him and asked him to stand up for me, I know I shocked the [crap] out of him; I know I did,’’ Jordan said. ‘’But he kindly said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it.’’’

As for his legendary competitive fire, Jordan cited his family for bringing out those competitive juices.

“You guys ask me where my competitive nature comes from? It came from them,’’ he said. “They started the fire in me. That fire started with my parents and as I moved on in my career, people added wood to that fire.’’

An early example, Jordan cited, was when he was cut from his high school varsity team as a sophomore.

“You guys think that’s a myth,’’ he said. ‘’Leroy Smith was a guy that when I got cut he made the team on the varsity team. He’s still the same 6-7 guy, he’s not any bigger and his game is probably the same.

“But he started the whole process with me, because when he made the team and I didn’t, I wanted to prove — not just to Leroy Smith, not just to myself — but to the coach who actually picked Leroy over me. I wanted to prove, ‘’You made a mistake, dude.’’’

Jordan invited Smith to the ceremony.

Buzz Peterson was another motivating factor for Jordan because Peterson was selected as the North Carolina player of the year when they were high school seniors.

“All I heard was there was this kid from Asheville, North Carolina, who was player of the year,’’ Jordan said. ‘’I’m thinking, ‘Well, he ain’t never played against me yet, so how did he become player of the year?’”

When Jordan got to Carolina, Peterson was his roommate.

“From that point on,’’ Jordan said, “he became a focal point — not knowingly; he didn’t know it, but he did.”

Jordan also told a story about how he battled Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf to let him return late in his second NBA season after missing much of the year with a broken foot. The Bulls were hesitant to let Jordan play that year because there was a 10 percent chance he could reinjure the foot.

In this Sept. 11, 2009, file photo, Michael Jordan cries as he takes the podium during his enshrinement ceremony into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
In this Sept. 11, 2009, file photo, Michael Jordan cries as he takes the podium during his enshrinement ceremony into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
Stephan Savoia/AP

“Jerry said, ‘If you had a headache and there were 10 [Tylenol] tablets and one of them contained cyanide, what would you do?’” Jordan said. ‘’I said, ‘How bad is the headache?’’’

Soon after Jordan was back on the court.

He also “thanked” Isiah Thomas (for allegedly orchestrating the freeze out of Jordan in his first All-Star Game), Pat Riley, Jeff Van Gundy (‘’The little guy who took over for Riley’’), Bryon Russell and other opponents for adding wood to the fire.

Jordan had only kind words for his teammates — Scottie Pippen, Toni Kukoc, Steve Kerr, Charles Oakley and Dennis Rodman attended — and coach Phil Jackson.

But Jordan couldn’t resist taking a shot at former general manager Jerry Krause over his “protest” by not attending the ceremony.

“Jerry Krause is not here,” he said. “I don’t know who invited him. I didn’t.”

To be sure, it felt more like a roast rebuttal than a Hall acceptance speech. Some of his victims probably wished he simply said ‘’Thank you’’ and sat down, like he told some friends he would do.