NBA PM: Was Michael Jordan Selfish?
In the world of the NBA, as in so many other things, there is a narrative that goes along with special players and special teams which is created by the media. The hope is that the media, being in a position to know a great deal more about those situations than the observing public, will keep the narrative as close to reality as possible. That’s the hope, but it’s not always the case.
Take, for example, the idea that players often come into the NBA with one thing in mind, but then evolve and change as their careers advance. One such story says that players like Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon, the best players of their era, were selfish at first, but learned to trust their teammates over time and transformed into champions as a result of that revelation.
“I disagree with that,” Olajuwon tells HOOPSWORLD. “The media or spectator put it in an article looking at it from this point of view. Then, you can’t change the mindset of people after that. I’ll give you an example. Let’s say a superstar, for example. A selfish player is not going to play intelligent basketball. He’s always going to get the ball and shoot it. When I see a superstar, true superstar, his role is to leverage all the positions to his advantage to win the game. That means he’s the one controlling, finishing the job. In the backcourt or inside, if two guys come, move the ball, find the open guy. So, if he shoots over two or three guys because he just has to shoot, those are the shots that make you say bad shot. If they’re forced or crowed, those are bad shots. That means the franchise guy is not reliable. So, but they said something about Jordan in his career that he’s selfish. A guy like Jordan passing or making the right decision is instinctive, you don’t think about it. You just want to win. You’re just playing. You don’t think. The selfish player purposely holds the ball. There’s a huge difference.”
Olajuwon says that a winner would never play selfishly, as that is contrary to the ultimate goal of winning. He even goes so far as to offer an explanation for why LeBron’s unselfish play is also an example of being the consummate winner.
“You don’t change from being selfish to not selfish in a year. It’s nature. You don’t change that. You can’t say beginning of my career I was selfish at the end I wasn’t. No, that’s nature. You can’t change that nature, that’s how you think. You just demonstrate to them in the future that you play to win. When Jordan won it was because he had quality players who can help him win the game, but he was still leading the league in scoring like he was before. Now that they’re winning they say he’s changed, but no – he’s the same player. To me, he was never a selfish player. He was a winner. A winner’s mentality never changes. A selfish player is not a winner, he has a loser’s mentality. A loser’s mentality is the wrong way. He wants to win the big picture. He knows he can impact the game through his own ability. Someone takes that as selfish, that’s the loser’s mentality but they don’t understand the true meaning, which is that he wants to win. He knows his role. The role player, holding the ball when he get a better shot with super stars around, that’s the problem. So LeBron for example, he plays the game the right way. They criticize him that he’s afraid to shoot, he choked, they say all that. No, he’s playing the game the right way. He’s passing the ball. He may be the one getting the ball, but if he sees an open guy he passes it naturally. Not because he’s afraid of that shot. That should be a compliment that someone is selfless there, that’s a compliment.”
“I think he’s just playing the game. There’s a question where sometimes he may need to take it, but you can’t criticize him for making the right decision and passing the ball. Some say he may not have what it takes. But if you look at this year, the whole journey to the championship. It doesn’t happen by chance. He had that all along. You can’t just say ‘he proved everyone wrong’. He was determined to win, but he had what it takes. People will always criticize, say he’s selfish or he should take the shot. Is he a legitimate guy to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line? Yes. Will he always make the right decision? Yes. It’s different if the coach says I want you to take that shot. Look at Jordan, when Chicago won that one series where he gave it to Paxson in the corner. He read it. It was the right play. Jordan was intelligent, a genius. There was a better shot. What I’m saying is LeBron, what impresses me the most about his game is his ability to move the ball in a basketball flow. Basketball has its own rhythm. He’s just playing the game. Those things of selfishness or scariness, he’s just playing the game. The time came for him to win, sometimes you’re tired, pressure, all the psychology, but the loss turned out to be good for him. He grew that summer. I tell everyone he felt like he let his team down, he wanted to do something about it. They won in Boston in Game 6, that was huge. I said ‘wow they’re going back to Boston’. With his back against the wall he took it to another level, you have to give him credit.”
As for being selfish or learning to trust teammates, Olajuwon insists that was never a concern.
“I don’t think trusting teammates was an issue for me. When I get the ball it was take your man or pass it. If I got double-teamed, I found the open man. I just played the game. The challenge was not letting anyone cover me one-on-one in the post. You can’t let them give you one-on-one coverage. If they do you foul him out, that’s the mission. Then when they send help, there’s guys open. You have to find them. It’s not you’re open but I don’t trust you. You can’t play the position of a real superstar thinking away from the flow of the game itself, because anyone who understands basketball, knows the game has it’s own rhythm.”
It’s always interesting to tell a great story around a great player or a great team, but sometimes the great story may not reflect reality. For instance, the story that Hakeem Olajuwon suddenly discovered the importance of his teammates in the early 90′s, helping him from great individual player to NBA champion is a great story. It was so good that I, who was a young man at the time, believed and accepted it as a truth about Olajuwon for years.
And then Hakeem himself came along and set the record straight.
Collison Has Much To Prove in Dallas
Once upon a time Darren Collison was considered one of the best young point guards in the NBA. He played incredibly well in place of an injured Chris Paul as a rookie, earning the attention of the Indiana Pacers, who thought he might be their point guard of the future. That didn’t last long, as the Pacers opted to make George Hill their starter late last season and cast off Collison in favor of a backup big man in Ian Mahinmi. Collison tells HOOPSWORLD he hates to leave unfinished business in Indiana, where the team was just starting to look like contenders, but also talks about what he must accomplish in Dallas in this exclusive interview:
Clippers Ink Matt Barnes, Kenyon Martin to the Knicks?
The Los Angeles Clippers today signed free agent forward Matt Barnes. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not announced.
The nine-year NBA veteran has averaged 7.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 21.3 minutes over his career. In 63 games played for the Lakers last season, Barnes tallied 7.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
This marks Barnes’ second stint with the Clippers. After signing with Los Angeles as a free agent rookie in 2003-04, he averaged 4.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 19.1 minutes in 38 games played that season.
Barnes turned in his most productive NBA campaign with the Phoenix Suns during the 2008-09 season. In 77 games played (40 starts) with the Suns, Barnes averaged a career-high 10.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 27.0 minutes per game.
Aside from the Clippers, Lakers and Suns, Barnes has also played for the Sacramento Kings, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Golden State Warriors and Orlando Magic over his career.
In other free agency news, free agent forward Kenyon Martin may have found a home in New York, where the Knicks are reportedly interested in adding him for the vet’s minimum. According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, Martin is holding out for an offer that pays more than the minimum, though such an offer has yet to surface.
The Atlanta Hawks have reached an agreement on a one-year deal with free agent forward Ivan Johnson, who turned out to be a nice addition last season. He signed for just under $1 million.
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