Tragedy, demons & drive to win at all costs that kept Michael Jordan soaring as told in TV doc everyone’s talking about – The Sun

WHEN sporting icon Michael Jordan joined the basketball team nicknamed “the travelling cocaine circus”, he was faced with a career-defining dilemma.

The Chicago Bulls rookie had sauntered into a team-mate’s hotel room in his debut season of 1984 to find it awash with drugs and women.

“Practically the whole team was in there,” Michael, 57, recalls in hit new Netflix series The Last Dance.

“You got your lines over here, you got your weed smokers over here, you got your women over here.”

But Michael was not tempted by a desire to fit in.

His only desire was a desperation to win.

He curtly told his team-mates, “Well, I have to go”, and says: “From that day on, I was alone.”

Michael, born in Brooklyn, New York, to dad James, a former Air Force man and plane mechanic, and mum Deloris, a banker, would go on to become a sporting god, pop culture icon and billionaire whose endorsement of Nike propelled the sports brand into the stratosphere.

Last Dance director Jason Hehir says: “Michael came right at a time when satellite TV and cable TV were proliferating.

“He had the looks, he had the charisma. He was well spoken.

“He was intelligent and he was probably the most captivating performer in the history of the NBA. It was a perfect storm.”

The Last Dance has been hailed as one of the great sport documentaries.

Last week England and Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham told how he had been watching it to motivate him for the return of Premier League.

The series tells how Michael trash-talked, mocked and bullied his own Bulls team-mates as he led them to three NBA championships in a row between 1991-1993.

At one training session Jordan is heard calling team-mates “dumbass” and “bitch”, while screaming: “Garbage! Don’t bring that bulls**t!”

‘HE WAS A JERK, HE CROSSED THE LINE’

But as former players tell the documentary, it was worth the flak to win title after title.

Bulls veteran Will Perdue, who is said to have been punched by Jordan, comments: “Let’s not get it wrong. He was an asshole.

“He was a jerk. He crossed the line numerous times.

“But as time goes on and you think back about what he was trying to accomplish, yeah, he was a hell of a team-mate.”

Viewers see 6ft 6in Michael become emotional and ask for a break in filming when asked to analyse his behaviour.

The twice-married dad of five says: “When people see this, they’re going to say, ‘Well, he wasn’t really a nice guy. He may have been a tyrant’.

“Well, that’s you. Because you never won anything.

“That’s how I played the game. That was my mentality.”

In 1993, a devastated Michael shocked the world by quitting basketball after his father and mentor was shot dead by car thieves and his body dumped in a swamp.

In one of their last conversations, Michael had spoken about his childhood dream of being a baseball player — and his dad had encouraged him to have a go.

So in February 1994, Michael signed up with baseball’s Chicago White Sox.

After an unsuccessful spell there he turned his size 13 feet back to the Bulls — and again led them to three consecutive titles from the 1995-96 season.

People are going to say, ‘He’s a tyrant’. But that’s just because you haven’t won anything

The first was clinched on Father’s Day, and in the documentary Michael weeps on the dressing room floor, clutching the match ball.

Michael, whose Air Jordan Nike range helped make him sport’s richest man, has one vice — gambling.

And the documentary examines speculation that his dad’s murder was connected to this.

His habit became so extreme it is claimed he once lost £4million in a single night at a Las Vegas casino and that he would even bet on whose luggage would appear first on airport carousels.

Michael has said of his betting: “I enjoy it, it’s a hobby.

“If I had a problem I would have sold my house, I would be starving, I would be hawking this watch, my championship rings.

“My wife would have left me or she’d be starving.

“I do not have a problem, I enjoy gambling.”

Despite having retired from the court 17 years ago, Michael remains the biggest-earning sports star of all time.

His £1.5billion fortune puts him a whole billion dollars ahead of David Beckham — a marketability achieved without a famous other half such as Posh.

But marrying Cuban model Yvette Prieto, 41, in 2013 — with Robin Thicke and Usher singing at the reception — certainly added even more showbiz glitz.

Michael and Yvette, who have six-year-old twin daughters together, met in 2007 shortly after his divorce from first wife Juanita Vanoy, who he married in 1989.

The couple had two sons and a daughter.

Their divorce settlement in 2006 awarded Juanita, 60, £140million, making it one of the most expensive in history.

Publicly the split was described as “amicable”, but a private investigator reported that Michael had been spotted with other women, including a stripper, half a dozen times during his marriage.

Given that Jordan’s own production company helped make the Netflix documentary, it is perhaps unsurprising this is not mentioned.

The ten-part series focuses on the Chicago Bulls during the Michael Jordan era.

While Bulls stars including Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman also feature, it is Michael who dominates.

The basketball legend is ranked alongside Muhammad Ali, Pele, Roger Federer, Tiger Woods and Lionel Messi as a true icon of sport.

But his single-minded devotion to success has led to criticism that, unlike boxer Ali, he publicly ignored social issues affecting the African American community.

Michael refused to endorse African American Democratic Party candidate Harvey Gantt against Republican Jesse Helms, widely regarded as a racist, during the 1990 Senate election in his home state of North Carolina.

In an oft-repeated phrase, he had told team-mates: “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

Michael would, however, later go on to offer his support and finances to social causes.

The documentary also focuses on Michael’s struggle with his global fame.

Former team-mate BJ Armstrong says: “I don’t wish stardom on anyone.

“What it takes to be a star at that level is beyond.

“There’s no preparation for that.

“I always say, to this day, that the Air Jordan guy was great and God bless him. But I’ll always just remember Michael, the guy.”

And Michael the guy is best summed up in his own words when he tells the camera: “My innate personality is to win at all costs.

“It drives me insane when I can’t.”

Hoop king's career

1981: Earns scholarship to University of North Carolina.

1984: College basketball Player of the Year. Selected by Chicago Bulls. Wins gold with USA at Los Angeles Olympics.

1985: NBA Rookie of the Year. Air Jordan I trainers released.

1988: NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

1989: Marries Juanita Vanoy. Makes dramatic late score that becomes known as “The Shot”.

1991: Leading scorer as Bulls win first NBA title.

1991-93: Most valuable NBA player three years in a row.

1992: Wins Olympic gold with the USA “Dream Team”.

1993: Father murdered. Retires from basketball.

1994: Signs with Chicago White Sox baseball team.

1995: Returns to Chicago Bulls.

1996: Stars in film Space Jam alongside Bugs Bunny.

1998: Wins sixth and final NBA title. Retires.

2000: Part-owner of basketball team Washington Wizards.

2001-03: Plays for Wizards.

2009: Inducted into NBA Hall of Fame.

2010: Majority owner of Charlotte Bobcats, now the Hornets.

2013: Marries Yvette Prieto.

Sport's biggest earners

HIGHEST paid sportsmen of all time:

  1. Michael Jordan, £1.43bn
  2. Tiger Woods, golf, £1.32bn
  3. Arnold Palmer, golf, £1.01bn
  4. Jack Nicklaus, golf, £930m
  5. Michael Schumacher, F1, £775m
  6. Phil Mickelson, golf, £632m
  7. = Kobe Bryant, basketball , £620m = David Beckham, football, £620m
  8. Floyd Mayweather, boxing, £609m
  9. Shaquille O’Neal, basketball, £570m
  10. LeBron James, basketball, £566m
  11. Cristiano Ronaldo, football, £562m
  12. Greg Norman, golf, £547m
  13. Mike Tyson, boxing, £543m
  14. Roger Federer, tennis, £523m

The three current highest-paid sports stars in the world are footballers Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar.

  • Source: Forbes, 2017. Sums include salaries, bonuses, prize money, endorsements and licensing. They also include fees from books, golf course designs and appearances.
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