I met Michael Jordan a few times. He was never very nice. At the time, I was a sports reporter for a radio station. On the first occasion, I just did a quick interview with him. There were other reporters waiting to get quotes or sound bites, and he was there with the “Dream Team.” It was the first time the United States allowed NBA players to join the Olympic team, and they had a great one: Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing, John Stockton, to name a few.
Another time I was in the locker room after a game he played with various NBA All-Stars. I can’t remember the circumstances, but Barkley couldn’t have been nicer. He and Jordan kept ribbing each other about golf. This time, I decided I’d have some players autograph my program. The tiny Spudd Webb signed it, as well as Dominique Wilkins who, for my money, had the most exciting dunks in the history of the NBA. As Jordan was quickly rising the ranks to become the best player of all time (he just lost that thrown to LeBron James tonight)...I was pestering him for a signature. He kept blowing me off. Finally, as he walked out of the locker room and I followed with him, he snatched it from my hand and scribbled his initials on it (side note: he signs his initials always like the #23 he wore). Unfortunately for me, he did that right over Wilkins signature, so...you can barely read either name, but oh well.
I thought about that story when I heard about a pair of Jordan shoes that were game-worn, and went at auction for $190,373. Yes, that’s a record for a pair of used shoes. The previous record were sneakers Jordan wore in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals. That was a game he played when he was sick with the flu. Those went for $104,765 back in 2013.
These Converse shoes were used in the gold-medal game against Spain in the ‘84 Olympics. That’s when he played on the team as an amateur. The shoes were autographed, and even include his orthotic inserts, and I’m guessing...the stinky smell of a pro athlete.
It wasn’t long after that that he was signed by the Bulls, and signed a contract with Nike. So for collectors, that probably makes a signed pair of Converse that much more desirable.
Back in ‘84 when Jordan won that Gold medal, he was the leading scorer. Second in scoring? Wayman Tisdale. He scored a whopping….14 points, as a junior for Oklahoma. I met him on numerous occasions. He was always a sweetheart, talking with me and the other fans gathered around.
He ended up becoming the second pick for the Pacers, and had a 12-year career in the NBA. He retired to devote more time to his first love -- music. He was a smooth jazz guitarist, and when he started recording albums -- his “Face to Face” made it to #1 on the Billboard charts. After he broke his leg, doctors discovered cancer in his knee. Chemo didn’t work, and doctors weren’t even sure how much to give him since they never treated somebody his size -- 6’9”. When that wasn’t successful, the leg was removed. Things seemed to be looking up, but his esophagus ended up bursting because of the chemo and he passed away in 2009.
It’s a shame that we lost him so young. NBA players, and popular musicians, don’t come nicer than Tisdale. I’d like to think that in 100 years, when people are still talking about Jordan’s records...they talk about Tisdale’s records. His jazz records.
I’d certainly cherish one of his bass guitars over some dirty sneakers Jordan once donned.