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Text of Michael Jordan's comments

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Posted: Friday January 15, 1999 12:06 PM

  Jordan: "I will support the Chicago Bulls. I think the game itself is a lot bigger than Michael Jordan." AP

Text of Michael Jordan's remarks Wednesday during his retirement news conference.

Well, we do this again for the second time. I was telling my wife coming down, I felt like I was getting married. I guess the first and foremost thing that I want to do and I think everybody here, today is not just a day for Michael Jordan.

I think there's a lot of other serious things happening in the world. I think I wanted to take time out from my family and hopefully from you guys to give condolences to the officer that was killed in action who so happened to have his funeral presentation today at the same time, which is kind of unfortunate, and I think that puts a lot of things in perspective in terms of what life is really about.

My responsibility has been to play the game of basketball and relieve some of the pressure of everyday life for people who work 9 to 5, and I've tried to do that to the best of my abilities.

I think what's happened with his family and certainly the unfortunate circumstances that happened, I'd like to pass on my condolences from my family to his, and I'm pretty sure you guys mean the same thing.

I am here to announce my retirement from the game of basketball. There won't be another announcement to baseball or anything to that nature. I think everyone has their own reasons. There's been a lot of speculation in terms of why. I'm pretty sure I could to that point once you guys get to ask questions.

I want to say thank you to both of the gentlemen here. Mr. Stern and Mr. Reinsdorf for presenting me with the opportunity to play the game of basketball and certainly giving me the opportunity to come to Chicago and meet my beautiful wife and build a family here and my family in North Carolina and a lot of my friends who came up here to support this day and who supported me once I stepped on the basketball court and even when I didn't play on the basketball court.

I want to say thanks to both those gentlemen and to all the fans in Chicago for allowing me to come here and they've adapted me to be one of theirs, and in response I've tried to step on the basketball court and get rid of the gangster mentality that Chicago was known for for a long time. I think successfully, myself and my teammates and the whole organization has made an effort to change the perspective about Chicago. And we're hopefully going to be known as a championship city.

I hope it continues on even when Michael Jordan is not in uniform. I will support the Chicago Bulls. I think the game itself is a lot bigger than Michael Jordan.

I've been given an opportunity by people before me. To name a few: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dr. J, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, these guys played the game way before Michael Jordan was born. And Michael Jordan came on the heels of all that activity. And Mr. Stern and what he's done for the league and gave me the opportunity to play the game of basketball.

I played it to the best that I could play it. I tried to enhance the game itself. I've tried to be the best basketball player I could be. And next thing you know, here we are as a league. I think the league is going to continue on although we've had our troubles over the last six months. I think that's a reality check for all of us. It is a business but yet it's still fun, it's still a game and the game will continue on.

Once again, I've had a great time. And I can't say enough for the people who've supported me and my life will take a change. And a lot of people say, 'Well, Michael Jordan doesn't have any challenges away from the game of basketball.' Well, I dispute that.

Being a parent is very challenging. If you have kids you know that. I welcome that challenge and I look forward to it.

I will live vicariously through my kids as they play the game of basketball. If they don't, I will support that. My wife and I will do the same. We will do what we can as parents to make sure that happens.

That's the challenge that I have in front of me and I look forward to it.

Unfortunately, my mother my family, my brothers and sisters could not be here. But as you see me you see them.

My father, my mother, and certainly my brothers and sisters, so they are here through me. They along with myself say thank you for taking me in and showing me the respect and certainly the gratitude that you have shown me over the years that I have been here.

I will be in Chicago for my career hopefully and for the rest of my life. My wife won't allow me to move nowhere else. So I will be in Chicago and I will support the Chicago teams. And that's all I really truly have to say. I thought of saying just two words: 'I'm gone.' But I figured I owe the fans and certainly the media a little bit more than that. So tht's one of my reasons for being here.

I guess Jerry wants to speak first before David. I pass it over to Jerry.

Members of the media were invited to ask Michael Jordan questions.

QUESTION: Michael when did you decide to retire and why did you wait until today to announce it?

MJ: Maybe I'm not supposed to answer that question. Actually, I talked to Jerry last year once the season ended. I told Jerry at that time that mentally I was a little exhausted, I didn't know if I would play next year. I wanted to put him on awareness so that he could possibly prepare going to next season. And Jerry, once we had our conversation, wanted me to take time as I did in '93, to make sure it was the right decision because it was going to be a final decision.

And he encouraged me to wait until the time came to where I made that announcement. In the middle of that process, with the lockout, I wanted to support the players. I wanted to be there and voice some of the opinions of some of the players and give my input because I felt that as an obligation to the players of tomorrow, just as the players before me have stood up and supported the collective bargaining agreement for me to utilize in my negotiations. I felt obligated to do the same.

So, when the lockout ended, I felt it was appropriate to at this particular time to announce my retirement so that it could give the Bulls an opportunity to do what they had to do to in terms of getting their future on, and utilizing the financial gains of my contract being renounced or terminated, to where they can rebuild or build another structure amongst the team. So that's one of the reasons I waited until this point.

QUESTION: (unintelligible)

MJ: Very similar. Mentally, I am exhausted. I don't feel I have the challenge. Physically, I feel great. The last time, in '93, I had other agendas. I knew wanted to play baseball. I felt that at my age, it was a good opportunity and time to do it. With the death of my father, I was basically trying to deal with that. This time, I'm at peace with a lot of those things. I know from a career standpoint I've accomplished everything I could as an individual. Right now, I don't have the mental challenges that I've had in the past to proceed as a basketball player. Sure I'm pretty sure people say, well, there's a lot of different challenges that could evolve. And for me to start something and then in the middle of the season lose interest, and lose my motivation, it's unfair to the people that I'm working with and working for, and to the fans. So I alleviated that opportunity by saying this is a perfect time for me to walk away from the game and I'm at peace with that.

Unfortunately, we've had some problems in the collective bargaining agreement but I think those situations have been solved and we have to get past them.

QUESTION: (unintelligible)

MJ: I don't know if you guys have heard that question. I can restate it. The question was, although the differences between management and myself apparently was not the same, and did that have any impact on my decision. Plus, if Phil Jackson had been the coach, would I have played on.

That's a big 'if.' I retired the first time when Phil Jackson was the coach. I think that even with Phil the coach, I would have had a tough time mentally finding the challenge for myself, although he could somehow present challenges for me. I don't know if he could have presented a challenge for me to continue on with this season -- even though midway in the season I wanted to continue to play a couple more years. But at the end of the season, I was mentally, mentally drained and tired. So I can't really say that he would have restored that.

In terms of my disagreements with management about some of the decision-making, that's always been my opinions. It hasn't been ultimatums or twisting the arms. The good thing about all of this, the good thing about any team, you may have disagreements but that doesn't mean the focus is not there in terms of trying to achieve what you're trying to achieve. Management may take a different approach in terms of rebuilding or whatever. And that's their prerogative. I would never, never say that that's wrong. That's their prerogative to make that statement or make that notion to do that. And I'd support them even though I'm not playing. But the matter of difference of opinion I don't think would have changed my mind in terms of my retirement at this stage of going into next year.

QUESTION: (unintelligible)

MJ: It was difficult, because you're giving up something that you truly, truly love. My love for the game is very strong. It's hard to give up that love. For the sake of the mental challenges that Michael Jordan needs to drive himself to be the best basketball player that he can be, I don't want to fool myself going into a situation knowing that I'm not 100 percent challenged mentally. Physically I feel fine, with the unfortunate thing with my finger. But other than that, I'm fine. But mentally, I just felt like I didn't have the challenges in front of me.

QUESTION: Michael, I guess the question a lot of people around town want to know is what do you see next for the Bulls? How do you see them competing this year and do you think that they could possibly carry on the legacy that you established of being one of the premier, the elite teams in the league?

MJ: Well, I think it presents a challenge for them. To live up to the standards that we have brought here in the city of Chicago, and I think it's part of the challenge for Jerry Krause and Jerry Reinsdorf and Tim Floyd to maintain that, and I think they welcome that challenge, and that's good, and it depends on how they take that in action. I can't -- I don't know what decisions they're going to make in terms of free agency or I'd like to see them keep Scottie Pippen around and give him the just due that he's very deserving, but that's just my opinion once again. But we set high standards here and the pressure's on them to maintain that. Now how long will that last? Will it be next year? I think that's hard for me to say, but I'm pretty sure they've got to live with that as they move further, and I'm pretty sure they want that, they want to live up to the standards and that's a part of the challenge and I support that.

QUESTION: Michael. Two questions. The first one, I want you to tell me whether the second 'threepeat' was more precious than the first, and the second question is, are you leaving with absolutely no more desire to play?

MJ: Lacy, you're great. I like you, Lacy. The second 'threepeat' by far is the one that you have to cherish the most because it's the hardest, I thought it was hard to achieve. Especially when the team was dismantled to some degree and then brought back with different talent, players from programs that never really experienced the expectations that we had the experience with here in Chicago, and I thought it was harder. We overcame that. We won three in a row. So, I would say that's better than the first three. Now which team is better, I would think the first team is the better of the second team that won three in a row. But it was definitely the harder to win the second three in a row than the first three.

In terms of desire, desire's always going to be there. If the desire is not there, the love was never there. But I have to make a judgment in terms of the desire all the time I step on the basketball court, not one-fourth of the time but every time I step on the basketball court and I can't honestly say that's going to be there every time I step into this building for 82 games or a hundred and some games that we play in the course of a year. And I've always been sure about that. And now I'm unsure about that, and so with that doubt I choose to make my own decisions about retirement.

QUESTION: Michael, is this a true story? That you came back, one reason that you came back was because your son, Jeffery, told you that Shaquille O'Neal was the greatest basketball player? And if it is true, if you have another child, might you come back again?

MJ: No, that's not true but my middle kid loves Dennis Rodman and he wants red hair. I don't think that's going to drive me back. But that is not a true statement and I'm not against my kids analyzing other people 'cause that means they see as their father and they really don't see me as a basketball player and that means my wife and I are doing our jobs in terms of being the great parent that we have to be. So, if they see other players as being like their idols, I don't have a problem with that. Just no red hair in my household.

QUESTION: Michael, which you were more proud of, your athletic skills or the mental skills that you brought to the game, and which was more difficult to keep up?

MJ: Well, I came in here with the physical skills. To some degree I was born with the appetite to enhance it as I got older and as I played the game, but the mental skill came with the education of the game that I learned either from Coach Smith before I got here or I learned in the course of the coaching staffs that I have been endeared with, Tex Winter probably being the most, because he was probably the one that would criticize my game more than anybody. To me that's a plus, that's a driving force for me. The mental part is hard because you have to really learn, taking everything that you've learned over a period of time, and apply that to your game and tie that into the physical aspect of your game and make the complete basketball player that you try to become. So physically, it's a little bit easier, but the mental part is the hardest part, and I think that's the part that separates the good players from the great players.

QUESTION: Michael, is there any chance whatsoever that you'll change your mind somewhere down the road and return?

MJ: No. I never say never, but 95 - 99.9 percent, I'm very secure with my decision.

QUESTION: Michael, we heard Jerry Reinsdorf say this is a sad day, we heard David Stern say it is a happy day. What are you thinking? What kind of emotions do you have as you make this announcement? Are you mixed about it, have you been overcome yet? What's going on inside?

MJ: It's tough. I'm doing a good job of trying to hold back the emotions, because it's like taking away something that I truly have loved the for last, I started when I was 12 years old, I'm 36 next month, so 24 years I've been playing the game, and it's part of both. It's sad that I have to - that I'm leaving the game, but it's happy because my life is starting to go into a whole other stage. Basketball for me was the first stage, it got me to this point in my life. I knew it had to end. My life takes on a different stage now and it's a different challenge, and I welcome that and I knew it was coming so I'm happy that it's gotten to this point and I'm happy that you guys didn't run me out of the game. I chose to walk away knowing that I can still play the game, and that's what I've always wished for my career to end -- that's exactly the way I wanted to end it.

QUESTION: (Unintelligible)

MJ: I think the next step is - It's a lot of different components. I enjoy taking my kids to school, which I did that this morning. I normally enjoy picking my kids up from school, which I look forward to doing. And watching my kids play. My wife and I have a fun time watching our kids play one-on-one, which is very entertaining. So those are things that seem so simple in a lot of people's lives and never really been enjoyed by me because of my schedule and because of the things that I've done over the last 14 years, and now I get to dissect some of those simple things to enjoy and I look forward to that.

Sure there's a lot of business opportunities there and that won't consume me, but that certainly will take away some of the competitive juices that will be left over from not playing basketball. For the most part, I'm just going to enjoy life and do some of the things that I've never done before.

QUESTION: Michael, two questions, like Lacy. Is there a record that you wish you could get that you can't get now that you're not playing? And two, are you worried about the spirit of the young players in the game?

MJ: No, there's not a record that I didn't get that I would have loved to have gotten. I mean, I'm pretty sure people would say that I'd like to score the most points in the history of the game. I'd rather give up that to get six titles. So, there's compensation there.

In terms of the youth of the game, we really have to be very patient with them and apply more guidance to them to still enjoy the game and play the game with a lot of energy. The unfortunate thing either myself or some of the other players before me has brought more to focus is the financial aspect of the game. I think that's going to have to dissipate a little bit and get more back to the love of the game. The love of the game is what you do on the basketball court. And I'm pretty sure that David wants that to happen, I'm pretty sure every owner wants that to happen. But no matter what happens in this business of basketball, if you didn't get paid a dime, you still would play the game of basketball somewhere, and that love has to be illustrated in the way that you play the game and the way that you carry yourself on and off the court and I think that's something that we all as athletes -- not just professional basketball players, but all professional athletes -- have to take into account when they're stepping out in the public's eye.

QUESTION: Michael, you've had so many thrills in your career. You've provided so many highlights and thrills for everyone. From college all the way to that last shot against the Jazz in Game 6 last June, could you perhaps point out one or two of them that really stick out in your mind, that just stands above the rest?

MJ: Well, my first shot. First and last shot, those are the two that you just can't erase because it started and ended my career, to some degree. The year we got past the Pistons, because that was getting over the hump and we got to the hump but we never really could get over the hump. I think the year that we beat Cleveland where no one thought that we could beat Cleveland. I think that gave the city or got the city behind the Chicago Bulls, that if you put your mind to something you can accomplish what you believe in, and a lot of people didn't give us a chance. But we went out and we beat Cleveland, and I think that showed to the public here in Chicago that either you're with us or you're not. We got to make a change here in the Chicago Bulls' organization and we've got to do it with the belief starting within and then hopefully extending outside of that, and I think that was a major step and it ended our whole thought process.

QUESTION: (Unintelligible)

MJ: Not right now. I can't say. I would never say never, but I want to get away from basketball a little bit and look at it from afar. If the interest evolves somewhere down the road, that's fine, I wouldn't mind that. But right now, the only coaching I can do is at home and I'm having a tough time doing that. But it's -- I'd rather get away from the game a little bit.

QUESTION: Michael, you said you'd only play for Phil Jackson. Hypothetically, if Phil Jackson ended up somewhere else, let's say, Madison Square Garden, would you ever play for Phil again?

MJ: That's not even envisioned in my mind right now, and so I don't think that's going to happen. I'm pretty sure that's not going to happen. If Phil ends up in New York, I'm happy for Phil. And although I love New York, I can't see myself coming out of retirement and playing in New York.

QUESTION: (Unintelligible)

MJ: No, but it kind of looked that way. Up to that point, all of my shots were short because I was getting tired and I guess the lessons that you learn over the years is stick with that shot a little longer make sure you get that extra little bit. And that was my thinking, was to make sure that I extend and do the necessary fundamentals to get the ball to the basket. It turned out to look as if I was posing for all the photographers, but that was not the case.

QUESTION: (Unintelligible)

MJ: The most unfortunate thing, it was an accident, trying to cut a cigar, and I severed a tendon, which I have to have surgery on in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, it doesn't alter my golf game, but my decision was made before this happened, and if -- from what doctors have told me that even if I chose to play, I wouldn't be able to play for two months. But that never had any factors in terms of my decision.

QUESTION: You've been able to transcend geographical, racial, social barriers. With your stature and respect, do you go into seclusion now or do you try to maybe solve some of the world's problems?

MJ: Well, I don't think I can go into seclusion and certainly I can't solve the world's problems. There's a lot of problems out there, there's a lot of things I can lend my support to, and I will do that. Seclusion is, to me, will back away from the public eye to some degree. I still have obligation with endorsements that will require me to be in the public's forefront for a little while, but -- so hopefully I will be on a minor scale in terms of I will still be doing commercials that's simple, but I can't save the world by no means.

QUESTION: Michael, as someone who's created motivation for himself in a lot of different instances, do you look at all the people surrounding you telling you that you couldn't give the game up as I don't know, maybe some motivation to give it up?

MJ: No. I just heard people saying that they didn't know Michael Jordan. It's mostly speculation and I tried not to let that influence my decision in terms of what I know what's best for Michael Jordan and conversations with my wife and my friends and I once I get feedback from them, I make my own decision. Not based on what I read or what I hear. Those are a lot of speculation that was totally untrue. I'm pretty sure people had a chance to read it an enjoy it, but it didn't influence my decision by no means.

QUESTION: Michael, last time you used the terminology 'Not slamming the door shut.' You're not using it this time either with the '99.9.' Does that mean you're still not slamming it shut? Also, now that you've got your ring, will you still show up the night of the ring ceremony here?

MJ: That's what I asked Jerry, if there was going to be a ring ceremony night. I'd love to still come and support the rest of the players and see some of the players that may not be here. So I look forward to doing that if that happens.

'Ninety-nine-point nine' is as you read it. It's not really 100 percent, but it's close. So, that's where I stand. I'm not going to say, 'Never, never.' Say '99.9' and you take for what it's worth.

QUESTION: (unintelligible)

MJ: There's never going to be another Michael Jordan. There's never going to be another Dr. J. I knew that. There's never going to be another Elgin Baylor. I knew that. So the kids of tomorrow, there's never going to be another Michael Jordan. You can be a Grant HIll, you can be Anfernee Hardaway, you can be Kobe Bryant but Michael Jordan is Michael Jordan. And you may pick bits and pieces of his game or his personality, and somehow correlate it to yours, but either way you have to evolve to be the person that you are. Sure, you're going to use comparisons as your standard of measurement, yes, it happens. But it's different circumstances that you have to deal with in each era.

I didn't have the same things facing me as Dr. J had in his era. And I'm pretty sure Kobe and some of the guys who're coming behind me is not going to have the same, so they have to evolve to be the players that they are and they're going to be, with maybe my influences and other influences, but you're right. There's not going to be another Michael Jordan and I wouldn't advise the other guys to try to be that or do that.

QUESTION: You've talked so much about all the positives and everything regarding your career. During your career, what were the most difficult things for you to go through?

MJ: Losing, early on. And I guess the part of losing that you had to change your game to, to the criticisms that you were receiving. 'Michael Jordan doesn't make his basketball players around him better.' There was some truth to that because I didn't really know how and I had to learn to do that. So that was a challenge. But it was negative toward Michael Jordan and I used that negative as a positive. There was a lot of negative things that happened to me in my life, within the game of basketball and outside basketball. But I've always been able to take that negative and turn it into a positive, as a learning experience, but yet move forward from it. I wouldn't change anything. I wouldn't change any of the lessons that I've learned from the negative and the positive, because I think they've helped me evolve to be the person that I am. But it was a lot of negative things that enhanced me as a person and as a player.

QUESTION: Michael, did you anticipate the lockout taking this long and did you think the agreement was fair?

MJ: I didn't anticipate it being this long. I think the players were willing to sit out for the best deal that they felt was fair, and I'm in favor of what the majority says. If the players and everyone feel this is a fair deal, I'm happy. I always felt, and I said it even before, in the last collective bargaining agreement, I could be pleased under any collective bargaining agreement, but the majority has to be pleased with the collective bargaining agreement, and it's very evident that they were. Patrick Ewing and the whole negotiating team, as well as myself when I tried to contribute, we were fighting for the best deal that the majority would accept. And the majority accept it. In terms of fairness, we'll see. We'll see how things happen, some of the awareness of some of the things that the owners wanted to address is addressed, but yet the players felt the sticking points are still addressed and it turns out to be a fair deal for the game, I'm happy with that. That's all I ever wanted, from both sides.

QUESTION: Michael, it's going to be difficult for the Bulls to get back to where it was with you not being there. At some point in the future, could you see yourself reconciling yourself as to being part of the club as far as helping them out marketing or helping to rebuild this club at any point in the future?

MJ: I'm not against that. I think - but the best way to survive without Michael Jordan is to somehow start to live without him, in some respects. But I'm always going to support the Chicago Bulls because it's given me a great joy to be a part of the organization. But life without Michael Jordan somehow has to be and sometimes has to be without Michael Jordan's input. But I will, if need be, if they need my support in anything, I will certainly consider that and lend my two cents to it.

QUESTION: Michael, I would assume that you would say the sacrifices that you had to go through in terms of everything, sacrifices of privacy and things like that, were worth it on some level because of the success you've had. But are there any things that you had to give up that bother you or do you have resentment toward, and also what do you think the future life will be in terms of public versus private?

MJ: Well, I mean, it's a lot of things about my lifestyle that I truly don't like, but I've come to accept because I've stepped into the form that I have to deal with it. So much speculation about things that are totally untrue, but you have to deal with it and you have to let it roll off the back and deal with it, and you learn not to bring it too much to focus because it's not worth the headache. But hopefully that will subside some as I step away from the spotlight. It may not, but I have to deal with it in whatever respects and that's the only unfortunate things a celebrity has to deal with is the speculations and some of the untrue things that have been printed about them. It's unfair but it's a part of the whole picture I guess, to some degree.

QUESTION: (unintelligible)

MJ: I like that, Bill, because I've talked to Patrick, I've talked to Charles, I've talked to Karl, I've talked to all of them. I'm pretty sure they feel the same. They all wanted me to come back just so if they win a championship, they can say they've gone through Chicago and Michael Jordan to win it to give it the meaning of taking the title away from Chicago. And that's the good thing about it, that they won't ever have the chance to say that. That's why I was so glad that Magic played and Bird played when I won my titles, because I had to go through, to some degree, Boston and L.A. Patrick, I don't know, he won't be able to live with himself -- he can't beat Michael Jordan in a series. Charles Barkley, I told him he would never win because he doesn't dedicate himself to win. All of them joked with me and hated to see the possibility of me retiring just because they didn't have an opportunity to beat me in the finals or get past me. That is the cute thing about retiring. And I will always hold that in high respect when I see these guys socially.

QUESTION: Juanita, what are your feelings about the retirement. How is this going to change your life?

JUANITA JORDAN: Actually my life won't change at all. I see Michael doing more carpooling. That's about it.

QUESTION: (unintelligible)

MJ: None. Phil and I, we talked all season long about what the possibilities may be at the end of the season. Once he made his decision, he didn't want his decision to influence mine. And I said it wouldn't. And I didn't want my decision to influence you. Sure I'm saying that I would rather play for Phil Jackson if he's here, but that's just my opinion. That doesn't tell me -- that shouldn't have you make the best decision suited for Phil Jackson because that, first and foremost to me is to make sure you're happy. And he didn't have any influence in terms of -- he didn't know, I haven't even talked to Phil since somewhere midway in the summer. And if the season would have started in October, I'm pretty sure I would have made the same decision. I don't think that changed by doing it now.

QUESTION: Michael, one last time for the record. Why do you have to walk out of here with that 1 percent in your pocket?

MJ: Because it's my 1 percent and not yours. That's why.

QUESTION: Michael, you used to consult with your father throughout your life about so many important decisions. If he were here today, what type of advice do you think he would have given you about making this choice?

MJ: I think it wouldn't have been any different than what I've said. What you see from me is what you see from -- he would've done the same thing. He probably would've love to answer the questions before I would have answered the questions. He would've probably told me this is the perfect time. The writing is on the wall. Take it, and walk away with your head held high. Enjoy your kids and move on. Nothing different from what I'm doing. My second father, Gus, said the same thing. Wherever Gus is, he's been saying the same thing for a while. I guess he just liked to get out of Chicago for the warm weather. It's no different from what's happened. My father basically would've given me the same advice, and my mother basically did.

QUESTION: Michael, thank you.

MJ: Thank you. Thank you, Chicago.

 
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