SI Vault
Edited by Richard O'Brien
August 23, 1993
A Father Lost
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August 23, 1993


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A Father Lost

As the son of a sharecropper and the father of Michael Jordan, James Jordan had a singular vantage point from which to consider how fortune doles out its favors. Even in the final days of his life, before he was found murdered last week, floating in a snake-infested creek near the South Carolina-North Carolina border with a single gunshot wound to the chest, the elder Jordan, who was 56 when he died, never lost that sense of perspective. The last public event he attended, the funeral of a former coworker, Willie Kemp, on July 22, only reinforced his worldview. "He said he was going to stop working and enjoy the rest of his life," says a friend and fellow mourner, Carolyn Robinson. "He said, 'Look at Willie. He planned his retirement so well, and now he's gone.' "

Although the senior Jordan wasn't without a shadow in his past—he pleaded guilty in 1985 to having accepted a $7,000 kickback from a contractor while he was in charge of inventory control at a General Electric plant—as of Monday it appeared his death was the result of a random robbery. Early Sunday morning Robeson County ( N.C.) sheriff's officers arrested two 18-year-old North Carolina men, Daniel Andre Green and Larry Martin Demery. Each was charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery.

As SI went to press, local and federal authorities said that no evidence had turned up to indicate the murder was tied in any way to James Jordan's, or his son's, well-known affinity for games of chance. For now, the death takes its place alongside several other dissonant notes that have sounded during the younger Jordan's three straight NBA championship seasons.

After the Chicago Bulls won their first title in 1991, James Jordan draped an arm around his son and told all who would listen that "I raised him." Michael even said he traced his trademark habit of sticking his tongue out to watching his father do the same as he concentrated on some household task. That is a simple and innocent image, from a simpler and more innocent time—when Michael looked up to one man, and before the time when it seemed as if all mankind decided to look up to Michael. It's not a bad image to remember James Jordan by.

A Loopy Deal

Two weeks ago the NBA rejected free-agent Chris Dudley's contract with the Portland Trail Blazers (SCORECARD, Aug. 16), charging it circumvented the league's salary cap. Now the NFL—only two months into its collective bargaining agreement—finds itself wrestling with the same problem of creative contracts.

Last Friday, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue voided first-year quarterback Rick Mirer's contract with the Seattle Seahawks, calling it a sham. Mirer, the second player chosen in the April draft, had signed the richest contract ever for an NFL rookie, a five-year package worth $15.7 million. However, to stay in line with Seattle's rookie-pool limit—a cap mandated by the agreement as a way to shift the big money being paid to rookies toward veterans—the deal included an array of incentive clauses that would account for more than $6 million of Mirer's contract. Amazingly, 59 of the contingencies did not even require Mirer to play a down. Tagliabue termed those clauses "the functional equivalent of a signing bonus" and ruled that they put the Seahawks over their rookie-pool maximum.

Mirer's deal further allowed him the option of canceling the contract for the 1996 and '97 seasons while it gave the Seahawks the right to retain Mirer by paying him more. To Tagliabue, such "voidable years" are nothing more than a deferred signing bonus—which should be subject to the rookie-pool cap.

On Saturday, playing under a gentleman's agreement between his agent and Seattle, Mirer threw for 69 yards and a touchdown in the team's 23-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. His contract will now be assessed by an arbritrator, who could yet reverse Tagliabue. Whatever the decision, it's clear that the league should void the voidable-years loophole, and any others, and that the poor-mouthing owners should try living within their means, which was the point of the bargaining agreement in the first place.

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