[Bulls coach] Phil Jackson would lay down certain rules for photographers, but I would bend them as far as I could. I wasn't supposed to be in the trainers' rooms, but that was the best location, because players from other teams would come in. Michael would hold court and talk s--- about everybody. Oh, my God, he'd rail on people, reporters he hated. Most of the time I never said a word. I sat and barely took pictures, just to be that bug on the windshield of a life.
Michael was merciless in an amusing way, but he said things to your face. In 1998 the Bulls had Joe Kleine, Luc Longley and Bill Wennington as their centers. One day Michael was in the training room after a practice, and I was sitting there while he iced down. Those three centers walked by, and Jordan said, "You know what I have to play with?" He looked right at them and said, "Twenty-one feet of s---."
I went out on the town with Michael in Miami while we were working on Rare Air. We met in his room at the Mayfair Hotel in Coconut Grove, and I could see was tired. He was really quiet and said, "Walter, I don't know about tonight."
I said, "Come on, Mike. We planned this one night for the entire season. What is it? Is it going into the public and dealing with all that s---?"
He said, "Yeah, basically." Then he said, "I'll tell you what. We'll go out, Walter, but you leave your cameras here. Neither of us are working, and you lead the way out of here for me."
So now I'm Michael Jordan's point man. And it was really interesting to walk out of the hotel with him. People would see him and they'd stop whatever they were doing and start to move toward him, and I would hold up a hand and go, "Not tonight," and people respected his wish.
We went to Hooters, which was Michael's idea because it was near the hotel. He can't venture too far out. We got there, and Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant joined us, and it was total chaos. It was as if Michael was the only thing that existed in that bar.
I traveled with the Bulls for 20 games or so in 1998. Their bus windows were blacked out, so the bus looked like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, just this black blob on four wheels, and people were running, like the apes in the movie, just wanting to touch it. They came to the windows. They couldn't see who was inside, and the players were looking out in amusement. Everyone just wanted to reach out and touch Michael.
Truly, being with Michael was like traveling with Jesus. All the rules went out the window. Whatever I wanted, I could shoot. I'd go to some spot I knew no photographer should be, and someone would say, "Hey! You can't stand here."
I'd say, "I'm with Michael."