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The Greatest Game Nobody Ever Saw
JACK MCCALLUM
July 02, 2012
The toughest competition faced by the best team in basketball history was, in fact, its own: at a closed scrimmage in Monaco between sides led by Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, the details of which remained a secret for nearly 20 years
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July 02, 2012

The Greatest Game Nobody Ever Saw

The toughest competition faced by the best team in basketball history was, in fact, its own: at a closed scrimmage in Monaco between sides led by Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, the details of which remained a secret for nearly 20 years

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As Magic looks on in this sticky-hot gym, sweat pouring off his body, towel around his neck, there is Jordan, captain of the winning team, singing a song written just for him, drinking a drink that's raking in millions, rubbing it in as only Jordan can do. And on the bus back to the hotel? Jordan keeps singing, Be like Mike.... Be like Mike. ...

The game would have reverberations in Barcelona as Michael and Magic relentlessly continued to try to get the verbal edge on each other. And in the years that followed, this intrasquad game became a part of basketball lore, "kind of like an urban legend," as Laettner describes it.

And not everybody loved it. "You have to look at who relishes that kind of thing," says Malone. "As they say, it's their geeeg." By their he means Jordan's and Magic's. (Last year I asked Malone if he wanted to watch few minutes of the video. "No," he said. "Doesn't interest me.")

But Krzyzewski, no fan of trash talk, looks back on the game fondly, remembering almost every detail. "Every once in while I'll be doing something and a line from that game will just flash into my head," he says. "They just moved Chicago Stadium to Monte Carlo. It just makes me smile.

"A lot of players talk trash because the TV cameras are on. But the doors on that day were closed. This was just you against me. This is what I got—whatta you got? It taught me a lot about accepting personal challenges. You know, if somebody could've taped the sound track of the game, not necessarily recorded the basketball but just the sounds, it would be priceless."

Well, I got the original VHS tape, converted it to DVD and even got a specialist to make a CD of the sound track. It picked up almost everything. The Greatest Game Nobody Ever Saw was not about the hoops. It was about the passion those guys put into playing, the importance they placed on winning and on personal pride.

Years later Jordan brought up the game before I had a chance to ask him about it. "In many ways," he said, "it was the best game I was ever in. Because the gym was locked and it was just about basketball. You saw a lot about players' DNA, how much some guys want to win. Magic was mad about it for two days."

Magic, for his part, estimates that his anger lasted only a few hours. "Let me tell you something—it would've been worse for everybody if he lost," says Johnson. "Because I could let something go after a while. But Michael? He'd never let it go. He never let anything go."

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