Calling-out Michael Jordan

Thomas Lake of Sports Illustrated has written a column like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s an open letter to Michael Jordan rebuking Jordan for slandering his high school coach and for not being there for his old coach in a time of need. This is one of the most hard-hitting things I’ve ever read. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether or not Lake has a point.

I heard Pop Herring was in jail so I drove up to see him the other night. You remember Pop, your basketball coach at Laney High in Wilmington, N.C. The man who opened the gym at 6 a.m. so you could work on that jumper. The man who let you borrow his car and had you over to his house and treated you like a son. The man who put you on jayvee in your sophomore year. Didn’t cut you, as you always said after that, although at the time it probably felt like a cut. I guess it still does, or did in 2009, when you were inducted into the Hall of Fame, and you addressed Pop directly without actually using his name and said, regarding his failure to put you on varsity, “I wanted to make sure you understood: You made a mistake, dude.”

Well, it was your mistake. You used what should have been a joyful occasion to call out a man for something he did not actually do. A sick and indigent man at that. As we both know, Pop’s life fell apart after you left town. Not his fault. A disease ran in his family, paranoid schizophrenia or some such thing, and he started acting strange, and he lost his job, and his wife, and his daughter, and pretty much everything else. Took to drinking, as you or I might do in similar circumstances.

Did you help him? Not in the past 18 years.

I will never forget that induction speech. It was as bad as Thomas Lake describes and was a sharp contrast to the remarks delivered by David Robinson, who was also inducted on that day. Read the rest of Thomas Lake’s column here.

(HT: @DarrinPatrick)


  • Daniel Darling

    Denny, I wholeheartedly concur. I am a Chicagoan and lifelong fan of Michael, but he is not an example of heroism. I too remember the vivid contrast between Michael and the Admiral. The Admiral may have a more far-reaching impact on the world because of what he does after his career is over.

  • Brian

    His induction speech, specifically in contrast to David Robinson, will forever color how I see Michael Jordan. He was an incredible basketball player, but life has shown that he is a terrible man.

  • Reg Schofield

    I always thought Jordan was in love with himself and although he could play like no other , I never liked him . His image off the court seemed too calculated and then with that speech , the true nature of this this little man shone through . This is a real chance to help this man and redeem his image . But even if he did help his old coach , would it be sincere or self serving . However either way the man who truly helped form this hall of famer would be helped . Mental illness is truly a tragic thing , In my relatives I have seen it destroy families and lead to suicide . I pray this man gets some help form someone .

  • A.D. Fountain

    I think that the Thomas Lake article is inappropriate. The circumstances call for a story describing Pop Herring’s plight and encouraging others to help, but excluding any comments about Michael Jordan’s charitable failures. Personally, I have often failed to help others in need, and I cannot in good conscience criticize someone else for similar failings.

  • Jose Rodriguez

    The, speech, his love of gambling, his failed marriage, and his atrocious (mis)management of the Charlotte Bobcats goes to show that Michael Jordan has been a failure in everything else in life outside of basketball.

  • Jack Riley

    Well, I think you guys might be a little too tough on Jordan here. If he were a Christian, I think it makes sense to take him to task. But he’s not.

    Furthermore, I know plenty of Christians who have been mistreated by employers, the media, unbelieving family members, etc., and who then revel later in life when their mistreater falls on hard times. It’s God’s justice, they say. Or they were faithful and left room for God’s vengence, and now feel rewarded for being the “good guy” or hero.

    In fact, I can remember being in high school and getting a “F” in photography from my journalism teacher, which I felt was undeserved. It was my childhood dream to be a professional photographer, and I was crushed – absolutely devasted. So, I went to college to be a data processor and joined the Navy. After a few years in the military, I became a Photojournalist and before long, my photos were being published internationally in DoD publications, Stars and Stripes, and the Navy Times. Today, I supervise the DoD visual information school.

    Several years ago, I heard that the teacher who I felt crushed my dream back in high school was fired for plagarism and another impropriety. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I felt a little bit vindicated. As a Christian, though, I know better. How could we have higher standards for the unregenerate??

    Sure, what Jordan said was in bad taste, but I don’t think he deserves to be villified afterall.

  • Jack Riley

    Also — since when is an athlete or anyone who is successful in life “required” to take care of the teachers or coaches or other people who contributed to their success along the way??

    Mr. Thomas Lake’s column sounds like a shade of “You Didn’t Build That” rhetoric to me.

    (Of course, I’ll admit that I’m not really a big basketball person, so I may be missing something important in all this.)

  • Daryl Little

    I don’t think this is so much holding a non-believer to a believer’s standard, as it is holding a man to a man’s standard.

    He ain’t meeting it and somewhere along the line he learned that being a man is being able to master the game, rather than mastering life.

    He need’s a Saviour. As do I.

  • Marvin Merriweather

    Exactly, Jack Riley. I’m amazed that we want to hold the unregenerate to standards that they don’t deserve. I mean, who says that Jordan had an obligation to his high school coach. Shame on Lake for blasting MJ, and shame on Burk for posting this information. This discussion has no possible positive outcomes, unless you think that slandering Jordan is a good result.

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