|Sunday, August 18
Updated: August 20, 4:20 PM ET
Jordan's decision to play will be 'last-minute'
Editor's note: ESPN's Dr. Jack Ramsay sat down with Michael Jordan in Las Vegas for SportsCenter's Sunday Conversation. Among the topics discussed with the Washington Wizards guard/forward was Jordan's recovery from knee surgery, plans to come back for a 15th NBA season, the hoops passion of his son Jeffrey and the chances of him coaching.
The following is the transcript of the entire interview.
Ramsay: Michael, let's talk about your conditioning first. You had surgery on your right knee around All-Star break. How are you doing with that?
Jordan: I'm doing well. Actually, I sat down with the doctors and trainer and basically (they) said just rest it this summer and come back on a slow plan. Let the knee and the tendonitis in my left knee calm down a little bit and wasn't right in terms of what had happened. Just gradually work myself back into playing and right now I'm still in the process of doing that. I'm just getting back to the process where I'm on the court running and jumping. Up to that point, it's just been riding the bicycle, lifting weights -- it was just rehab work to the knee. But this is the month where I really have to start to move forward with my playing activity and my back-to-back days of playing -- see how the knee responds to the activity I put on it. But so far everything has been very, very positive and I've been very cautious with it.
Ramsay: What will you do to upgrade your the intensity of your workouts? You've been a great guy for hard, intense workouts in the past. Will you get back to that?
Ramsay: And when will you decide about what you're going to do next season? At the end of your conditioning program?
Jordan: Yeah, it'll probably be a late-minute decision. I mean I've let everyone know that -- even the coaching staff -- that you prepare as if I'm not playing. And if I do play, then I'm an added attraction to the situation, so it will be a last-minute decision. The one thing I don't want to do is to go into the season dealing with the pain I dealt with last year. And not being able to fulfill my participation with this team. If I'm dressed, then I want to play. I don't want to sit and I don't want to watch. I don't want to sit around and be on the injured reserve list. So I'm being really cautious and making sure that I can play a full season.
Ramsay: Last year, your impact on the team was dramatic as you would have expected. Were you satisfied with the level of the team improvement?
Jordan: I was, I mean, intially obviously you go through growing pains. Guys getting used to, as they say, playing with their boss. Or playing with a guy who's won six championships and probably a lot of the guys grew up watching. So it took some time to overcome that, but I felt like before I injured myself we were starting to get an understanding that I'm a basketball player. And hopefully you guys will always see me as a basketball player. And if you're a basketball player as well, once you're on the court you play like a basketball player and I felt like they were doing that. And we started to fit in a certain role. I wasn't trying to overshadow them I was more or less trying to complement them cause they're our future. Our young players are our future. Kwame Browns, Etan Thomases, Richard Hamiltons, Tyronn Lues -- those guys, Brendan Haywood. Those are the guys. I look forward to taking us into a much more successful situation. But I'm only there from an educational standpoint to let them understand the dedication that it takes to become a better basketball player.
Ramsay: The players that you mentioned. Kwame Brown struggled through the season. Were you satisfied with how much improvement he made or what does he have to do to become a contributing player to the team?
Jordan: I think that there were a lot of expectations for Kwame. Being drafted No. 1 brings a lot of baggage along with it. And I think that he didn't really understand that. He's a great kid, he's a great kid. I think he really enjoys playing and being on this level. The thing that he's going to have to understand is the passion that you have for the game is going to have to go into your work ethic to some degree. To where you understand your ability. You do have the abilities; it's how you apply those abilities in the course of playing in the NBA. And I think he's starting to get it. At the end of the season he started to get it. Etan started to get it, and I think the more experience they get and the more success they deal with, the better they're gonna (be). They see the light at the end of the tunnel and they're going to continue to get better and better. So we have to be patient. Obviously, as a seasoned vet as I was, I may have put too much pressure on Kwame to excel quickly because of the excectations that we all have for him. But I learned towards the end of the season is to give him space, to give him time. Let him understand his surroundings. Know that he's 18 years old, he's 19 years old. He's being asked to be like a 25-year-old and that's tough for any kid to deal with. And playing along side of me, the crowds and the expectations, it was very tough for him. But I see a dramatic improvement in just a short time in the offseason and I think we'll continue to ask him to continue to improve and enjoy it. You can have a passion for the game.
Ramsay: These camps that you run during the summer time, you seem to get great enjoyment out of that. You have this camp here in Las Vegas for the 35-and-older group, and a smile comes over your face as soon as I mention this group. Then you have two other camps in California that you use for the smaller guys. You really enjoy that kind of rapport with the campers, don't you?
Jordan: Yeah, I enjoy passing on the knowledge or the message that I have about the game. The kids are for tomorrow. The seniors are to understand what they have seen. A ot of those guys have watched me play and not really understand my philosphy or my thought process about playing. So the senior camp is to let them hear it from a lot of great coaches that are there teaching, yourself included, and to hear from me and know that there's a connection between the two. I've heard a lot of the things our coaches have talked about and I've used it to better myself. And even with the kids, I want them to have a better understanding of what it's going to take for them to excel as basketball players. So yes, I consider myself a teacher. I want the kids to understand that I do that even with my kids -- where my kids are getting old enough to where now I'm giving them more information and they're hopefully going to utilize it to be whatever they choose to be. Whether (it's a) basketball player, football player or a person in life. So, I mean, yes, you see a lot of teaching from me and I enjoy that part.
Ramsay: You do a lot of things that don't get to the public with the funds that you derive from these camps. You do charitable work. Tell us some of those things.
Jordan: Well, obviously, I mean, you want to help as many as possible. We have established the Jordan fundamentals through the brand. My wife and I have an endowment where we give privately to children's charities, schools, things of that nature where they may need it. Obviously, I don't want to talk about all the private giving that I may give to people who may be not as fortunate as myself. But for a person like myself, I try to touch as many as possible. And some people think it's not enough, but that's their opinion. But as long as I get some gratification out of it, those are the things that I feel the most fun for me, and I don't do these camps for my well-being or for the financial aspect of things. I do it because I feel it's a way to give back. It's a way to inform and teach, but at the same time a lot of that money -- we try to give back to the community. And even with the senior camp, I think we have sponsored some kids. Some guys, I call them kids but some guys who are not financially able to come to these types of camps, and so they get the same experience. And we work through the community to find these people. Last year, we had five and as we get older and grow we will continue to do that even greater. But even that goes with our small camp with our kids. We try to get as many sponsors and try to get kids to come in and get that experience even if they can't afford it. So I mean, those are things I try to do that I really feel comfortable and feel good about. Obviously everyone would love to see more and more but I feel comfortable with my contribution to the community and I will continue to do that. Not for the publicity of it but for the gratification that I get from it.
Ramsay: You mentioned a while back about one of your boys -- teaching him. You have a 14-year-olold who's pretty good, huh?
Jordan: He loves the game. He's shown a passion for the game. My wife and I have had some conversations that I will not teach unless I see a certain passion for the game. Let them be kids and if they love anything if you have information that you can pass on, then that's the chance you can pass it on once they have the passion. But I don't want to feel like I'm pushing my kids towards basketball or football or any kind of sports. I want them to just experience as much as they can and then let them make their own choice. But my oldest has taken on the game. (He) has a passion for the game. He's always with the ball. He's always working on his game. My middle kid, he dabbles in everything. He's a very versatile kid and my daughter is -- she's just running the house so she can definitely do anything she wants -- but I am getting a great passion, my wife and I (are) getting a great passion (to) see our kids starting to choose directions in terms of where they want to go.
Ramsay: You have a long history of athletic excellence. ESPN is now approaching it's 25,000th SportsCenter. My random guess would be that you occupy more SportsCenter footage than any other athlete over those years. From '79 to the present, I don't think anybody has been a feature of SportsCenter as much as you.
Jordan: Well, I mean, as much as they've been very helpful to me, I like to think that my colorful play has been a big help to them in terms of illustrating what SportsCenter was all about -- which is to show the highlights and the fun parts about sports. I came out of high school in '81 and I didn't really start to watch it until '82, '83 and from that point on, who's not a SportsCenter fan? And to see that it's been 25,000 shows and you've been there a long, large part of that and you've been on that a certain number of times is truly gratifying. It's a privilege always. I wish them the best. Hopefully, they can get another 25,000. I don't know if i'll be on a majority of those next 25,000, but it's been fun. Every chance I've been on it.
Ramsay: Even now, I see promos of upcoming SportsCenters or just just flashes ... (It) still shows you making the winning shot for UNC in the championship game, still shows you with Craig Ehlo jumping over from the left wing and knocking down the game-winner. I remember doing a game (betwteen) the Bulls and Lakers where you drove the basket in a critical game that might have been your fourth win. You go to the basket. You go up. Sam Perkins comes over and you change hands and spin it off the glass.
Jordan: I mean, you say exactly what I've felt. They have been there for every highlight that I've shown in the game of basketball. And I've seen a lot of the classic channels and all the reruns of all the games and I think that it's hard to pay attention to sports and not involve SportsCenter. So I am a fan just like a lot of people. And they've gone to the extreme of trying to show every aspect of sports. To the enjoyment of the sports fan, if it's from baseball to boxing to whatever -- and believe me, I need that -- I think to some degree we all need it to motivate ourselves each and everyday.
Ramsay: You seem very much at peace -- calm with where you are right now. Your family seems to be very important to you. It seems to have come together for you. And basketball has been a big part of that.
Jordan: It's a common denominator for a lot of things that have happened to me. Without basketball, obviously, I couldn't be here talking to you. So my family, I probably wouldn't have met or had kids or whatever, so I mean, basketball has been that common denominator to me and I think it will always be that because of the passion I have for the game. Yes, I'm at peace with my direction with where I am in life. I've accomplished a lot. I don't feel like I have a lot of things to prove. Obviously, I still feel challenged with the game of basketball and with some of the decisions. I can stop today or die today and feel peace with what I've achieved and the people I've met and the contacts I've made and the experiences that I've been taught and the education that have come with that road. I couldn't be, I couldn't have learned this in no college, no university. So I've been truly privileged and among some of the great people that I've met. I've enjoyed that moment. I don't think anyone could've enjoyed what I've enjoyed thus far.
Ramsay: If you were to stop playing basketball, what dimensions would your life take on? At some point, you're going to have to stop playing.
Jordan: Sure, I realize that. At some ... some influence position to the game of basketball. Either through management or even through my kids or coaching, I don't know. I've said that I'll never coach but I said that I'll never come back either (smiling), so I mean I feel an obligation to pass on the knowledge that was given to me -- be it on the basketball court, be it in the front office or be it with my kids. So, somehow, I'm going to be connected to basketball and I'm happy with that. I feel like I've earned that right.
Ramsay: Big thing for you is for the Wizards to be a contending team?
Jordan: Sure. And that's the biggest motivation with me on the court or not on the court. I've given my word to the organization in Washington to get it back to prominence and contention and hopefully to a championship and most of my energy all of my energy will go towards that.