It is perfectly OK to have a differing opinion about Michael Jordan’s place in basketball history. But it comes off as weak when you flip flop on that opinion. John Sally has done a flip flop of spectacular proportions.
In 1996, on an NBC pre-game show, he said he called his mother and told her, “I just saw the greatest basketball player ever.” This was after Jordan laced up some canvas shoes and dunked on him while saying “block this, big boy.”
Salley’s mom told her son: “You’re just realizing that?”
Fast forward to now. Now, Salley, who rode Jordan’s back for a championship in ’96 with the Chicago Bulls, is giving an entirely new opinion, one that – by his words – leaves Jordan behind a few players. This sis the same Salley who battled against and with Jordan at the height of his greatness.
And yet, on ESPN radio, Salley acted as if Jordan was some regular player.
“I love Michael,” Salley started. “I’m a Michael Jordan fan just like everyone else. I just don’t think he’s the greatest player ever.”
Really? OK, who then, Mr. Salley?
“I think the greatest player I’ve ever played against was Magic Johnson,” he said.
Fair enough. Johnson revolutionized the game as a 6-foor-9 point guard, won championships and made everyone around him better in the process.
So, surely Jordan is Salley’s No. 2 best player, right?
“Next, was Larry Bird,” he said.
And it didn’t stop there.
“Then, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,” Salley said.
“The hardest guy I had to guard,” he continued, “Hakeem Olajuwon. No one can guard Hakeem.”
After The Dream?
“And then, Kevin McHale,” Sally said.
Again, Salley was on the Bulls team that won the ’96 championship, when Jordan crafted some of his most legendary feats. And yet, Salley said, “Isiah Thomas was the best player I ever played with. At 6-foot-1, scoring 41 points on one ankle. Should have been on Dream Team 1.”
No, you’re not dreaming. He really said that. And then he said this:
“In 1981, when I went down to visit Georgia Tech, I watched Michael Jordan play and literally get ridiculed for taking a jump shot in the championship game that went off the backboard and they won. People are forgetting that Michael was just one of the players when they went to the Dream Team. It was Clyde Drexler, it was Magic Johnson… these were good players. But he wasn’t the best. I watched Joe Dumars and Dennis Rodman push him left and him shoot 32 times. We weren’t worried about him. We knew if we pushed him left and he picked the ball up, he couldn’t pass it.”
No word on whether Salley passed a sobriety test before the interview.