'Lines, weed and women': Michael Jordan was SCARED by the sleazy 'cocaine circus' he discovered as a rising star at Chicago Bulls
Jordan’s new team had finished second-bottom of the Eastern Conference the previous term in a largely unsuccessful season for a squad later described as a "travelling cocaine circus" by author Sam Smith in his incendiary 1992 book about the Bulls.
The third pick in the 1984 NBA draft described Smith’s tales as works of fiction but has painted a decadent picture of the sex-and-drugs fuelled scene he encountered when he was hushed into a hotel room in Peoria as an unsuspecting 21-year-old, admitting that he was seeing some of the activities taking place beyond the door for the first time in his life.
“It’s in a hotel, so I’m trying to find my teammates,” Jordan told hit sports documentary The Last Dance, a new miniseries revealing the stories behind the Bull’s last NBA Championships title.
“So I start knocking on doors and I get to this one door and...I could hear someone say, ‘Shh, shh, shh, someone’s outside.’
“And then you hear this deep voice say, ‘Who is it?’ I say, ‘MJ’, and then they all say, ‘Ah f*ck, he’s just a rookie, don’t worry about it’.
“So they open up the door, I walk in and practically the whole team was in there. It was things I’d never seen in my life as a young kid.
“You got your lines over here, you got your weed smokers over here and you got your women over here.
“So the first thing I said was, ‘Look, man, I’m out’, because all I can think about is if they come and raid this place right about now, I am just as guilty as everybody else in this room. And from that point on, I was more or less on my own.”
An instant star, Jordan revitalized the Bulls, earned an All-Star place and won Rookie of the Year in a first season when he hit a game-winner with 22 seconds left in the third instalment of a failed playoff tetralogy against Milwaukee Bucks.
“I don’t smoke, I don’t do lines,” said Jordan. “I didn’t drink at the time. I wouldn’t go into the clubs.
"I enjoyed just hanging out, playing cards, watching movies. I was looking just to get some rest, get up and go play.”
The talisman's clean-living approach couldn't prevent disaster striking early in his second season, breaking his foot in the third game and only returning for the playoffs, when he set a record by scoring 63 points in the second game of a season finale exit to Boston Celtics.
He talked the Bulls into letting him return to college while he was injured, surreptitiously resuming gym and, eventually, court sessions before his physical condition aroused the suspicion of club doctors.
Warned that he had a 10 percent chance of re-aggravating his injury and potentially threatening his career, owner Jerry Reinsdorf gave Jordan the stark comparison of a bottle of 10 headache tablets containing one fatal pill.
“Depends on how f*cking bad the headache is’,” Jordan remembers replying, coming back to make the All-Star Game for the second of 14 occasions during his career, including winning Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the showcase match in 1988, 1996 and 1998.Also on rt.com Hold the ball: NBA's Adam Silver says no decision will be made on season return until at least May
Jordan also won the overall NBA MVP as early as 1988, but it took until 1991 for the Bulls to reach their peak, winning the Championships alongside Conference and Division titles for three successive seasons – a feat they repeated between 1996 and 1998.
That final glorious season is nostalgically viewed as a line in history by many fans, making The Last Dance, which has been brought forward by two months on Netflix and ESPN while the NBA season is suspended, hugely popular.
Jordan is donating his proceeds from the program – expected to total as much as $4 million – to charitable causes.