Michael Jordan said he hoped not to be offered a Dream Team Olympic roster spot.
“I was trying to figure out a way, graciously, that I could decline,” Jordan said in the 2012 NBA TV documentary on the legendary 1992 Barcelona Olympic men’s basketball team.
Jordan said he “had done the Olympic thing before.” True. He starred on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team that took gold in Los Angeles, back when college players made up the roster.
Sam Smith, in his 1992 book “The Jordan Rules,” relayed that Scottie Pippen asked Jordan before a March 1991 Chicago Bulls game if he wanted to participate in the 1992 Olympics. Jordan’s response: “Why would I?”
Jordan noted the exhaustion of playing a whole NBA season and playoffs, followed by pre-Olympic contests and the Games themselves. And that his 1984 Olympic coach, the stern Bobby Knight, made it a less enjoyable experience.
“The one guy that we were a little bit concerned about was probably Michael,” said Rod Thorn, a member of the USA Basketball 1992 Olympic selection committee who, as the Chicago Bulls general manager in 1984, drafted Jordan.
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Come summer 1991, Thorn extended the Olympic invitation.
“When Rod Thorn called me and asked me, I wasn’t gung-ho about it,” Jordan said nearly two decades later.
Thorn appealed: You’re the world’s best player. This is bigger than the NBA Finals. We need you.
“[Jordan’s] thing — well, who else is playing?” Thorn said in the NBA TV documentary. “Are all the good players going to play? I’m not going to play by myself.”
The next call went to Magic Johnson, who was all-in. Dominoes followed.
When the NBC Selection Show came up Sept. 21, 1991, Jordan was dressed finely, sitting between Johnson, who revealed Jordan’s inclusion, and Marv Albert.
Albert’s first question to Jordan was why he changed his mind after he originally indicated he would not play.
“My instruction to Rod Thorn when he first invited me that I was going to keep it low key and let this show happen, so I played it like it never was going to happen,” Jordan said. “I knew all along that I was going to play. I had you guys fooled.”
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