Michael Jordan has never lacked confidence in his ability, especially on the basketball court, which anchored his legendary NBA career. Jordan‘s unwavering belief followed him into retirement as he once voiced he could beat his Charlotte Hornets players in 1-on-1 games. It didn’t take long for fellow Hall of Famer Larry Bird to blast him for his strong stance.
Michael Jordan believed he could beat players on his Hornets team
After Jordan stepped into retirement for the final time in 2003, he’s remained close to the game of basketball.
Albeit in an ownership realm, his proximity to the NBA continues to fuel his passion. Even as he ages, his confidence in his ability hasn’t waned. During an interview in 2015 with L’Equipe, a French sports publication, he stated that he could beat players on the Hornets roster despite being 52 years old.
“I’m pretty sure I can,” Jordan said via Business Insider.
The Hornet team in 2015 featured Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Courtney Lee, Cody Zeller, and Jeremy Lamb. Jordan lacks zero confidence in his ability, but he didn’t want to venture that route because he didn’t want to ruin his players’ confidence level.
“I don’t want to do that and demolish their confidence,” Jordan said. “So I stay away from them. I let them think they’re good.”
Jordan also quickly quipped that he is “too old” to go that route of playing 1-on-1 against any NBA players, let alone his team’s roster. His comments didn’t weren’t surprising as he played against Kidd-Gilchrist in 2013, which featured the 50-year-old getting the edge.
“It was hard for me … I lost,” Kidd-Gilchrist said via Bleacher Report. “I lost to a 50-year-old guy. That’s my boss, though. He’s the best player to play the game.”
All that aside, it didn’t take long for Jordan to get publicly blasted for the strong comments that included a fellow Hall of Famer lambasting him.
Larry Bird once scoffed at Michael Jordan claiming he could beat players on his Hornets team: ‘Got to let that stuff go’
Jordan wasn’t the only former all-time great to remain heavily around the league as Larry Bird served as the Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations for several years.
During an interview with the Dan Patrick Show in July 2015, Bird playfully jabbed at Jordan’s firm stance.
“Now?” Bird laughed. “Oh, gee come on. He can believe whatever he wants…I don’t know he can do that or not, he’d have to prove that to me. Man, these people got to let this stuff go man.”
Bird went on to compare it to Patrick claiming he could beat him 1-on-1. The Hall of Famer’s comments come without true harshness but provide a dose of reality to Jordan. There is no doubting that Jordan is a phenomenal athlete, but his time as a basketball player has passed him.
The passion will always be there, but his body isn’t what it once was, especially now that he’s in his 50s. Bird also acknowledged he could play a pickup game but voiced that his body would not respond well. It’s not shot at Jordan, but instead, sending a friendly reminder that Father Time is undefeated.
Larry Bird holds strong mutual respect toward Michael Jordan
Beyond the chatter, Bird and Jordan share tremendous respect and admiration toward each other.
The two all-time greats have an enduring bond fueled by their passion for the game. Bird’s NBA career timeline differed from Jordan’s, but he possessed the edge over the Chicago Bulls great, sending him to a pair of playoff exits. The six-time NBA champion never garnered the satisfaction of eliminating Boston in the postseason.
Nonetheless, it only further built their strong connection.