Michael Jordan Always Learned for Himself Rather Than Turning to Larry Bird or Magic Johnson for Advice

Before Michael Jordan dominated the NBA, his predecessors Magic Johnson and Larry Bird defined the league. The intense rivalry between Johnson and Bird made them the faces of the game that lifted the NBA to tremendous heights it hadn’t previously reached.

The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics became the two stalwart franchises that championship success went through in the 1980s. Despite that, Jordan never felt the urge to take advice from Johnson and Bird but instead chose to learn from a distance.

Magic Johnson and Larry Bird set the tone

Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan defends Los Angeles Lakers point guard Magic Johnson.
Michael Jordan guards Magic Johnson. | Lori Shepler/The LA Times

Jordan entered the NBA in 1984, but his time for championship success took seven years.

Before reaching that mountaintop, he watched Magic Johnson and Larry Bird dominate the 1980s. The two Hall of Famers combined to win eight NBA titles in 13 Finals appearances in the decade. They also won five Finals MVP awards, garnered six regular-season MVPs, collected 24 All-Star Game selections, and earned 18 All-NBA First Team nods.

Johnson and Bird defined the NBA while lifting it from a potentially crushing fate. They serve as the linchpins that pushed the league to what it has become. Even with all that, Jordan never felt the urge to seek advice from them.

Michael Jordan always learned for himself rather than turning to Larry Bird or Magic Johnson for advice

Jordan’s rise to stardom came through his hard work and unmatched dedication to his craft.

The former Bulls star garnered respect and mutual admiration from his peers, but that didn’t push him to gather advice from them. During a recent episode of The Ringer’s Icons Club podcast with Jackie MacMullan, she played an old audio clip of Jordan where he voiced that he didn’t seek any tutelage from Magic Johnson or Larry Bird.

“I’m laughing at you now. No. I never called them,” Jordan said. “I learned from afar. I understood what they obtained in their careers and their personalities and the way they played. And I wanted to emulate them in terms of the way they were respected throughout the league and the way they started winning championships. They became a goal for me so I didn’t get on the phone (and say) ‘Hey Magic, what do you think about this?’ Or ‘Bird, what do you think about this?’. No, I didn’t do that. I knew, if I was going to obtain it, I had to learn it myself.”

Although Johnson and Bird dominated the 1980s behind their sustained success, it didn’t push Jordan to receive advice. Instead, he chose the stiffer challenge of learning from afar, likely creating strong motivation to reach the mountaintop.

Jordan’s mental makeup isn’t like any other star, as he felt he could accomplish any goal behind his pure will and determination. He eventually reached that championship success and surpassed both Johnson and Bird. More than anything, these comments further cement the unrelenting will he had to do things his way.

Michael Jordan and the Bulls dominated the 1990s

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson had their time to shine in the 1980s, Jordan took over in the 1990s.

The Bulls star set the tone with his utter dominance over much of the decade, behind leading the franchise to a pair of three-peat of championships. Although Jordan retired in the middle of his career-defining stretch, it didn’t stop him from putting his fingerprints all over the decade.

In the 1990s, he earned six NBA titles, won six Finals MVP awards, garnered four regular-season MVPs, collected seven All-Star Game selections, and picked up seven All-NBA NBA First Team nods. Jordan repeatedly rose to the occasion as the driving force that pushed Chicago to tremendous heights while cementing himself as arguably the greatest player in league history.

Above all that, Jordan has become the bar that the generations of NBA players after him aspired to reach. He’s become the inspiration that so many who followed his time used to push them forward. He’s left an everlasting impact on the game that will forever remain.

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