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Michael Jordan and ESPN personality Rachel Nichols have a history together. It all started back when the NBA Hall of Famer was right in the middle of writing his legendary legacy, and the new cub reporter came on the scene in Chicago in the 1990s. 

From those early days, the two visited countless times in a variety of settings and cities, including Washington D.C. and Charlotte. In an appearance on the All the Smoke podcast, Nichols revealed the content from one of her conversations with His Airness and how he bluntly admitted why he rarely does interviews anymore.

Michael Jordan calls out Rachel Nichols

Long before Rachel Nichols became the well-known ESPN personality, she worked as a freelance newspaper reporter in Chicago while attending journalism school at Northwestern University in the early 1990s. At that same time, Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were in the midst of producing their first of two three-peats. 

When the young Nichols started attending Bulls practices, the plan was to lay low and blend in with the rest of the media and produce stories based on the other reporters’ questions. That all changed one day when Jordan called her out.

“I would go down to the Berto Center in suburban Chicago, go to practice, and just stand there as, frankly, a 19-year-old girl way out of my element, with my little tape recorder in this clump of people interviewing Michael Jordan,” Nichols told Paul Pierce and Kendrick Perkins on an episode of The Jump. “I was terrified to ask him a question back then until maybe the fourth or fifth time I was there and he called me out and said, ‘Are you a mute? Do you not speak? What’s going on?’ I took a deep breath and asked him a question. He paused for maybe 30 seconds before he answered my question.”

Interview changed course of Nichols’ career 

Rachel Nichols of ESPN stands on court
ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols stands on the court before a game between the Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks. | Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

While Nichols was understandably uncomfortable with Jordan calling her out in front of all the other reporters, she said that awkward exchange turned out to be beneficial for her career. 

“Some of the veteran reporters in the room would later tell me, he was deciding, kind of, in that moment, is this someone I’m going to give a hard time to or not. But he didn’t. He answered the question.”

Nichols said she believes that single decision by Jordan to answer her question changed the course of her career.

“I think from then on, because he sort of regularly talked to me, the other players were like, OK, we can talk to her, too. It made a big difference early in my career, and it was a lot of fun later when I worked in D.C. and he played for the Wizards as well. Those 30 seconds might have been the longest 30 seconds in my life.” 

Jordan gets blunt and explains why he rarely does interviews anymore

In a recent appearance on the All the Smoke podcast with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, Nichols recounted several of her Jordan stories, including the time he called her out. When Jackson asked Nichols the one guest she would like to see on their podcast, she suggested Jordan. She immediately qualified her remark and acknowledged how difficult it would be to pull off based on a conversation she had with Jordan years ago.

“I remember being in Charlotte for something when he had just started his ownership stint there. I was sitting in his office and we were just kind of shooting the s*** and just talking about old stuff and at the end of if, I’m like, ‘Michael, why don’t you come downstairs and come be on with us?’ And he just looks at me and goes, ‘I don’t do that anymore because I don’t have to.”

Nichols’ relationship with Jordan clearly made huge strides from those early days in Chicago. But even with so much progress, she still isn’t getting an interview.

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