Michael Jordan's emotional speech at his Hall of Fame enshrinement in 2009 led to the NBA legend openly shedding tears in public. This was the origin of the now infamous Crying Jordan meme which is so often utilized on social media when mishaps happen publicly. However, according to former NBA player Sam Perkins, the original Crying Jordan meme happened during the 1984 Summer Olympics.
That Olympic team was made up of standout college players and were coached by then-Indiana University coach Bobby Knight, who Perkins alleges made Jordan cry. Knight's temper is world-renowned and according to Perkins, the fiery coach just lit into Jordan after a win over Germany, causing the future NBA superstar to break down into tears.
From Perkins' interview on SiriusXM NBA Radio:
"Bobby Knight, he got after us. He told Michael that's the worst he ever played. Now Michael's going to deny this, but he cried. He cried after the game, because of the fact that Bobby Knight told him, 'You should apologize to everybody in here.' I waited for my apology because I thought he was going to actually do it. But he actually cried."
"We didn't play that bad. It's the fact that [Knight] just wanted us to wake up for the next game because anything could happen," Perkins said. "That's the way Bobby Knight coached."
Knight was just ruthless as a coach, using every opportunity to belittle his players, so this story is likely true. Plus, Jordan was just 21 years old at the time and his relative youthfulness probably contributed to his tears. Jordan didn't play up to par against Germany as well, as he had six of Team USA's 14 turnovers so perhaps Knight's tear-inducing criticism was somewhat warranted. But ever the true competitor, Knight's choice words did actually inspire Jordan.
Jordan took better care of the ball in Team USA's next two games, turning it over just once in each contest. And then Jordan responded in a big way in the gold medal game, scoring 20 points to lead all players and helping Team USA defeat Spain.
He may have cried because of Knight but in the end, Jordan and Team USA won gold, which is worth a lot more than a few tears and internet memes.