Michael Jordan has spoken at great length about the loss of his father, James Jordan, who was murdered in 1993. It contributed to his decision to retire from the NBA and play baseball, and even after he returned, his father's memory lingered over his pursuit of a fourth championship in 1996, with the series-clinching Game 6 of those NBA Finals being played on Father's Day.
But rarely discussed is the impact Jordan's father had on his own teammates. So revered within the Bulls organization was James Jordan that Will Perdue, in an appearance on CBS Sports HQ, claimed that many Bulls had better relationships with him than His Airness himself ( ).
"Michael had his guys. After games, he went his direction. When I was there for the first three championships, Bill Cartwright was older, Jon Paxson was older, guys had families. Honestly, the team wasn't like really tight in Chicago. Now on the road, we did stuff together because that was your family on the road, but at home, guys went in 14 different directions and then you saw them the next day at practice. So it was more like a business relationship, like Scottie talked about. It wasn't really tight knit as far as families doing stuff together all the time, it was about business, and when we crossed that line and stepped on the floor, we knew why were there.
As far as M.J.'s dad, he was the nicest person. You'd be so surprised ... his dad was always around the practice facility. As soon as practice was over, Michael would be gone, but his dad would drive separately, and his dad would stay behind and hang out with us. I remember numerous occasions when we were at the Berto Center, the practice facility, him and I would just sit down and have conversations about anything and everything.
If you were there shooting late, he might come out and rebound for you, he might come out and just start talking to you when you're shooting free throws, walk with you as you walk off of the floor. He might come in the locker room, he had the run of the joint. He was so genuine, he was such a gentlemen. Quite honestly, a lot of the players had stronger and better relationships with him than they had with Michael, and a lot of it was that he made himself more available than Michael did."
In light of Jordan's fame and myriad commitments, it makes sense. Jordan, by nature of being perhaps the biggest celebrity in the world at the time, was not particularly approachable, but his father was far more available. If anything, it seems as if he was content to enjoy his son's success as a player in ways that Jordan himself, so consumed by winning and all that came with it, likely could not.
It adds another layer of tragedy to his untimely death. Not only did it devastate Michael and his family, but it deprived his Bulls teammates of a familiar presence, a friend, and a link to a teammate that they might not be able to fully get to know on their own.