AIR047: David Bridgers – Michael Jordan’s childhood friend | Podcast

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David Bridgers

L to R: David Bridgers, Michael Jordan & Derek Betts | Copyright © Sports Illustrated

Michael Jordan’s lifelong friend and confidant, David Bridgers.

A unique episode. Ross Franco is a North Carolinian friend of mine. We connected, through my podcast – one of the many great outcomes I’ve experienced, since creating the show. Ross is a great friend of David Bridgers. Ross and I have previously discussed the possibility of inviting David on the podcast, as a guest. When the opportunity presented itself, we were both very pleased. The three of us had a great chat.

Prior to speaking with Ross and David, I wasn’t sure if our conversation would necessarily make for an interesting podcast episode. However, five minutes into proceedings, that all changed. This is simply three guys, talking all-things Michael Jordan, from a perspective you’d be very hard-pressed to top. You’ll learn the origins of Bridgers’ relationship with Jordan. The two first met, at just seven years of age! We cover David’s enduring friendship with Michael and his experiences with the Jordan family, plus, David’s close bond with Ross.

Ross tried his best to not be involved in this audio recording. He suggested that David should speak solely with me. From my point of view, that was never going to happen. Thanks again Ross, for making this conversation possible. I hope you – the listener – enjoy it.

 

Links to topics discussed (photos will be added):

SI Vault: The Unlikeliest Homeboy

In all Airness: Brush with Greatness – Michael Jordan

Ross Franco online: Twitter

 

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Video: Michael Jordan playing 9 Hoops II and 9 Hoops Hide – Japanese TV

Just when you thought you’d seen it all. This video clip is incredible, strange and captivating. It was most-likely recorded in 1999; Michael Jordan is listed as 36 years old.

In January of 2000, he became a part-owner of the Washington Wizards and was named President of Basketball Operations. Jordan ultimately sold his ownership stake, so that the team could sign him as a free agent in September, 2001 – clearing the way for his return to the NBA, as a player.

In the above-clip, Jordan’s credentials (to date) are listed on-screen, along with a montage of career highlights. We see a plane landing and are shown signage of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Though I don’t speak a word of Japanese, an incredibly-excitable commentator, lends his talents to proceedings. I assume this program was made for Japanese TV and filmed in L.A? Please correct me if I’m wrong.

Jordan is playing a game called 9 Hoops II & 9 Hoops Hide. At first glance, it seems the challenge has been designed by an evil basketball-genius. A competitor has 12 attempts to make nine baskets. At the 9 Hoops II-end of the court, Jordan is confronted by 9 separate basketball hoops – a majority are moving targets; horizontally or vertically. At the 9 Hoops Hide-end of the court, a more devious setup awaits. Three rows of three hoops, strategically-staggered at wildly-varied heights.

The contest is a variation of 9 Hoops; a game that Michael Jordan played – with Charles Barkley, as flashback footage shows – in September of 1996 (part of the Nike Hoop Heroes Tour).

My initial thought was that MJ was simply going through the motions – making his sponsors happy and appeasing those involved. However, as the contest progresses, Jordan is increasingly-challenged to make a wide-array of difficult shots. As he builds towards his final shot on the last hoop, Jordan is dialed-in like he’s back on the Delta Center floor in Utah, for Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals. His competitive juices are flowing and his reaction to making the final basket, rivals that of his game-winning buzzer-beaters!

Having watched this amazing clip, there’s little wonder why Jordan chose to return to the NBA, in late-2001 – his immense desire to compete was far from satiated. You could argue, it still isn’t.

 

AIR046: Rick Barry – One of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History | Podcast

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RickBarry

One of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, Rick Barry.

Rick discusses his first sporting love of baseball – he talks fondly of his hero – the reason behind his choice to wear the iconic jersey number 24. Incredibly, as a high-school senior, Rick almost gave up on his future Hall of Fame career, due in large-part to his then-coach.

We chat about the origins of his unique, underhanded free-throw shooting technique and its impact on his overall game. Rick talks about his passion for basketball and his immense desire to win. We talk about his outstanding college career at the University of Miami and how it prepared him to make an instant impact at the next level. We discuss the 1965 NBA Draft, where Rick was one of 10 future All-Stars selected.

We cover Rick’s NBA Rookie of the Year triumph, playing against Wilt Chamberlain in the 1967 NBA Finals and Barry’s decision to join the fledgling ABA (he won the 1969 ABA Championship) for its inaugural season. Rick talks candidly about being forced to sit out the entire 1968 season, when he was arguably in the prime of his career. We chat about his All-Star Game memories (eight in the NBA, four in the ABA) and his 1975 NBA Championship glory.

We talk about Rick’s last two NBA seasons in Houston and how injury prematurely halted his career; interestingly, an NBA rule-change possibly denied Rick’s plan to join the Boston Celtics or Los Angeles Lakers.

Rick discusses his Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement, his foray into coaching (1990s) and the opportunities missed at NBA level. We round out the conversation, learning about Rick’s current-day interests, including a love of fly fishing and his business pursuits.

We run the gamut of discussion topics that shed light on the competitive nature of a true basketball great.

 

Links to topics discussed:

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference | Profile

1967: “Super Soph”Rick leaves NBA

1975: NBA Finals - Game 3 | NBA Finals recap

Circa-1976: Rick Barry & Red Auerbach

1987: Basketball Hall of Fame (profile)

2011: ABA Round-table | 2014: The Charity Stripe

Rick Barry online: Website | Ektio

Courtside Jones: Rick Barry from courtsidejones.com on Vimeo.

 

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Kendall Gill: Illinois great, All-American and NBA star | Interview

Illinois Fighting Illini great, All-American and NBA star, Kendall Gill.

Due to audio issues, our initial recording of Kendall’s podcast episode failed. Here is the transcribed interview of that conversation – featuring discussion topics that didn’t make it into the re-recorded episode. Thanks again Kendall for your great generosity.

 

Podcast: In all Airness – Jordan-era | NBA History

Guest: Kendall Gill | Record date: Jan 28, 2014 | Key: A = Adam / K =Kendall

 

A: Kendall Gill, thanks for joining me.

K: No problem. It’s a pleasure to be heard Down Under in Australia.

A: Have you ever been to Australia before?

K: Never been to Australia before – but someday, I plan on making it.

A: How do you compare the in-arena atmosphere of college basketball, to the support your Charlotte Hornets received in the NBA?

K: It was a little bit different, because an important thing to remember about the Illini players – each and every one of those players; even the walk-ons – was from the state of Illinois. All of us were home grown. It was special.

When I go to North Carolina and play for the Charlotte Hornets, it was great as well, because of the 22,000 fans they had there every night – they were basketball crazy. At that time, the Hornets were the only show in town. It seemed like a college atmosphere, but it was a little different playing pro basketball to college basketball, because players can get traded and you don’t get to form the special relationships as a pro player, that you can as a college player. The fan support was awesome in Charlotte.

A: How was it, playing with a unique team mate like Muggsy Bogues?

K: Well, with Muggsy, it was great playing with him, because he was a point guard that could deliver the basketball to you. That was his first priority. In today’s day and age, you have guys that shoot first. Muggsy was not at all like that – he pushed the basketball up the court. If you ran, he would give you the basketball. Defensively, people didn’t want to dribble the basketball up against Muggsy Bogues.

If you remember Rod Strickland, who is one of the great point guards – most underrated point guards that has ever played in the NBA – bringing the ball up against Muggsy, he never wanted to do that. He always passed the ball off to the two-guard and let him bring it up. That lets you know that even though Muggsy was 5’3”, he could change the game at any time.

A: True. Rod Strickland had great handle of the ball, so it’s a testament to how good Muggsy was. It must have been quite jarring to see someone of his (Bogues) stature, compete and be so good at NBA level, where players are much taller. Can you talk about his competitiveness?

K: Absolutely. He’s a big-time competitor and confident. Totally confident. Even though he was small, he used his speed to his advantage. He had a great ability to cause disruption on the defensive end. These are his strengths. We know he wasn’t the greatest scorer – he was great at other things and that is what he kept him in the league for so long.

A: Most listeners will know, as we record this chat, the Charlotte Bobcats will soon revert back to being named the Charlotte Hornets. As one of the Hornets’ best players in their franchise history, what’s your opinion of their name change?

K: I think it’s great. I think the fans were so hurt when the franchise left for New Orleans, that when the NBA brought them back, it still wasn’t the same – they were the Bobcats. I think the city identifies with the colors of purple and teal. They identify that with the Hornets name. Now, it seems like the real girlfriend is back (laughs) – so to speak.

I think the city will embrace it and with the name change, there will be more pride instilled in the franchise. Michael Jordan and Fred Whitfield and all those guys understand that. That’s why they wanted to bring the name-change back. It is going to be great for the franchise.

A: [Mutombo’s Nuggets defeated Gill’s Sonics: 1994 NBA Playoffs] After losing Game 5 and returning to the locker room, what happened behind closed doors?

K: Well, it was like a morgue. It was completely silent and like a train hit us. We didn’t know what happened. I don’t know if you saw, but I’m a big boxing fan. Manny Pacquiao fought Juan Manuel Marquez; in a fight in which he got knocked out. Manny was winning the fight and then, all of sudden – boom – one punch…he’s out. Exactly the feeling we had when we lost to the Denver Nuggets.

A: At what point in your career, did you increase your physical conditioning, with boxing and aerobic-type exercises?

K: About my 10th year in the league, I started to do mixed-martial arts – things you’d see on the UFC. I did that for extra conditioning in the summer time – being a 10th year player, you need something else to take it to another level, to keep you ahead of the younger players and that’s why I did it. My first love was always boxing. I used to box when I was a kid. I went back to my first love. I had four professional fights – I may have another one – I’m not sure right now. I’m trying to work out the details. However, that is my passion and I do it every day.

A: I know that recently you set a goal to get back to your ideal NBA game-shape. The physical conditioning that you’re talking about – is this one of the driving forces behind that decision?

K: It is. My brothers actually bet me that I couldn’t get into that type of shape again. At Christmas, at my parents’ house, my brothers actually bet me that I couldn’t do it. I said, ‘OK’. It’s a challenge – I always look for challenges – I’m going to do it. I’ve already been in a month of training and I’ve got about a month and a half to go. We’ll see. I’m half way there (laughs).

A: Who did you get amped up for and look forward to playing, when you read your NBA schedule?

K: Well, I’ll tell you what. I used to get amped up to play against Drazen Petrovic. He always brought the best out in me. He and I had some terrific battles. I loved playing against Michael, because…one thing, Michael had the Mike Tyson effect. He had the other guys beat before they even got to the arena. They were afraid of him, you know. That never worked on me. I was never afraid and I relished playing against him – even though he was the greatest to ever play the game. I’m not going to stop him; but, I’m going to make it hard for him. I made it very hard for him to score, but, he still scored. He also had the best offense – the Triangle.

You know, we can go back to Kobe Bryant and how great he was. Shaquille O’Neal. Scottie Pippen. Another guy I loved playing against, even though I didn’t guard him – Hakeem Olajuwon. I think he was the second best player I’ve ever played against. Players like that…you know, Glen Rice and I had a lot battles. Also, Grant Hill. A lot of people don’t know; had Grant Hill never been injured, we’d be talking about one of the greatest players to ever play this game. He was one of the most difficult guys to cover as well.

 

Links to topics discussed:

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference | Profile

NCAA: Retrospective | Flyin’ Illini1989: Elite Eight

NBA: Draft | Dunk Contest | Highlights | Nuggets v Sonics | Kendall v MJ

Boxing: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Fight Night

Kendall Gill online: Twitter | Instagram | The Backcourt Online

 

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AIR045: Jeff Ruland – HS All-American, NCAA great and NBA All-Star | Podcast

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Copyright © Jeff Ruland

Copyright © Jeff Ruland

High School All-American, NCAA great and NBA All-Star, Jeff Ruland.

Jeff discusses his early sporting life and the major growth-spurt that coincided with his decision to focus on basketball. He was named High School All-American in the same class as Magic Johnson and was heavily recruited across the country. We chat about his decision to remain in New York and commit to Iona College, led by future luminary, Jim Valvano.

Jeff opens up about the 1980 NBA Draft and why he opted to head overseas and play in Spain, before commencing his rookie season in 1982. We talk about Jeff’s excellent first three full seasons, that resulted in NBA All-Star selections in 1984 and 1985. Jeff recalls Michael Jordan’s debut game in the NBA and the rude awakening that MJ would receive on his first dunk attempt in Chicago Stadium.

We chat about the impact of the Showtime Lakers and Boston’s Big Three, plus, the onset of injury issues that began to halt Jeff’s career. We also talk about one of the most memorable trades in NBA history; the Bullets’ decision to trade Jeff to Philadelphia, in exchange for Moses Malone. Jeff details his (first) retirement from the NBA in 1987 and how he went back to college to complete his degree, before making his remarkable comeback attempt in the 1992 season.

We also learn about the successes of Jeff’s coaching career, that are also mixed with trials and tribulations you need to hear to fully comprehend. Our conversation covers a broad-range of interesting topics and is an open and engaging look at one of basketball’s most underrated – in my opinion – careers, ever.

 

Links to topics discussed (more added soon):

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference | Profile

 

 

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AIR044: Great NBA Games – Michael Jordan 63 points (1986) – Bulls at Celtics | Podcast

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Adam and Todd discuss Michael Jordan’s record-breaking Playoff game - April 20th, 1986 – MJ scored 63 points in the Chicago Bulls’ double-overtime loss to the Boston Celtics.

We discuss all the key aspects of the game. We talk about the CBS broadcast and its commentary team of Dick Stockton, Tom Heinsohn and Pat O’Brien. We chat about the contrasting nature of Boston and Chicago’s respective seasons, leading into their first-round Playoffs meeting. We talk about each team’s roster and our memories and opinions on this incredible match-up – arguably one of the top 10 NBA games ever played.

As per usual, the conversation is scattered with humor and plenty of insight. Todd also updates us on the status of his forthcoming book on the late, great, Drazen Petrovic. A must-listen, for die-hard NBA fans, regardless of the team you support.

 

Links to topics discussed:

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference

April 20, 1986 | Chicago Bulls at Cleveland Cavaliers [Box Score] [stat-sheet]

1986 NBA Season Summary

Sports Illustrated (1986): Bird; NBA’s all-time best player?

Greatest Sports Legends (1988): O.J. Simpson | Elvin Hayes

Bill Simmons’ Grantland (2014): George Gervin

 

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