Was Rick Reilly's Rant on Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame Speech Full of Hot Air?

Ronald ManbaumCorrespondent IOctober 5, 2009

SPRINGFIELD, MA - SEPTEMBER 11: Michael Jordan is inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame during a ceremony on September 11, 2009 in Springfield, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

This post is really about Rick Reilly's reaction to Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame speech, and not so much about the speech itself.

Every once in awhile I like to torture myself by reading a piece written by Reilly. Reilly, of course, used to write the back page article for Sports Illustrated, and now writes for ESPN.

In the interest of full disclosure, he's also an award-winning sports writer who people seem to generally love. Admittedly, I like about 15 percent of his articles, but I generally find him terribly annoying.

I could be wrong, but he seems like he's that annoying guy who's always smiling while he talks or writes because he thinks he's much more funny and probably a tad bit smarter than you ever could be. That's just my perception though, and I could of course be wrong.

Anyway, Reilly decided to tear into Michael Jordan for his Hall of Fame speech in an article titled, "Be like Mike? No thanks." Here is the intro, and you can read the rest of the piece here:

Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame talk was the Exxon Valdez of speeches. It was, by turns, rude, vindictive, and flammable. And that was just when he was trying to be funny. It was tactless, egotistical, and unbecoming. When it was done, nobody wanted to be like Mike.

And yet we couldn't stop watching. Because this was an inside look into the mindset of an icon who'd never let anybody inside before. From what I saw, I'd never want to go back.

Here is a man who's won just about everything there is to win: six NBA titles, five MVPs, and two Olympics golds. And yet he sounded like a guy who's been screwed out of every trophy ever minted. He's the world's first sore winner.

In the entire 23-minute cringe-athon, there were only six thank yous, seven if you count his sarcastic rip at the very Hall that was inducting him. "Thank you, Hall of Fame, for raising ticket prices, I guess," he sneered.

By comparison, David Robinson's classy and heartfelt seven-minute speech had 17. Joe Montana's even shorter speech in Canton had 23. Who wrote your speech, Mike? Kanye West?

Did he really actually COUNT the number of times each person said thank you? Apparently Rick Reilly spends his free time judging acceptance speeches by how many times a person says thank you (and actually counting them to ensure accuracy). It looks like the more famous you are, the more you need to say thank you.

It really couldn't be more obvious from the jump that Reilly has a big axe to grind. I watched the speech today (although I read the article a couple weeks ago) and it never felt "rude, vindictive, or flammable."

Just to see if I was too biased against Reilly, I even had a few friends watch the speech, these were people who could care less about Michael Jordan, and they also found nothing in it to be any of those things either.

Not that Jordan's speech wasn't from the heart. It was. It's just that Jordan's heart on this night could give you frostbite.

Nobody was spared, including his high school coach, his high school teammate, his college coach, two of his pro coaches, his college roommate, his pro owner, his pro general manager, the man who was presenting him that evening, even his kids!

Since I don't want to pick apart ever single aspect of the article, I will comment that I'm not sure exactly how he went after some of these people. He thanked his college coach (Dean Smith) once, which I suppose is somewhat of a flammable comment.

He also made a reference to Smith leaving him off the cover of Sports Illustrated, and how that motivated him to be better.

I thought it was funny, but even if it wasn't, I don't know that Michael Jordan's inability to deliver a joke like Chris Rock somehow makes him a terrible person.

The whole speech is prefaced on the theme that Jordan wanted to tell people something they didn't already know about him. That "something" was how he developed, and maintained, his competitive drive from his childhood throughout his entire career.

He was thanking most of the aforementioned people for the motivation they provided, and he also pointed out that sometimes they were doing it knowingly, and sometimes they weren't.

He was also pretty clearly trying to be funny, and most of the people he was supposedly being rude to had huge smiles on their faces. That includes the the person that made Jordan's high school team the year he was cut.

In the end, after you read the whole piece it becomes pretty clear that the entire article seems to be trying to point out to the world that Michael Jordan didn't treat Rick Reilly with the respect Rick Reilly deserves.

It's also trying to show that Michael Jordan is a world-class jerk. Which, assuming that's true, kind of makes me respect Michael Jordan all the more.

If he was a jerk he did a great job hiding it, and that's probably not the easiest thing to do. He was an ambassador for the game, always handled himself professionally, and was a great role model for children.

If the guy is truly as big of a jerk as Reilly implies, than he should be applauded for showing so much restraint throughout his career. He certainly hid it pretty well for 20 years, while Kanye West, the man Reilly compares to Jordan, can't hide it for 0:20.

The rest of the article is about how Jordan made people cry in practice, and was probably a little too cold-hearted on the basketball court. Which honestly is pretty old news, and I'm sure anyone that even remotely followed Jordan throughout his career already knew this about him.

Although just to show you what a hard-hitting reporter he is, Reilly delivers this news like he just broke the story of the Watergate break-in. The article concludes with this brilliant little story:

Jordan owes a roomful of apologies. But it'll never happen. I know firsthand.

Before his second comeback (with the Washington Wizards) I was the first out with the story by a month. Jordan and his agent, David Falk, denied it, said I was crazy, practically said I was smoking something.

Then, after a month of lies, Jordan admitted it was all true. I saw him in the locker room before his first game back and said, "You wanna say something to me, maybe?"

And he said, "You know you don't get no apologies in this business."

So I wouldn't hold your breath.

They called it an "acceptance" speech, but the last thing Jordan seems to be able to do is accept it's over. In fact, Jordan hinted that he might make yet another comeback at 50.

I just hope Comeback No. 3 doesn't come with a speech.

Because then I'm really screwed.

OMG! I usually don't use terms like "OMG," but this is such an amazing story that it had to be done. Rick Reilly broke a story a month early, and Jordan AND his agent wouldn't confirm it!!! They called him crazy!

Where is this quote, because quite frankly everything else in the story has quotes, and usually when people don't use quotes it's because they're exaggerating for effect.....Maybe he did call him crazy, but you know what, after reading this article, I'm pretty sure Reilly is sitting perilously close to the edge of insanity.

Why exactly does Jordan owe Reilly an apology anyway? He wouldn't confirm he was coming back to the NBA?

Oh, I sent Rick Reilly an e-mail the other day telling him he was a moron, and I asked him to confirm or deny it. He hasn't confirmed it yet. I'm assuming he owes me an apology next time I see him.

I hope my kids don't end up like him.

(And, for the record, I'm a Denver Nuggets fan, and I've never been a fan of the Chicago Bulls.)