Michael Jordan Considered Himself a Racist When He Was a Teenager

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistMay 7, 2014

USA Today

In the wake of the Donald Sterling scandal, racism has become a hot-button topic in the NBA, and all of sports and pop culture, for that matter. 

Charlotte Bobcats owner and NBA legend Michael Jordan weighed in on the Sterling issue after the owner's now-infamous recorded conversation went public, but now he has a bit of news of his own on the race front. ESPN.com news services referred to a biography written about His Airness: 

In the book, titled "Michael Jordan: The Life," Jordan describes to author Ronald Lazenby how growing up in the 1970s in North Carolina—where he said the Ku Klux Klan was dominant—shaped his views on race.

Those views were strengthened after he watched the miniseries "Roots" and learned about the suffering of his African-American ancestors.

The tipping point, Jordan said, came in 1977, when a girl at his school called him the N-word.

As Jordan said in the book, "So I threw a soda at her. I was really rebelling. I considered myself a racist at the time. Basically, I was against all white people."

Ronald Lazenby, the author of the biography, made it clear that these comments are not recent:

Establishing the timeline is crucial here, because there's absolutely no reason to believe that racism still exists within any fiber of Jordan's being. His childhood was filled with racially charged episodes, he gave the aforementioned quotes years ago, and now, he is rightfully disgusted with Sterling's behavior. 

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 10: Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, looks on as his team plays against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center on April 10, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agr
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

As NBC Sports' Dan Feldman points out, there's no parallel to be drawn here: "For one, Jordan was a kid, someone with a narrow worldview due to lack of experience. Sterling’s hate comes despite a lifetime of opportunities to see the world differently."

Jordan's ability to harness negativity to create positive outcomes is well-documented. 

There's the infamous story of how being cut from his high school varsity team motivated him to get significantly better at the sport. Then there's his Hall of Fame speech, in which he revealed that he used all sorts of slights as ammo in his mental arsenal. Finally, there are tales about how he would convince himself that an opponent insulted him before a game, even if that really didn't happen. 

It shouldn't be surprising that Jordan is able to remember these childhood stories so vividly, and that he has used them to shape who he is today.


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