Magic: Michael Jordan Said 'There's a New Sheriff in Town' After Famous PracticeMay 4, 2020
If Magic Johnson and Larry Bird are responsible for "saving" the NBA, Michael Jordan is responsible for making the league a global phenomenon.
In 1992, he let Johnson and Bird know it.
Johnson recalled Jordan telling him and Bird that there was a "new sheriff in town" after their infamous Dream Team scrimmage in an appearance on ESPN's First Take on Monday:
"The scrimmage was the greatest basketball that we all had ever played in because the fact that every player on the team was a Hall of Famer, an All-Star in their own right. And also we had big egos, so we were playing for our ego. We were playing to let guys know that, 'hey, I'm the best at what I do and I'm gonna go head-to-head against you.' So, it was amazing to see Charles Barkley go at his friend Karl Malone and Karl Malone go at Charles. Patrick Ewing against David Robinson. I mean, on and on and on. It made it so amazing and Chuck Daly was the perfect coach for it.
"It was really fun. We got out on them by 10, 12 points, you know. And so, you know, I had to make Michael go to the 'Air Jordan' level. So I said, 'Okay, I'm gonna go here and talk a little trash to him and see what's going to happen' right? And this is when the torch got passed. So I said, 'Look, MJ, if you don't turn into Air Jordan we're gonna blow you guys out.' I've never seen a man take something so personal and then go out there and just take that scrimmage over. It was amazing to see him come out and just dominate and I'm talking about dominate the best in the game. And that's when we know that the torch was being passed from myself and Larry onto Michael.
"But I'm gonna tell you the moment that really got us. So, we got back to the hotel, right. And so, the NBA had built a nice lounge for the players. And so, Michael's up there and he's smoking on his cigar. Larry and I just sitting there, having a Coke or whatever. And he says, guys, and he put his hand on my shoulder, put his hand on Larry's shoulder. And said, 'Guys, there's a new sheriff in town.' And so we was like, 'oh man, what can we say?' We said, 'You know what? You're right, it's your league now.'"
Magic previously relayed the story in documentary The Dream Team.
As Johnson said, it's hard to discount Jordan's status as the league's sheriff. He was a three-time MVP and two-time reigning Finals MVP by 1992, while Bird and Magic were out of the league and far beyond their peaks.
Bird retired in August 1992, while Magic had retired a year earlier after learning he was HIV positive.
The hallowed scrimmage, which took place in Monte Carlo without any fans and is viewed by those who played it as one of the most competitive games of all time, saw Jordan score 17 of his team's 40 points. No other player had more than seven points, and Jordan led his team back from a nine-point deficit for a 40-36 win.
It wound up being the most competitive game the Dream Team ever played, as they dominated on their way to gold at the 1992 Olympics.