In case you hadn't heard, Jordan recently celebrated his 50th birthday to remind an entire generation of Jordan followers they are older, too. Now is the time to roll out all of the MJ love and speculate where exactly Kobe Bryant and LeBron James stack on the MJ-odometer.
Here to join The Big Mac Blog on this topic is former Dallas Mavericks/New York Knicks/Orlando Magic/Los Angeles Lakers guard Derek Harper. He is now a TV analyst for Mavs' games.
Harper was the 11th overall pick of the Mavs in the 1983 draft. The next year, the Chicago Bulls used the third overall pick on Jordan. Selecting fourth was your Mavs, which selected Jordan's North Carolina teammate Sam Perkins.
(FYI - That 10-round draft had Hakeem Olajuwon, Jordan, Perkins, Charles Barkley, Alvin Robertson, Otis Thorpe, Kevin Willis, Jay Humphries, John Stockton, and Jerome Kersey. Also among the draftees, Rick Carlisle went 70th to the Boston Celtics.)
Harper was stuck right in the middle of the MJ era, and fondly recalls trying to play against the best player ever.
Derek Harper: I was with the Knicks and the game was in New York. John Starks started out covering (Jordan) and it was one of those nights Michael got hot. (Knicks coach) Pat Riley was searching for guys to try to guard him. He put me on him.
Michael said to me, "Harp', I've got a couple of things to say - you're a pretty good defender. The other thing is right now it doesn't matter because you know when I'm hot it doesn't matter.' Of course, I'm challenged by that. Once he is that hot he can't be stopped. I tried all that I could. He came out on top. He can't be stopped. As far as stopping him, he's too good. He gets the respect from the officials. He got the calls. You don't stop greatness. You just hope to contain it and make him earn what he gets. I think that was the mindset when you played Jordan - force him to shoot a bad percentage.
The Big Mac Blog: What was the aspect to his game that didn't get enough credit?
Derek Harper: His IQ. Jordan went from a high-flying guy to a half-court, triangle system. He was so efficient at catching the ball where he wanted. He didn't take shots he couldn't make. He didn't take a lot of 3s. That wasn't his game. He made a living 15 feet and in - getting what he watned and where and how he wanted on the court. He was just smarter than everyone else. He had a will to win. Magic had that, too.
The Big Mac Blog: Did you enjoy playing against him or was it frustrating?
Derek Harper: I enjoyed it. You seize that. No. 1, you have nothing to lose. Mike is expected to get his number. The challenge is to get him from doing that. If you are able to put a damper or a put a void on what he is able to do you have won the battle. Not many nights you stopped Michael Jordan. It was really just a somewhat of a challenge but not something that you are afraid of.
The Big Mac Blog: Do you like or join in on the comparisons between Jordan, Kobe and LeBron?
Derek Harper: I don’t. There is no comparison. It’s a joke. You cant compare old and new. Those guys have expressed how much they respect Mike. It's like comparing my Mavericks team that took the Lakers to 7 games and the Mavs team that won the Finals. The teams, the game has completely changed.
Many thanks to Harper for sharing his memories about MJ.
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