New book revives Michael Jordan's quotes where he called himself 'racist'

Jay Busbee
May 7, 2014
Jordan 'disgusted' by alleged Sterling comments
CHARLOTTE, NC - APRIL 26: Michael Jordan watches as the Charlotte Bobcats play the Miami Heat in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Time Warner Cable Arena on April 26, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

A new biography about Michael Jordan is reviving some quotes from Jordan himself that may not play as well in 2014 as in the era in which they were spoken.

"Michael Jordan: A Life," by Roland Lazenby, is an exhaustively documented narrative of the superstar's days from North Carolina kid to basketball icon. Lazenby spent more than three years and conducted more than 100 interviews in the creation of the book. Jordan himself did not participate in the project, as he wanted a measure of editorial control that Lazenby declined to provide. However, the book used decades' worth of interviews with Jordan to gain insight into his mindset, and one in particular is gaining traction because of current issues in sports.

In an interview from the 1990s, Jordan recounted the story of how a classmate called him the n-word. “So I threw a soda at her,” he said in the interview, quoted in the New York Post. “I was really rebelling. I considered myself a racist at the time. Basically, I was against all white people.”

Lazenby noted in an interview that the quotes take on new resonance in light of recent revelations of racist statements by Donald Sterling. However, he cautioned that the words must be taken in context, not as a representative look at Jordan's stance on race relations throughout his life.

“Michael’s comment was just an honest assessment of how he felt after watching ‘Roots,’ but we are now in the midst of a national conversation on race," Lazenby said. "I’m happy we are. I just couldn’t have anticipated that this would bubble up to the top this way."

Jordan was one of the first major public figures to criticize Sterling, calling himself "disgusted" and "outraged" over the Clippers owner's comments. Were he to speak in the current climate on the topic of race relations in his youth, Jordan likely would choose his own words more carefully. But the message across the years is not at all incongruous: one can change one's mind with age and perspective.