Arne Duncan on helping train Michael Jordan for his 1st comeback

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Arne Duncan on helping train Michael Jordan for his 1st comeback originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Arne Duncan, the former U.S. Secretary of Education, was living in Chicago in the mid-1990s when he got a call from Tim Grover, the renowned NBA trainer who famously worked with legends like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

"‘Arne, are you willing to come at lunchtime to the gym and work out with Michael?’ I was like ‘that’s a call I’m going to take,'" Duncan recalled to NBC Sports Washington on Wizards Pregame Live.

Jordan was then a minor league baseball player on hiatus from the NBA as an outfielder for the Double-A Birmingham Barons. Jordan, as everyone knows now, would later return to the Chicago Bulls and win three more championships and complete his career as arguably the greatest basketball player of all-time.

But over the next several months, as Duncan - a former star basketball player at Harvard University and professional basketball player himself - worked out with Jordan, he was never explicitly told by Jordan what his plans actually were. As Duncan pieced it together, he realized Jordan wasn't just getting in shape to track down flyballs in the minors.

"Early on, I didn’t quite know ‘is he just shooting a little bit?’ We never really had the conversation, but over time you knew. We never talked about it, but you knew he was actually coming back," Duncan said.

"It was just interesting at first how sort of a little rusty he was. And just competing, it was sort of every day, every day as we got through the spring and into the summer, just seeing him get back into shape. That was just an unbelievable privilege, just to be part of that journey."

Duncan saw the process Jordan underwent to recalibrate his game. It took time, as he had put all of his efforts into playing baseball. The stories from his manager Terry Francona and teammates in Birmingham suggest he worked relentlessly at hitting and fielding, taking his trademark work ethic to the baseball diamond.

Jordan's body was tuned for baseball, not basketball. But month after month, he made progress.

"I won a little bit early on and after a little while, I wasn’t winning anymore. I was trying my best," Duncan said.

That wasn't the first time Duncan and Jordan played together. When Duncan graduated from college in 1987, he worked out with the Chicago Bulls, back when Jordan was only 23. He was the NBA's leading scorer, but not yet an all-time great. Scottie Pippen was just entering the league.

"You could just get the sense for Jordan’s personality and how competitive he was. Seeing Pippen’s just unbelievable athletic ability and talent, sort of getting a glimpse of how good he was going to be early on," Duncan said.

Duncan and Jordan would also play in pickup games at Foster Park in Chicago back then. Jordan would sometimes bring teammates like Charles Oakley and they would play game after game.

Jordan, Duncan said, liked how the court had smaller dimensions than the NBA. The lack of space made it more difficult to score, so it presented a challenge and made him better.

Duncan also has many stories of playing basketball with President Barack Obama, whom he served under in the U.S. Cabinet. Between him is a link between two of the most famous people ever to pick up a basketball.