In the opening game of the Magic/Bulls series, Magic guard, Nick Anderson stole the ball from Michael Jordan, which lead to a Horace Grant fast-break dunk. The Magic stole game 1 in the best of seven series.
For those keeping score at home: MJ was wearing number 45 in that series and after the game, Nick Anderson told reporters that MJ wasn’t the same player he was used to seeing. “Number 45 doesn’t explode like number 23 used to,” Anderson said after the game.
“Number 45 is not number 23. I couldn’t have done that to number 23.”
Following game one, Michael Jordan switched his jersey back to number 23 and was fined $25,000.
The Bulls won game 2 after Jordan’s 38-points.
But Jordan’s competitive juices were flowing.
On today’s episode of the Scoop B Radio Podcast, Nick Anderson tells me that he was misquoted. “I was just answering a question,” Nick Anderson tells Scoop B Radio.
“The question was taken out of context. I don’t know how many games it was that MJ only had played. I think it wasn’t that many. And of course, I had a full season. He didn’t have a full season. So he didn’t have his legs like anybody else would. But, they took [it] as though I was saying, “Number 45 can’t play like 23.”… That was said, that’s how it was taken, so I had to live with it.”
Million Dollar Question: Why didn’t he correct it or retract the statement? “Because it was already out there,” recalled Anderson.
“And MJ, that’s my boy. There was NO ill intent towards him. But that’s how it was put out there.”
Jordan never said whether Nick Anderson’s comment motivated him on the court and to switch from 45 to 23.
Anderson says it did. “Oh yeah he did,” he said.
“He did that but, the question was like I made it seem like I said 45 is nowhere near 23. You know as well as I know media takes things and they take it out of context. They put in the perspective that they wanted to deliver it in. But, it was out there so, I had to live with it. And that was that!”
What if social media had existed back then? Would Anderson’s statement been received differently?
“I would have had more people that would have been able to hear my side,” Nick Anderson tells Scoop B Radio.
“What was actually said. See, the young guys today have it so good, you can go back and really deceive. And I’ll say this with all due respect to all the guys that I played against in the league, all of ‘em – Michael Jordan is the BEST basketball player I’ve ever faced. Ever. Like I said, no disrespect to any other player that I’ve ever faced. That’s just my opinion. You know, I hear these debates 24/7: LeBron/ MJ…I’m a LeBron James fan to no end, but there will never be another number 23.”
After splitting the next two games, the Magic closed out the series, winning 4-2 and would end up playing against the Houston Rockets in the 1995 NBA Finals.
Year later, Anderson said he and MJ discussed it at Charles Oakley’s house. “After our careers were over, me and MJ used to hang out all the time,” he told me.
“I lived in Atlanta and you know, Charles Oakley is my ace coon boon. All of us used to go out and enjoy ourselves – eat, cold beers… you know, just hang out. Just as close as you could be. Notice in those games, did you see what shoe I had on? I had the X’s with the #25 on it. Why do you think the reason I had those shoes? He picked me as one of the guys to wear his shoes when he retired. C’mon now. He’s the reason why I was so in deep with Nike and still is to this day. Because of MJ. MJ made all that happen for me. All of that. That was because of MJ; not because of Nick Anderson, it was because of MJ. That’s my dude and I have the utmost respect for him. Did we compete? Yeah! But there was no ill will that I had against MJ. Like I said, a reporter took it and made it what they wanted it to be, not how it was presented.”