Sixers Coach Doc Rivers Shares Priceless Michael Jordan Story

Doc Rivers

Alex Subers for Fanatics and Shareif Ziyadat for REFORM Alliance Sixers head coach Doc Rivers held a mock press conference for kids from the REFORM Alliance.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers has never been afraid to mix it up with a reporter if he feels the question is unfair. He does it diplomatically even when things get slightly heated, never completely dismissing someone who has a difference of opinion.

It sometimes looks like a science experiment with the way Rivers can control the temperature of the room. The Sixers leader was in rare form on Tuesday night as he welcomed roughly 30 children in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey area who have been negatively impacted by the criminal justice system, or those who have a parent in prison for technical probation violations.

The kids peppered Rivers with hard-hitting questions as he sat at the podium and thoughtfully answered them in a press conference setting. The most interesting exchange happened when a youngster asked Rivers who he thought the greatest basketball player of all time was. His answer? Michael Jordan. Then, Rivers proceeded to tell a gem of a story about the time he held Jordan to 16 points.

“I played against Michael. I sure would have rather coached him. I’ll give you that answer,” Rivers said. “I loved playing against him. I’ll tell you a quick, one story, we played them back-to-back games and I was the starter, I had to guard him. The first game he had 16 points, and he shot poorly and the media was giving me all the shine which I was trying to run from. Michael walked by the locker room and saw me sitting by my locker and said, ‘Hey Doc, you did a great job on me tonight. See ya tomorrow night.'”

Rivers stared at the kid who asked the initial question and asked him if he understood was Jordan was trying to do. Obviously, he was trying to psyche Rivers out for the rematch. Which he did.

“He wanted it [the rematch]. He wanted it. And you know what? He got it, too,” Rivers said. “You know what I held him to the next night? I think 42 [points]. It didn’t go well.”

Rivers Delivers Powerful Message to Youth

Rivers started his comments by sharing some life lessons about overcoming adversity and believing in yourself. No one person is more deserving of success than someone else. To illustrate the point, Rivers revealed that plenty of people told him that he’d never be a professional basketball player, let alone an NBA All-Star or championship-winning coach. He did it all.

“Listen, I want you guys to understand you deserve as much joy as everybody else,” Rivers said. “And we understand what you’re going through, what you’ve been through, but you have the right to happiness and to smile, and to everything you want in life. And these people here, Meek [Mill] and Michael [Rubin] and everybody back here, will tell you that there are people in your corner who are going to fight for you, fight for your families, to make sure that one of you may be sitting here one day giving this same speech. Or one of you may be a doctor, a lawyer, an athlete, or whatever you want.”

The “76ers VIP Gameday Experience” — a two-part event with the Philadelphia Eagles — allowed the kids to ask Rivers questions in a mock press conference before they took the court to ring the ceremonial Liberty Bell. The kids and their families were treated to dinner and sat in VIP suites, then participated in an on-court scrimmage at halftime. The mission of REFORM Alliance is to fight for a justice system that holds people accountable and redirects back to work and well-being leads to stronger families and safer communities.

“The one thing I would say is that you get to choose what you want to be in life. You do,” Rivers said. “I was told many times in my life, I’m not going to go through the whole story, but I was told many times that I would not be where I’m at. As a player, you’re actually too young to know, but I actually played basketball 1,000 years ago, and I was told I couldn’t be an NBA player. And I made that. I was told I couldn’t make the All-Star team. And I made that. And then I was told I couldn’t be a coach, and I’ve done that. The bottom line is you get to decide and no one else, and you guys keep pushing.”

Steph Curry vs. Allen Iverson? No Comment

There were a ton of questions asking Rivers to evaluate some of the NBA’s best current players. Luka Doncic. Ja Morant. Joel Embiid. They all came up in the conversation. The curveball came when someone asked Rivers to choose between Steph Curry and Allen Iverson. (Remember, Rivers’ daughter Callie is married to Seth Curry). He wasn’t about to pit his family against Philly royalty.

“I’m in the wrong city to decide that. I can’t win with that,” Rivers said “You know the Curry family is in my family and I’m in Philadelphia.”

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Everyone laughed. It was in good fun. Rivers closed the event by dropping a valuable analogy about life from his dad.

“Whenever you finish the race, you finish the race,” Rivers said. “But during the race you’re going to have difficulties, you’re going to run into hurdles, you’re going to fall down but the race is not over. You just keep running. If you keep running good things will happen.”

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