For the longest time I had a lot of respect and admiration for the great basketball player Michael Jordan. I watched him in the 90s play and reign supreme. For many guys who grew up in the 90s, MJ represented a hero that you looked up to and aspired to be like. I had thoughts of being a professional basketball player but I just wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t fast, I wasn’t tall, I wasn’t strong. Of course that is my short personal story on basketball.
What makes me think that MJ, who is often considered to be the greatest basketball player in history, has a height complex?
A few key, stories that are mentioned over and over again.
- If you ever listened to MJ’s Hall of Fame acceptance speech, you can hear him still talk to his high school basketball coach about cutting him in the varsity team the sophomore year. MJ still had huge grievances against people who supposedly failed him when he was younger from even as back as 30 years ago. What was the real reason Jordan didn’t make it to the Varsity team his Sophomore year? – His height. At the time, MJ was around 5′ 10- 5′ 11. That position in the High School Varsity basketball team if I remember correctly went to MJ’s friend who was 6′ 8″ (named Leroy??)
- When MJ first got into the league, he wanted Adidas to sponsor him. He had worn Adidas his whole basketball career before making it to the NBA. He wanted to be in the Adidas crowd but they actually rejected him. Instead, a little company from Oregon named Nike somehow got him to join their team, and the rest is history. Only years later did the truth come out on why Adidas skipped over him. He was not tall enough. At the time, Adidas wanted a “big man” aka center to represent them. They wanted someone like Hakeem Olajuwon. Jordan did not get the company he wanted because he was too short.
- MJ was a extremely skilled shooting guard in UNC. He was drafted in the 1984 NBA Draft behind Olajuwon and Sam Bowie. Based on his skill alone, he should have gone at least number 2 (I personally give Hakeem respect on this point). The only reason Portland chose to go with Sam Bowie over MJ was over height again. Bowie being 7′ 1″ was a the main thing that made Portland to choose him. His size was his main attribute and what made Portland think that he was the type of player that could instantly change a franchise and make them title contenders. Portland at the time already had Clyde Drexler. They couldn’t see any point in getting another 6′ 6″ shooting guard on their team. Portland wanted a center, someone to guard the paint in the post. Portland choose height over skill that time. They would do it again in 2009 with Greg Oden with the #1 overall draft pick over the just 2 inch shorter Kevin Durant, and be bitten in the ass again for believing that height was the most important thing.
- There is a famous documentary on MJ in the early 90s called “Come Fly With Me”. In that documentary you can hear Jordan talk about the fact that he always wanted to be 7 feet tall when he was little. He would talk about how he would hang onto the pullup bars in the playground in the backyard each day to try to grow taller. His parents saw him doing that and thought he was crazy.
- When he was younger, he would be playing basketball against his older brother Larry, who would always beat him in the games. Larry would later only grow to around 5′ 9″. His late father James Jordan would talk about how Larry would beat Michael so often in basketball that Michael would go crazy over that.
- MJ’s biological family is not that tall genetically. He has a sister who is only 5′ 5″ and his late father James Jordan has previously been the tallest in the family at just 6′ 0″. It was asked in the documentary how it was possible that Michael grew to be so much taller when the rest of the family was just average height. The joke the family came up with was that the milkman was tall. However, genetics came back to reveal itself when MJ’s sons from his 1st marriage to Juanita turned out to be shorter and closer to the average. One of his sons was just 6′ 2″ and the other was supposed to be 6′ 3″, as listed on their basketball player profiles at the time.
- There is a rumor or story told from a former Bulls assistant or someone associated with the association that back in the 1995 year, Chicago was playing against Charlotte in a best of 5 game series. It was said that in game 5, when Muggsy was getting to shoot a free throw with Charlotte down just 1 point, MJ said to Muggsy “Shoot it you F**king midget”. That one sentence was the catalyst that supposedly caused the entire career of Bogue to be destroyed. The problem with this story turns out that there was no Game 5 that year. However, a recent youtube video did reveal that there was a very similar incident in game 4, where Bogue was at the free throw line and missed a very bad shot, and it does appear that MJ said something to him before that shot. Is that Muggsy Bogues story true? It is extremely possible. Let me explain. Back in the pre-season time of 2014, there was an exhibition game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors in Shanghai China at the Mercedes Benz Arena. Yao Ming showed up. Muggsy Bogue did as well. Kobe did not play that game but Pau Gasol was there. Muggsy Bogue did was well. There was a famous picture taken later after the game where Yao is pictured with Muggsy and that picture is of that night.
- A year later around Oct of 2015 at the same Arena there was another game between Charlotte and the Los Angeles Clippers. There is a famous picture of the current MJ getting his picture taken with Patrick Ewing and Yao. MJ is standing in the center (google those pictures). In the videos that happened at the same time as that picture, MJ started to stand on his tippy-toes to correct for the height differences between him and the former centers. He might have done that as a joke but it does reveal that MJ has a huge height insecurity when he is around taller people.
- MJ is a notorious trash talker, and it has been revealed by many people who have played against him that if the opposing guy guarding him is shorter, he would start trash-talking them about them being short, and calling them names associated with having short stature. This supposedly happened to John Starks of the Knicks. Horace Grant who is 6′ 10″, who is taller than MJ revealed in a recent podcast that MJ would be very hard on his teammates in practice. Grant admitted that MJ didn’t harass the taller guys as much, and if MJ did try to get physical with Grant like he did with Steve Kerr, Grant would have probably have gone very physical on Michael. This reveals that MJ has a very long history of harassing shorter basketball players.
It is my opinion that the basketball great Michael Jordan who lead his team to 6 NBA champions back in the 90s has always had a height complex which started from a very young age which he never has fully gotten over.
It is my personal believe and theory that one of the main reasons why he was always so competitive was because at some level MJ suffered from the “Napoleon Complex”. It might not make sense to us normal sized people since MJ is 6′ 6″ but you have to realize that when you are a professional basketball player, your height is a very critical part of your identity. If you look at the starting players on the Bulls team during this reigning era, Michael was often playing the position of Point Guard since the Shooting Guard position was often played by the equally tall 6′ 6″ Ron Harper.
Michael never got over what it felt like, the frustration that you feel, when you are playing against a person who is just taller than you , and thus can just overwhelm you based on his size alone. You sort of see this exact thing in the 1995 playoffs when the Bulls played against the Orlando Magic, who had Shaq at the time. If you look closely that the play on why the Bulls lost to the Magic in the playoffs back in 1995, you see that they just couldn’t get over the size and dominance of Shaq. There was no way that.
It doesn’t seem to matter to MJ that he was objectively tall himself because his job was to be surrounded by guys who are often much taller than him. Based on the fact that the average height of NBA players is supposed to be 6′ 7″, it would be reasonable to say that MJ would in fact be considered “short” or at least below average in height for a NBA player.
Of course, MJ would over time be able to overcome his lack of height with his disproportionately large hands.