Before Michael Jordan was, well, Michael Jordan, he was a maverick, known by his elder contemporaries for his perceived arrogance more than his late-game heroics, tireless work ethic or unmatched championship resume.
Early on, that reputation stemmed, in part, from Jordan’s conduct at All-Star weekend in 1985. Then a rookie making his first All-Star appearance, Jordan famously donned Nike warmups (in violation of NBA rules) to Saturday workouts, which, if you believe the tale, irked some veterans in attendance — chiefly, Isiah Thomas. That level of self-aggrandizement wasn’t commonplace for younger players at the time, and allegedly resulted in a freezeout of Jordan during that All-Star game by other players.
David Falk, Jordan’s agent at the time, offered some context on that controversy in a sit-down with NBC Sports Chicago's Bulls Insider K.C. Johnson as a part of Johnson’s expansive oral history of the 1988 dunk contest between Jordan and Dominique Wilkins.
“The only time Michael ever asked me a question about the dunk contest was his rookie year in Indianapolis. That was 1985. He asked what he should wear. Back then, unlike today, the NBA was much smaller. It was much looser. It wasn’t as regulated. And there were really no rules for the dunk contest,” Falk told Johnson. “So I told him he should wear his Nike stuff because it was his stuff. He actually wore his black-and-red warmup suit with his chains. Many people think that rankled some of the established players like Magic [Johnson] and Isiah [Thomas] and that led to the freezeout [in the 1985 All-Star game].”
That’s right. Apparently, Falk was in some ways behind the incident that sparked a myth that lives to this day. Jordan, of course, went on to validate his hubris by ruling the league in the 1990s but it’s an interesting aspect of his legacy that now adds another layer.
For the full, inside story behind the 1988 dunk contest, click through to K.C. Johnson’s oral history of the events of that night (and everything that led up to it) here.