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Stan Van Gundy: J.J. Redick as competitive as Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan and J.J. Redick

Michael Jordan talks with Justin Gray, Carmelo Anthony, Dee Brown and J.J. Redick on April 10, 2002, after giving them and their teammates trophies for making the National All-Star Team for the Jordan Brand Capital Classic to be played at the MCI Center in Washington, DC. (Photo by Linda Spillers/WireImage)


Did Michael Jordan have a gambling problem?

“I have a competition problem,” Jordan said.

Really, people confronted with Jordan had the competition problem. He unleashed hell on opponents and teammates. Jordan’s competitiveness was a defining feature.

“The Last Dance” documentary on ESPN chronicled an example. SuperSonics coach George Karl didn’t say hello to Jordan when they ate at the same restaurant during the 1996 NBA Finals. Jordan used the snub as fuel and led the Bulls over Seattle.

Stan Van Gundy, who coached Udonis Haslem with the Heat and J.J. Redick with the Magic, resents the focus on Jordan stories like that.

Van Gundy on “
The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz” on ESPNews, as produced by Mike Ryan:

He was a great competitor. But I’m telling you, Udonis Haslem is as good a competitor as I’ve ever seen. The difference between Udonis Haslem and Michael Jordan is not their competitiveness. The difference is their talent.

J.J. Redick is as good a competitor, I would say, as Michael Jordan. The difference is in their talent.

But I guess talent – ability to play the game – is not an interesting enough story. So, all of a sudden, Michael won, not because he was great, but because he used all these things to fuel his performance and because he was a better competitor than all these people. I’m just not buying any of that.

Jordan was incredibly talented, though so are other players. Jordan was incredibly competitive, though so are other players (like Haslem and Redick).

Jordan was the greatest player of all time because he was both.

It can be easy to get consumed with intangibles and lose track of talent. But these slights – real or imaginedwere important to Jordan. He used them as motivation to maximize his talent. These traits worked in tandem. Jordan would not have been as good without this approach.

I get why a coach like Van Gundy would focus on talent. I get why a director would focus on narrative.

But the real story includes both.