Michael Jordan had a funny interaction with Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf about Jordan’s foot injury during the 1985-86 season. Of course, Reinsdorf left Bulls general manager Jerry Krause to handle Jordan.
Krause in his unpublished memoir, via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago:
I said “Michael, I can’t risk your career for a few games now. You’ve been seen by the best doctors in the field and they all agree that you should rest and not play.” Michael came back with, “I know my own body and I want to play now.”
Now comes the disputed statement. I remember saying, “Michael, you are a player, not a medical doctor. I have to do what’s right for the team and as a result I’m not going to let you play.” Michael has told people who were not at the meeting that I told him he was an employee of the franchise and as a result would do what the franchise told him to do or else. He says he knew that moment that loyalty in the NBA between teams and players was non-existent and it changed his outlook on the game and on me.
Now do you think I’m dumb enough, in front of the owner and within the ears of prominent medical people from all over the nation, to tell a young star that he was an “employee?” I don’t think so.
Do I believe the executive who – even as his top players felt underappreciated – went out of his way to say “players and coaches alone don’t win championships, organizations do” would also tell his young star that he was an “employee”?
Krause was right about organizations winning championships. Many people contribute. But nobody means more to the cause than players. Krause – perhaps to accentuate his own importance – failed to emphasize that.
Likewise, it would be quite in character for Krause to call Jordan an “employee.” It was technically true. It also would have been a misleading characterization that slighted Jordan and promoted Krause.
But Krause got far more right in this excerpt, in which he wrote he and Jordan were good for each other – despite their competitiveness sometimes leading to bickering. Jordan was a great player, and Krause built him a great supporting cast.
I suggest reading the full excerpt.