Jordan: "I'd Do Anything to Win"

Michael Jordan enshrined in Hall of Fame

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Former Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards guard Michael Jordan crys as he takes the podium during his enshrinement ceremony into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

    Michael Jordan, maybe the greatest of them all, has taken his place alongside basketball's other greats.

    And he never forgot anyone who motivated him to get there.

    Jordan was enshrined in the Hall of Fame on Friday night, a final honor that followed all the championship rings and MVP trophies he collected during his career.

    From the high school coach who cut him to the last player to defend him in the NBA finals, Jordan remembered everyone who did something to bring out the competitiveness that carried him to the top of basketball.

    "I'd do anything to win," he said.

    He joined David Robinson and John Stockton, a pair of his 1992 Dream Team teammates, and coaches Jerry Sloan and C. Vivian Stringer in a distinguished class.

    "It all started with that little, round ball. I think if you take that away from any of us, I'm pretty sure we would have struggled in life, because that's how much the game meant to us," Jordan said at a morning news conference with the inductees, where he stressed that the weekend wasn't just about him.

    "It's truly a pleasure for me to be a part of this, and contrary to what you guys believe, it's not just me going into the Hall of Fame. It's a group of us," Jordan said. "And I'm glad to be a part of them and believe me, I'm going to remember them as much as they remember me."

    Still, none of them can compare to Jordan _ perhaps no one ever will _ after he led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships while often being considered the best player ever.

    Jordan said he cringes when he hears that label, because he didn't get to earn it by playing others who might have deserved it.

    "It's a privilege, but I would never give myself that type of accolade because I never competed against everybody in this Hall of Fame," he said. "So it's too much for me to ask and too much for me to accept."

    Robinson was enshrined first on Friday before a large San Antonio contingent that included teammates Tim Duncan and Avery Johnson, and coaches Larry Brown and Gregg Popovich. Stockton told the Spurs that his running mate, Karl Malone, was the best power forward, not Duncan.

    The enshrinement ceremony took place at Springfield's Symphony Hall, because Jordan was too big for the Hall of Fame. The move to the other building allowed for a crowd of about 2,600, more than double what the Hall can accommodate.

    Most of the attention was on Jordan, the five-time NBA MVP, but the others in the class are some of the most accomplished in the sport. Stockton is the career leader in assists and steals, Robinson won an MVP trophy and two titles in San Antonio, Sloan is the only coach to win 1,000 games with one team, and Stringer was the first woman's coach to lead three different schools to the Final Four.

    "Unique, unique competitors," Stockton said.

    Fiery ones, too. Sloan, Stockton's longtime coach, told two different tales of fights he was in as a hard-nosed player for Chicago.

    Jordan remembered scoring around 20 points in a row late in a game to pull out a win, which was followed by a conversation with Bulls assistant Tex Winter.

    "Tex reminded me that there's no 'I' in team," Jordan said. "And I looked back at Tex, I said, 'There's 'I' in win.' So whichever way you want it."

    Jordan and Robinson were All-American college players who entered the NBA with high expectations. Sloan acknowledged he wasn't so sure about Stockton at first _ and turns out, neither was Stockton.

    "I thought they'd figure me out pretty quickly. I thought the Jazz would figure out that they'd made a mistake, so first paycheck I saved every cent," Stockton said. "I was pretty sure I was a one-year-and-out guy."

    He ended up playing 19 seasons in Utah, while Robinson spent 14 with the Spurs. He is still an enormous presence in San Antonio through his charitable work.

    "That's one of the things I think I loved most about San Antonio. When you get out in the community, you really feel like you're making a difference. You feel like you're impacting people there and families there," Robinson said. "So anybody who has followed my career, it's been as important as what we did on the court, being involved in the community, making a difference."

    Stringer also talked of making a difference in the lives of others, such as the pride she feels watching women's basketball grow into a sport in which her former players can now earn a living playing professionally in the United States. Those contributions to the game, along with her 825 wins, had her sharing a stage Friday with Jordan, whose family she developed a friendship with when they did Nike tours together.

    "I once paid to come into the Naismith Hall of Fame," she said, "and now here I am."