How would Michael Jordan fare in the era of load management? For former rival George Karl, Jordan was one of a kind who deliberately skipped sleep but still managed to put up otherworldly numbers. It may be due to his competitive nature or ability to focus on the task at hand, but MJ did not need rest while dominating his era.
George Karl on MJ’s habits
In an interview published on Pure Hoops Media’s Youtube channel, former NBA coach George Karl and a former University of Carolina star himself were asked about UNC star Jordan’s habits.
“When I played them in the Finals in ‘96, he was playing 36 holes on the day of a Playoff game and still go out and kick your ass. So I mean, he was an amazing athlete, you know he could push the limits of sleep. He could push the limits of physicality and still be an unbelievably great performer.”
George Karl, Pure Hoops Media
If Karl had said bitter things against MJ, it would have been understandable. After all, the Chicago Bulls legend prevented him from winning a title or two. But Karl was in awe of how MJ can still dish out great games despite lack of sleep. If you think this is an exaggeration, Jack McCallum vouches for this urban myth - it's not a myth.
“This thing about Jordan never sleeping, usually you’re waiting for these types of legends to be deflated. But this was the one that almost everybody on the team mentioned before anything else, was this bionic nature of Jordan, how he never slept and how his energy level was beyond anything they could imagine. That’s one stereotype, one myth that definitely holds true.”
Jack McCallum, The Lowe Post
If Jordan played today, he would have averaged 50 because of his skills and how teams tend to rest their star players in back-to-back games or in hopes of preserving them for the Playoffs. Rest was not simply in Jordan’s dictionary, and it’s part of his legendary stories.
Players cite lack of sleep which affects performance
Rest and recovery is the next big frontier in the NBA. We already know a lot about working out and putting your body through intense training regimes - recovering quickly and preventing injuries is what teams are investing millions in. In 2019, C.J. McCollum said sleep is everything.
"Lack of sleep messes up your recovery, messes up how you play, your cognitive function, your mindset, how you're moving on the court."
C.J. McCollum, ESPN
He is not alone on this notion. Andre Iguodala even revealed he has worked with a sleep specialist to sleep longer. With constant traveling and moving, players get little to no sleep at all. That’s part of the package of being an NBA player and receiving millions in salary. For Vince Carter, who played 22 seasons, sleep was one secret for his longevity.
With advanced technologies and more studies published on the relation of sleep and game performance, it’s expected that players nowadays put a premium on the number of rest hours. Michael Jordan was different in many ways, but this particular one mostly gave him a psychological advantage over his competition. Other players knew he was up all night and was still kicking their a**. How do you compete with that?