One of the biggest compliments you can get is Michael Jordan saying he’d love to have you on his team. Even more so if you are a Boston Celtic, his bitter rival, imagine him saying he and 4 of you would make an unbeatable team. Oh, by the way, you are a white guy, and your name is not Larry Bird. Then it’s probably McHale he’s talking about. Or maybe Bill Walton that one season.
All wrong. Michael Jordan wished to have 4 Danny Ainge’s on his team. We wrote about similar comments from Kobe or LeBron. The most important attribute they look for in a teammate is a single-minded focus and dedication to the game. It’s not about missing a shot or a defensive rotation. If they know a player is doing all he can to be the best basketball player possible, they want you on your team. MJ was convinced that they would’ve been unbeatable.
“I wish I had four Danny Ainge’s as teammates. With his desire and hustle, we’d never lose a game.”
Michael Jordan, via LA Times
Not to say Danny Ainge was the Dellavedova of his age. Actually, he was quite the opposite. Ainge is the only person to be named a high school first-team All-American in American football, basketball, and baseball. He played for the Toronto Blue Jays for three seasons during college before getting drafted to the NBA. It wasn’t a fluke – Ainge is the second-youngest player in Blue Jays history to hit a home run, at 20 years and 77 days. He was a great athlete, and his teammates knew it.
“He’s the best all-around athlete I’ve ever seen.”
Larry Bird, via LA Times
To give you some context, MJ made that quote in 1989. Scottie Pippen was on the Bulls for two years at that point. It’s safe to say that the partnership worked out quite well. But we would still like to hear Pippen’s reaction to this quote.
That also revealed the shameless tampering MJ did, commenting on a player like that and suggesting management to trade for him. Funny enough, we found no record of an investigation into the matter, nor was Jordan fined. What a weird time where you could say an opponent is a great player.