To be heralded as one of the greatest of the sport, an athlete has to remain relatively trouble-free both on and off the court. A misdemeanor — no matter how small — could be taken against the athlete in those endless (and sometimes pointless) debates for the Greatest of All Time. It could even disqualify him from playing at the highest level of the sport.
Need for speed
At face value, fans could say that Michael Jordan — widely considered the GOAT of basketball — remained out of trouble during his NBA career. Even at the peak of his fame, Jordan kept his laser-like focus on the Larry O'Brien trophy. His heart and mind were devoted to basketball only. Other things were extraneous.
However, rummaging through Jordan's legal records reveals that the former Chicago Bulls guard had a little slip-up. In the summer of 1989, Jordan failed to show up at a court hearing for a speeding violation which resulted in the judge issuing a warrant for his arrest. An article from the Chicago Tribune reads in part:
"On June 6, a Lexington police officer clocked Jordan traveling 90 miles an hour on Int. Hwy. 75 in southern Fayette County. Jordan also was cited for not having a driver's license.
A judge issued a warrant for Jordan last week after he failed to show up in traffic court, and Jordan's agent, Barbara Allen, paid the fine the next day after learning about the situation from reporters."
The report added that the warrant was withdrawn after Jordan paid the $102.50 speeding fine through his agent. The Bulls guard was also required to produce a copy of his driver's license in 10 days.
It is a minor wrinkle in Jordan's legal records. It would be downright foolish to argue that he cannot be the GOAT because of this little mishap. Besides, other NBA players have a dirtier legal record than Jordan. Some have served a jail sentence during the offseason, while others did their time while actually playing. Every offseason, there is almost always news of an NBA player running in with the cops.
Staying out of trouble
It is easy to imagine MJ staying out of trouble during his basketball career. The man lived and breathed basketball, so it only makes sense that his legal slate was relatively clean. He knew that everything he worked hard for could come crumbling down in a blink of an eye. So it was not as if Jordan slowly entered the basketball limelight. Right from the get-go, Jordan was already dunking over his foes with ease.
It wasn't just his basketball mind that was developed. In the sports documentary The Last Dance, Jordan narrated a bit that proved he was actively staying out of trouble. In the documentary's first episode, MJ recalled seeing his teammates engaging in nefarious activity. And he wanted no part of it.
“So they open up the door. I walk in, and practically the whole team was in there, and it was like things I’ve never seen in my life as a young kid. You got your lines over here, you got your weed smokers over here, you got your women over here. So the first thing I said, ‘Look, man, I’m out.’ Because all I can think about [is] if they come and raid this place right about now, I am just as guilty as everybody else that’s in this room. From that point on, I was more or less on my own,” Jordan said.
Utmost props should be given to Jordan for being well-aware of his fame and success — and how it could be taken away from him in a matter of seconds. If he did not have this mindset, then he wouldn't be at the forefront of the GOAT debates.