Depression. Demons. Boredom. Ask those familiar with basketball in the ’90s and any combination of the three (or maybe all three) hold rank as the true reason(s) why Michael Jordan retired from basketball following the 1992-93 season. Depression due to the death of his father. Demons because of his growingly public gambling habits painting the NBA and its most popular player in a negative light. And boredom because the game’s most competitive and vindictive personality felt he ran out of ways to inspire himself on a basketball court.
They’re all true in their own right. Yet, Mike never truly had a “rival” in the sense of that guy who was around his age to throw haymakers with. The way Magic had Bird and Bird had Magic. The way Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain had each other. The way many hope LeBron and Durant will help define the other’s career for the next half decade. Detroit and New York were close, but those were team influenced more than anything. And Clyde Drexler never really appeared to embrace a rivalry of any parts with Mike despite the media’s attempts to link them together. Ironically, it’s the 1986 NBA Draft – now viewed as the most cursed in league history with names like Chris Washburn, Roy Tarpley and more as their poster children – where Mike could have developed more than one potential nemesis to clash with. This isn’t to say Mike ever spawns into his own Magic/Bird type duels, but none were intimidated by Mike nor backed down.*
And that was 65% of the battle when playing against Michael Jeffrey.