Michael Jordan’s tenure with the Wizards is one that many fans prefer to forget. There was something perfect about the way he left the game with his second retirement after hitting the game-winner to win the NBA Finals in 1998 as a member of the Chicago Bulls. When he returned in Washington, he was an aging star that wasn’t as effective on a nightly basis and, despite still being effective, couldn’t shake the expectation to be Mike.
It turns out fans of Jordan aren’t the only ones that wish the Wizards years didn’t exist. Jerry Stackhouse played one season in Washington with Jordan after being traded there from Detroit for Rip Hamilton, and the now-Vanderbilt head coach recently joined ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on The Woj Pod and explained why his year with his idol was far from the experience he’d hoped it would be, noting it tainted his perception of Jordan a bit.
“Honestly, I wish I never played in Washington and for a number of reasons,” Stackhouse said. “I felt we were on our way in Detroit before I got traded there. It was really challenging to be able to be in a situation with an idol who at this particular point, I felt like I was a better player. Things were still being run through Michael Jordan, and Doug Collins, I love Doug, but I think that was an opportunity for him to make up for some ill moments that they may have had back in Chicago.
“So, pretty much everything that Michael wanted to do… We got off to a pretty good start and he didn’t like the way the offense was running because it was running a little bit more through me. He wanted to get a little more isolations on the post, of course, so we had more isolations for him on the post. And it just kind of spiraled in a way that I didn’t enjoy that season at all. Kind of the picture I had in my mind of Michael Jordan and the reverence I had for him, I lost a little bit of it during the course of that year.”
For a Carolina guy who grew up in Kinston, NC and was a Tar Heel, Jordan was Stackhouse’s idol, but as he says, at this point he felt he was the better player, which made it tough to play with Jordan. Mike wasn’t one to give up the mantle of being the top dog and, as Stack notes, got his way when he wanted the offense to shift away from Stackhouse and more to post isos. It’s something that, surely, a number of players have gone through over the years. Young guys that play with former legends on the tail end of their careers have to deal with that inner strife of feeling they’re better than their once idol and not fully knowing how to handle the situation.
It’s even tougher when you’re dealing with the GOAT, and Stackhouse goes on to note he was pretty thrilled when he left Washington and was no longer in that situation.