Knew He Was Playing Down There”: Michael Jordan’s Decision to Play Pickup Games Despite Fracture in 1985 Scared Nike Executives.

Like many a superstar after him, Michael Jordan was signed by global giants Nike even before he announced himself to the world, in the NBA. MJ signed with the company back in 1984, and the 5-year deal they had offered meant that the company had bet on his career already. While the bet would eventually pay off, it happened much later. MJ broke his foot in the third game of just his second season, an injury that not only put fear in the Chicago Bulls’ coaching staff but also in Nike executives.

According to the book,  Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby, MJ himself was left confused and frustrated so he left for North Carolina. “I walked away from it, went to North Carolina, worked on my degree and watched the team on TV. That’s the best way I could deal with it,” he said.

"Knew He Was Playing Down There": Michael Jordan's Decision to Play Pickup Games Despite Fracture in 1985 Scared Nike Executives

However, back in Chapel Hill to recuperate, Jordan went ahead and watched games of his alma mater North Carolina. As his foot got better, he then went ahead and played some practice games, against the doctors’ advice. Bulls team manager Jerry Krause even claimed that he had heard the rumors, despite MJ never telling him that he was playing.

“I heard that much later, that after two weeks he was back on the court,” Krause recalled. “I don’t know if that’s accurate but I heard it. He never said he played. We had a meeting three weeks later on the phone. ‘How are you?’ ‘I’m much better.’ ‘The doctors still want you to rest. Come on in here in the next couple of weeks, we’re going to look at you again.’ This went on for two months,” the book revealed.

Hence, not only was MJ playing, but he also made it a point to not let the Bulls staff know. Jordan would not return for two months, despite the initial plan being that he would be checked in 2-3 weeks.

Man or meme: Who is Michael Jordan to basketball's next...

What’s more, while the Bulls’ staff may have had their suspicions, Nike Executive Sonny Vaccaro was well aware that Jordan had been back on the court.

“I knew he was playing down there because he told me,” Sonny Vaccaro recalled. “I’m paraphrasing here, but he said, ‘I’m going to go and see if this damn thing, this SOB, is okay. I’m going to see if I can do this. I need to be away from people and I know I’ll be protected,’ ” the book said.

Vaccaro was well aware of what Jordan had been up to. The fact that MJ was playing meant that he would eventually return to the NBA, which was a positive sign for Nike. However, going against the doctors’ wishes also meant that he was putting himself at risk of exacerbating the injury, which is bound to result in fear.

Michael Jordan was determined to make a quick return to basketball

In what is simply further evidence of the kind of hunger MJ had for the game, MJ was determined to get back to the game after the injury. According to Bleacher Report, the doctors had told him Jordan had a 10% chance of never playing again if he chose to return to the game ‘too soon.’

However, MJ was aghast and convinced everyone on the Bulls’ staff that he was fit to return. The Netflix documentary, The Last Dance, also saw Jerry Reinsdorf attempt to explain to MJ the risk of returning too soon.

However, when asked if he would take 9 pills for a headache if one could kill him, Jordan had a hilarious response:

“Depends on how f–king bad the headache is,” he had said.

While things obviously eventually worked out, there is no doubt that the Bulls’ coaches and the doctors were giving the player the right advice. However, Jordan, being Jordan, did things in his own way, and NBA fans will cherish the fact that he did not end up making things worse.

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