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Wednesday, July 29, 2009
John Feinstein on Pat Riley and Michael Jordan


Author John Feinstein has a blog called Feinstein on the Brink. In a recent post, he expresses generally negative views about Pat Riley. He doesn't really explain why he thinks so ill of Riley, but he does tell the story of the first time he met him, which was at a dinner just before Jordan's rookie year:

"The Portland Trail Blazers," I said rather loudly (I'd been drinking) will now go down in history not only as the team that took LaRue Martin with the No. 1 pick in the draft but as the team that took Sam Bowie ahead of Michael Jordan." (I didn't kill the Houston Rockets for taking Hakeem Olajuwon because while I would have taken Jordan it was clear Olajuwon had the potential to be great. Bowie, it seemed to me, had the potential to be injured a lot).

Riley gave me one of those condescending looks he's so good at. "You see," he said, "this is the problem with you media people. You just don't understand basketball. Did you know that when Jordan was measured he was only 6-4 and a half, not 6-6 the way he's listed?"

I looked back at Riley, trying to look condescending. "I don't care if he's FIVE four," I said. "He's the best college player I've ever seen. He's going to dominate your league."

I was probably shouting. Back then, I had come to really like Jordan personally and I thought he was beyond amazing on the court.

"You know something," Riley said, pointing a finger. "You're young and you're loud."

Well, he had me there. I was definitely both. I was also right.

Special irony here: Riley now runs the team starring Dwyane Wade, who is even shorter than Jordan.