DETROIT — Since he didn't do it when North Carolina won the 2005 national championship in St. Louis, Michael Jordan doesn't plan to speak to the Tar Heels before they play Michigan State for the NCAA title tonight at Ford Field.
But if he was to talk to them, he said he'd repeat what legendary coach Dean Smith told him before the 1982 national championship game:
"Just go out there and have fun. These are the games that are a lot of fun, because the expectations are a lot higher, the craziness is a lot higher, the stakes are a lot higher — but that's what you live for. That's the fun part, so just go out there and be who you are and have fun."
Jordan, who hit the Tar Heels' game-winning shot in that title game, was announced as one of the members of this year's Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class this morning. It seemed fitting that it would happen when the Tar Heels were in town, trying to win another title.
"It's uncanny how things happen,'' Jordan said. "I'm glad to be here, I'm glad that North Carolina's playing, I'm glad they're playing in a game I can watch and enjoy, and hopefully we can walk out of here with a championship."
Other tidbits from his press conference:
- Riding over on the bus to the national title game in 1982, Jordan said he knew "that I was going to have an impact at some point, in some fashion. How that was going to translate, I didn't know -- but low and behold, I made the game-winning shot. But that was the vision that I saw."
- There's a running one-liner that the only person who could show Jordan was Smith. Jordan's response: "It's a pretty good joke. But I did average 19 points my junior year, and people tend to forget that. My scoring was going up each year just because of all the things coach taught me about utilizing my skills. And then when I went to the pros, obviously my scoring average went up. So it wasn't as if he held me back, he just taught me more about the game of basketball. And too many times today, people look at the scoring aspect and say, 'What did Coach Smith do to keep you from excelling as a basketball players?' Well, I did excel as a basketball player. I take it as a joke ... but he taught me a lot of aspects of the game other than scoring."