Michael Jordan was first brought to the American mainstream consciousness through Sports Illustrated, but the two had a falling out.
When Jordan began dominating the NBA as a rookie, SI was one of the first publications to sit up and take notice. They first featured MJ on their cover in a December 1984 edition with the caption ‘A Star Is Born’.
But the relationship soured around 10 years later when the magazine wrote a critical piece about his baseball skills. They titled the article ‘Bag it, Michael’, featuring a picture of MJ helplessly trying to make contact with a pitch.
What did Steve Wolf write about Michael Jordan?
Steve Wulf wrote a piece about MJ after visiting him in training camp with the Chicago White Sox. He saw that the “baseball snobs” were “right about one thing: He will never, ever hit.” He added:
“Michael Jordan has no more business patrolling right field in Comiskey Park than Minnie Minoso has bringing the ball upcourt for the Chicago Bulls.”
However, when he checked in on Michael Jordan later (during the 1994 minor-league season), he was mightily impressed with how much the 31-year-old, retired NBA star had improved his baseball skills:
“Those weak swings he was taking in spring training were now line drives,” he said. Wulf said he wrote what he described as a “mea culpa” story, but the magazine declined to publish it.
“I think he’s perfectly within his rights to maintain that stance. The headline was over the top,” Wulf said. “And I know SI thought, ‘Well, we put him on the cover so many times. What’s the big deal about this?’ “Well, you know what, we disrespected him.”
SI remains the most revered sports magazine in USA even today, and with good reason. They have helped to keep long-form journalism alive in an era of small attention spans and clickbaits. But they won’t be lucky enough to have an interview with Michael Jordan any time soon.