NBA legend Michael Jordan fulfilled the sports fantasy of playing wheelchair basketball with a 16-year old Eric Barber.
During the year 1987, MJ fulfilled Paralympian Eric Barber’s wish of playing wheelchair basketball with him. Barber, who was only 16-years old at the time, wrote to a television show of the 80s about his dream to meet the Bulls superstar.
To his surprise, his fantasy came alive. However, the meeting would lead to a one-on-one match between the two.
Barber was born with a cured spinal condition called scoliosis. The Paralympian lost the use of his legs when he was three. He grew up in Chicago, dribbling and shooting a basketball in the asphalt park courts. His mentor Bob Trotter introduced him to wheelchair basketball at 13 while he was at a rehab center.
Jordan and Barber would play a game of wheelchair basketball up to 20 points. What followed was an entertaining contest between the 2 that is still remembered.
Michael Jordan plays wheelchair basketball with Paralympian Eric Barber
As Barber had his wish granted of playing basketball with the Bulls legend. While speaking about the match just before the tip-off Barber said, “Look, he has never been in a wheelchair before. He’s a novice. I’ve been doing this for at least two to three years. I go to the court every day. My game is tight. He’s not gonna know how to maneuver in a chair.”
MJ, who has never backed down from a fight would go on to approach Barber about his remarks, “What’s this you been talking? You going to get away with me and think I don’t have a chance?”
The tip-off would soon begin, with Jordan struggling to find a way to play. Meanwhile, Barber took a 16-4 lead against the superstar.
However, Jordan would eventually find his rhythm during the match and knock 5 shots in a row from the 45-degree angle. Though the match would result in Barber winning 19-14.
Years later while reminiscing his encounter with Jordan, Barber said, “They talk about his competitive drive, It was definitely evident even back in 1987 to me. From his ability to pick up the sport quickly, to understand what he needed to do to be successful in the sport. It’s why he is the greatest basketball player to ever live.”
MJ’s competitive nature was clearly evident during the match as well, as the 2 would indulge in trash-talking at various instances. However, MJ did show his sportsmanship towards the end by congratulating the 16-year old.