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Why did Jordan say that Republicans also buy sneakers?

Sam Smith reveals what lies behind one of the quotes that made history

Why did Jordan say that Republicans also buy sneakers? Sam Smith reveals what lies behind one of the quotes that made history

Sam Smith is one of the pioneers of American journalism, one of those born with a pen and a microphone in his hand. It went down in history, the sporting one, for many reasons: approach, relationship with the players, but above all an interview and a book in particular. That book is titled "The Jordan Rules", a sort of collection of episodes from the 1990-91 season of Jordan and its Chicago Bulls in which the private sides of the Illinois franchise and the dark sides of the technical leader are "revealed". charismatic and emotional team.

The controversies that aroused are still debated today, but one thing is certain: from that moment the unique relationship that Smith had with the players changed. Or at least, especially changed the relationship with a player and there is no need to make "names and surnames". The historical memory of Sam Smith, however, is too precious: too many anecdotes he could still tell and too many moments that he lived alongside the stars of the Bulls, being the reference pen of "The Chicago Tribune" for most of the Jordan dynasty.

Without wanting to spoil "The Last Dance" - coming to Netflix from Monday 20 - Sam Smith and his wealth of experiences on the Bulls are part of the documentary produced by ESPN. In the past few hours Sam has written, and absurd as it may seem, he did it on the Chicago Bulls website. "Never expected that" and how to blame him. 

Smith recounted how his collaboration with the producers was born and focused on one of the most fascinating - and controversial - stories that surround the myth of MJ. The phrase "Republicans also buy sneakers" Sam lists it among the most famous phrases in American history, jokingly comparing them to phrases pronounced by characters like Abraham Lincoln, Patrick Herry ("Give me freedom or death", Teddy Roosevelt or Martin Luther King The story - or at least Smith's version - behind that phrase has come to light, but it starts from afar to understand what is behind that single phrase, too many times not fully understood.

"I had a good relationship with Jordan writing about the Bulls for The Chicago Tribune in the 80s. It was a lot of fun to be around always to follow them. The Jordan Rules suspect was told in the documentary. Once published, however, our relationship is changed. I stayed in my place and Jordan remained professional and respectful because he was what he was. There were no more jokes, like the one about shoes"

For Smith, what is most lacking in the history of the odds is the historical contextualization, true discriminant and real keystone to understand how correct the criticisms that the NBA world (past, present and future) were addressed to Michael Jordan.

"First of all, we have to consider the times. It's a bit like if we wanted to judge by today's standards a character like Thomas Jefferson. The NBA was in trouble in the early 80s. It wasn't ending up off the market, but business was not going well. Racism and the emerging drug culture were very complex problems. To this we add the rivalry between the NBA and ABA, which did not benefit either. By now it had all been reduced to 'white leaders 'and' black players' and it was a stereotype that went on for some time. The NBA was considered very little: the games went in second if not in the third evening, the conference finals were played simultaneously. On the arrival of David Stern, the man who avoided the failure of many teams and the whole system, thanks to the salary cup and strict financial rules. Stern guaranteed contracts to all players, but under certain conditions. minimizing comments on controversial issues of current affairs at the time. Basically Stern asked players to be players only. Difficult request if, for example, in the League there are very socially active players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, one who boycotted the 1968 Olympics for racial issues"

When a reporter is assigned to a team, he becomes practically an integral part of the team: he has the same rhythms, follows their plans, travels with the away team. In short, a relationship is established between players and journalists. The two chemical mixtures come into contact, some manage to live in symbiosis while others create an explosion. Smith and Jordan went through both phases. Jordan knew the Smith job, Smith knew that Jordan loved the give-and-take relationship with the media.

Before tackling the key episode, Smith makes a professional excursus that is not trivial and that Jordan knew. The Chicago Tribune journalist had also had a career in politics, serving as a congressional reporter in the late 1970s. Politics had remained somewhat in his life, although he had decided to pursue a sports career. During the election campaign for the Senate in North Carolina, Smith was cheering on Harvey Gantt (the man who opposed the proposal to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday and which worsened relations between the US and Cuba), while Jordan was asked to "take the field" alongside Republican candidate Jesse Helms. Jordan had chosen not to take sides and not to support Gantt in any way, explaining that he was not interested in politics and did not know much about the election campaign.

According to what was reported in Sam Smith's 1995 "Second Coming: The Strange Odyssey of Michael Jordan", the journalist attributes to a vague "friend of MJ" the phrase in question: "Republicans also buy shoes", a a declaration so controversial that Smith himself modified it in the most famous version, replacing the word "shoes" with "sneakers".

"Jordan has always shown an extremely competitive character and never missed an opportunity to show him. He always wanted to have the last word. Always. He did not like shooting before the games, he detested the shows like those that are seen today with Steph Curry while dribbling in the warm-up He preferred to commit verbally, to challenge who was ahead. It seemed like the competition he needed to prepare for the game. [...] Like that time I was cheering for Jesse Helms and that race in the Senate of North Carolina. Jordan knew how much NBA had asked players to stay away from this kind of thing. But the competitive spirit was stronger than he was and when we found ourselves talking about that thing he wanted the last word once again. And his last word was that: 'Republicans buy shoes too'"