The Chicago Tribune called it "a candid, heartfelt speech."
It was candid and heartfelt, alright.
I would have preferred that he'd lied and kept up the media illusion that so many around him cultivated in Chicago. But this was MJ Unplugged: without handlers, without sympathetic PR spinners, without friendly journalists who wouldn't dare bite the hand that fed them.
The speech did a lot to illustrate the mental framework necessary to be Michael Jordan: a player that maximized every one of his incredible gifts with hard work and used his competitive will to bludgeon the opposition. He took what should have been a gracious reflection on his career and used it to bury various hatchets, dwell on perceived slights (and how he delivered his comeuppance), and remind everyone of his greatness, forgetting that the event was already designed to be an affirmation of it.
True believers, hero worshippers, and ESPN won't see it that way, but as a Michael Jordan fan, and certainly someone who regards him as the greatest basketball player of all time, I was uncomfortable watching it.
This guy saw the same speech that I did. It was about settling scores. It also stood in marked contrast to the humble, gracious speeches delivered by David Robinson and John Stockton. Their valedictories oozed gratitude as much as Jordans' seeped bile.
Some quality excerpts:
On former Bull GM Jerry Krause:
“Jerry’s not here,” he said. “I don’t know who’d invite him. I didn’t. I hope he understands it goes a long way. He’s a very competitive person. I was a very competitive person. He said organizations win championships. I said, ‘I didn’t see organizations playing with the flu in Utah. I didn’t see it playing with a bad ankle.’
After being selfish in a Chicago win, Tex Winter cautions him about the importance of team:
"Tex said there was no I in team. Well, that's true. But there is an I in win. So however you want it."
After discussing his legacy (and after a big applause) he looks at his three kids and shrugs:
"You guys have a heavy burden. I wouldn't want to be you."
After that comment, I can say that this is the very first time in my life that I wouldn't want to be you.