The Charlotte Hornets, who will not be making the trek down I-95 to Orlando when the NBA resumes next month, met with media members Thursday on Zoom, reflecting on their now-completed 2019-20 season. The conversation eventually shifted to owner Michael Jordan, the subject of ESPN’s wildly popular The Last Dance documentary. One aspect of Jordan’s career not addressed in The Last Dance was the former shooting guard’s two-year stint with the Washingon Wizards, a rare blemish in an otherwise brilliant career. The Hall of Famer showed his age with Washington, failing to make the Wizards relevant in the Eastern Conference while occasionally lashing out at teammates including former All-Star Jerry Stackhouse.
According to Cody Zeller, who just wrapped up his seventh season with the Hornets, Jordan spoke to the team about his failed Wizards tenure, expressing his regret in how he treated younger teammates with Stackhouse among them. Jordan’s legendary intensity and “tough love” leadership often rubbed teammates the wrong way (MJ’s complicated relationships with Scott Burrell, Steve Kerr and Horace Grant were each explored in the documentary), a trait that Stackhouse claims stunted his development.
“Honestly, I wish I never played in Washington and for a number of reasons,” Stackhouse told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on a recent podcast. “The kind of picture I had in my mind of Michael Jordan and the reverence I had for him, I lost a little bit of it during the course of that year.”
Stackhouse, a fellow North Carolina alum, was no fan of Jordan’s when the two played together in Washington. Though Stackhouse, then just 28, was arguably the better player at that juncture, the offense continued to flow through Jordan at the team’s expense. “We got off to a pretty good start, and he didn't like the way the offense was running because it was running a little bit more through me,” Stackhouse recalled of his experience playing alongside Jordan in 2002-03. “And it just kind of spiraled in a way that I didn't enjoy that season at all."
While it’s probably too late to salvage their relationship, in speaking to the Hornets, Jordan acknowledged that he should have taken Stackhouse “under his wing” and taught him to be a leader. That didn’t happen, and now the GOAT has to live with that reality.
Jordan’s win-at-all-costs mentality served him well on the hardwood—his six championship rings and five MVP awards would attest to that—though it made him a difficult teammate. Machiavelli argued it was better to be feared than loved and while the younger MJ may have subscribed to that theory, the 57-year-old Jordan wishes he had been a bit kinder during his playing days.