Jordan: Considered myself a racist

ESPN logo
Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Michael Jordan's struggles with racism as a child were among the topics touched on in a biography released Tuesday.

In the book, titled "Michael Jordan: The Life," author Roland Lazenby described how Jordan grew up in the 1970s in North Carolina -- where Jordan said the Ku Klux Klan was dominant and that that atmosphere shaped his views on race.

Those views were strengthened after he watched the miniseries "Roots" and learned about the suffering of his African-American ancestors.

The tipping point, Lazenby wrote, came in 1977, when a girl at his school called him the N-word.

"So I threw a soda at her," Jordan said in a 1992 interview with Playboy magazine, the details of which were written about in Lazenby's book. "I was really rebelling. I considered myself a racist at the time. Basically, I was against all white people."

Jordan did not speak to Lazenby for the biography. The New York Post and other media outlets reported Wednesday that Jordan's quotes on racism as a child were in the book, but his publishing company issued a clarification later via a statement to ESPN.

"Michael Jordan made those statements in a 1992 interview with Playboy magazine, referring to a specific event from his childhood," the statement from Little, Brown and Company read. "This is reported in Lazenby's book, which is a definitive biography of MJ's life and covers Mr. Jordan's childhood thoroughly -- but Mr. Jordan did not make those statements to Lazenby for this book. As stated very clearly in previous interviews, Mr. Jordan did not participate in "Michael Jordan: The Life" by Roland Lazenby."

Suspended by the school for his actions, Lazenby writes that Jordan said his mother intervened, urging him not to have racial hatred dominate his life.

The book also details how Jordan was one of only two black players on the school baseball team and was called inferior while he played.

Now 51, Jordan went on to win six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls. He also took a break from basketball to try his hand at professional baseball.

Former Bulls general manager Jerry Krause says in the book that Jordan was powered throughout his life by any negative experiences, including those in his childhood.

"He remembers everyone who ever didn't think he was going to be great," Krause said in an excerpt published by "He remembers every negative story that's ever been written about him."

The book's release comes one week after Jordan, the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, spoke out against Los Angeles Clippers counterpart Donald Sterling, who was taped making racing comments last month and since has been banned by the NBA.

"As an owner, I'm obviously disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views," Jordan said in a statement. "... As a former player, I'm completely outraged.

"There is no room in the NBA -- or anywhere else -- for the kind of racism and hatred that Mr. Sterling allegedly expressed. I am appalled that this type of ignorance still exists within our country and at the highest levels of our sport. In a league where the majority of players are African-American, we cannot and must not tolerate discrimination at any level."