It would make sense that Michael Jordan isn’t great at handling media criticism, because he hasn’t been dealt much of it, but Stephen A. Smith claims that’s not the case.
Smith joined Howard Stern earlier this week to promote his new memoir Straight Shooter, and during their wide-ranging conversation, the First Take host discussed athletes getting annoyed with his ESPN commentary. Despite the notion that Jordan is sensitive to media criticism, Smith said the six-time NBA champion is OK with it, as long as you call him first.
Stephen A. Smith tells Howard Stern that Michael Jordan is fine with media criticism, unless you blindside him pic.twitter.com/OHUQEzrWau
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) January 20, 2023
“Michael Jordan is one of these things, there’s a misnomer about him,” Smith told Stern. “People get on him because they think that he can’t take criticism, that is not true. Michael Jordan will cuss me out or somebody else out quicker than you can say your name, if you blindside him.
“If you call Michael Jordan, ‘this is how I feel, here’s why,’ he’s got no problem with you. Give him an opportunity to explain, and if he has no explanation or he couldn’t reach you…he’s very big about that.”
Having to go through certain protocols before criticizing someone to avoid ticking that person off means they’re probably not that great at handling criticism, to begin with. The other issue with needing to warn Jordan before criticizing him is that it eliminates the ability to spontaneously criticize him.
Charles Barkley has famously stated losing Michael Jordan’s friendship is the biggest fallout from his media career. More than a decade ago, Barkley was mid-radio interview when he accurately stated Jordan “has not done a good job” as an NBA owner. Barkley also claimed Jordan doesn’t surround himself with enough people who are willing to challenge him.
As Barkley tells the story, Jordan has not spoken to him in over a decade because of that criticism. But apparently, had Barkley just paused the radio interview and privately called Jordan to give him a heads up before criticizing his ownership tenure, the two Basketball Hall-of-Famers would still be best friends today.