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COMPETITIVE FIRE SHOWS AS JORDAN ENTERS HALL

THE BALTIMORE SUN

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - -Humble and reflective earlier in the day, Michael Jordan showed once again Friday night why his competitive fire never will be extinguished as he officially entered the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Jordan basically trash-talked his way through his acceptance speech, thanking all those slights - real and perceived - for adding "wood to the fire" and motivating him during his unparalleled career.

He then closed with a tantalizing thought.

"One time you might look up and see me playing the game at 50," Jordan said, drawing chuckles. "Oh, don't laugh. Never say never, because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion."

Nobody was spared in his mostly good-natured remarks, including:

Legendary North Carolina coach Dean Smith for forbidding Jordan, then a freshman, to pose for a magazine cover.

Leroy Smith, whom Jordan invited, for making the Laney (N.C.) High varsity over him and the coach who made that decision: "I wanted to make sure he knew, 'You made a mistake, dude.' "

Chicago Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf for putting him on a minutes limit when he returned in his injury-marred second season.

Former general manager Jerry Krause for his infamous quote about organizations winning championships. Jordan, though, ultimately added: "The whole Bulls organization did a great justice for me and my teammates."

Pat Riley. Isiah Thomas. Jeff Van Gundy, whom he called "the little guy." Bryon Russell. And many, many others.

"Thank you so much for giving me that motivation that I desperately needed," Jordan said.

Jordan cried as he took the stage and credited Scottie Pippen, part of a large Bulls contingent that included Toni Kukoc, Steve Kerr, John Paxson, Dennis Rodman, Charles Oakley, Ron Harper and Randy Brown.

This sentimental side matched Jordan's mood earlier Friday, when he genuinely tried to deflect accepting the title of the greatest player of all time.

"When people say that, I cringe a little bit," Jordan said. "I never played against Jerry West. I never played against Elgin Baylor. I never played against Wilt Chamberlain."

Then came a pause, one of history's most marketed smiles and another glimpse of what drove Jordan to Friday's honor.

"I would've loved to, though," he said.

Jordan headed a high-profile 2009 Hall of Fame class that included former San Antonio Spurs and Navy center David Robinson, Utah Jazz guard John Stockton, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan and Rutgers women's coach C. Vivian Stringer.

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