I’m sitting with Larry Bird while I’m doing a McDonald’s commercial with him, LeBron James, and Dwight Howard. We are looking at those two with their magnificent bodies and Bird says, ‘I got out just in time.’
He also told me that the biggest change in basketball was being able to turn the ball over in the palm of your hand. In the day, this was called palming, and was a turnover with the ball going over to the other team. Somehow, the rules have been changed and this gives the ball handler an enormous advantage.
ZONE! I was playing a pick-up game with Bird and the stand-ins and extras and I was guarding Bird. He said that I had to play a ‘professional game,’ that is, guard MAN to MAN, that is, not fall back into a ZONE. If I wasn’t going to play properly, he wouldn’t play. Every time I would drop back from him he would call out, ZONE! I got the message.
I played a lot of ball with Michael as well. MJ needed the exercise. His mantra was PROTECT THE BALL. There is only one ball in the game so treasure it when it’s in your hands. Don’t be careless.
I made a shot that rattled around the rim. Michael immediately admonished me that it was not a professional shot. A PROFESSIONAL SHOT is one that goes through the hoop cleanly without touching the rim.
When I did SPACE JAM I played in the Jordan Dome a few times. The Dome was an inflatable court that MJ practiced in at night (after the shoot). Michael asked me why I never played on his team. I told him that I liked to get the ball once in a while.
We were played H.O.R.S.E. once and we both were at ‘S.’ Michael was shooting left handed. He turns and he does a flat footed dunk.
‘I’m not letting you beat me.’
Michael and I are playing pool at the Bulls’ training facility, eight ball, twenty bucks a game. The first game, I get lucky and run the table but scratch on the eight ball. Michael wins (by default). I feel good about this. We play…and play…and play. Austin, my assistant director comes up to me.
‘You have to stop playing.’
‘Why? Are they finished lighting?’
‘No! You’ve lost all our petty cash.’
I’m doing a horrible McD spot with MJ, Bird, Barkley that is a follow-up to the NOTHING BUT NET spot. The great director Billy Wilder once said, ‘Never do a sequel.’ I should have listened. I start with Bird’s stuff. On a break Michael comes up to me.
‘Why are you shooting Bird first?’
‘He was here first.’
Bird was asked to speak at an awards show for me and he couldn’t make it but sent a terrific message offering me a position on the Pacers’ team as a power forward, saying they could use my help. In a hundred years a historian will find this and my fame as a basketball player will be secure.