My Dinner with Michael Jordan and the Dream Team

 

Watching the Olympic basketball team cheer on Michael Phelps was disappointing because the members seemed so self-absorbed. They didn’t pay much attention to the races, but instead, joked with each other and took endless selfies. And when three of them were seen at a bordello in Rio and claimed it was a spa – that was pretty sleazy. This dream team is nothing like the original dream team of 1992, who went Monaco to play an exhibition match before heading on to Barcelona. The original dream team were guests of Prince Rainier, and they were all staying at Monaco’s Loews Hotel. Our friend, the president of Loews, had invited my husband and to come to Monaco, watch the exhibition game, and join the dream team at a small dinner hosted by the Prince.

 

I’d knew I was to be seated next to Prince Rainier because I spoke fluent French and no one else in our party did, but I had no idea who’d be on my other side. A tall elegant man dressed in a suit and tie approached the table, sat down next to me, extended his baseball-glove-sized hand and said, “Hello,” I’m Michael Jordan.” I felt my face turn hot. “I know who you are.” I shook his beefy palm. “But you’ve got the wrong dinner partner.” He looked at me quizzically. “Why do you say that?” he asked. “Because,” I said, “I hate watching basketball, I can’t stand golf, and I detest gambling.” He grinned and said, “We’re going to get along just fine.”

 

During our introduction, the rest of those at our table came and sat down: opposite me was Magic Johnson, next to him was Charles Barkley, then Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, and Coach Chuck Daly. Seven superstars and me? How would I get through this? Suddenly a man in a tuxedo rushed from table to table and said, “Stand up, stand up, the Prince is coming!”  Magic Johnson turned to Michael Jordan and said, “Hey MJ!” Jordan answered, “Yeah, MJ?” Johnson said, “Maybe we should have people stand up for us!” They both laughed.

 

As Prince Rainier made his way into the room I looked around for my husband and saw he was seated with David Robinson, Karl Malone, Christian Laettner and Larry Bird.  That morning, we’d seen Larry Bird at the rooftop pool sitting in a lounge, playing with his young son. Because of his height – he’s 6’9” ― the lounge chair was much too short for him and his knees dangled over the edge.  When we left the pool, Scotty Pippin was in the hallway with his girlfriend. Almost timidly he said, “Excuse me, but do you know how to get to the beach?” He was just like a normal person, only taller.

 

 “Sir Charles” Barkley, and who’d been known to stir up controversy, was quick to laugh and couldn’t have been funnier – not at all the way he appeared to be in the press. That afternoon, we’d attended their practice session. They were playing against each other, and at one point, Malone slipped on the wet floor. A couple of young French boys with mops tried to clean the spot but Patrick Ewing came over, grabbed the mop  and scrubbed until the spot was completely dry. Patrick Ewing mopping the floor?

 

Every member of the original Dream Team – away from their adoring public and eager press ― was just a regular guy, not like this Olympic dream team. And Michael Jordan was right – we DID have a fine time at dinner by NOT talking about basketball, golf, or gambling. We talked about what keeps a marriage together and agreed that one of the most important things was separate bathrooms. But we were both wrong about that. Separate bathrooms, I discovered – as did Michael, weren’t enough, because we both ended up divorcing before the next Olympics.

 

 

 

 

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