Doug Wilson is finally joining old golf buddy Michael Jordan among his sport’s elite.
Jordan was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009. Wilson will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday, part of the 2020 class that had to wait a year for their induction ceremony because of COVID-19.
Jordan and Wilson met each other in the ‘80s, both among the great Chicago sports stars of that decade.
— Brian Sandalow (@BrianSandalow) May 9, 2020
“We played a lot of golf together,” Wilson recounted last week. “He used to come to our club and play a lot. We played some tournaments together, we played a couple of pro-ams.”
The Wilson-Jordan connection goes beyond a few rounds of golf.
Wilson confirmed that he and San Jose Sharks teammates David Maley and Pat Falloon had front row seats for one of Jordan’s most legendary Chicago Bulls performances.
On Mar. 19, 1993, Washington Bullets sophomore LaBradford Smith had dropped a career-high 37 points on back-to-back champion Jordan in Chicago.
“Nice game, Mike.” That’s what Jordan claimed the youngster said to him sarcastically after the game.
The-then 10-60-2 San Jose Sharks happened to be right place, right time the next night, where the Bulls and Bullets were squaring off once again, this time in Washington.
“I remember reading the story that LaBradford had a pretty strong night against Michael,” Wilson recalled. “We ended up getting some great seats right and behind the bench.”
Maley told San Jose Hockey Now’s Ryan Cowley that Wilson procured the tickets: “The PR guy for Chicago — said to us, ‘Michael’s going to be on fire. Just watch him.’”
So offended by Smith’s purported slight, Jordan reportedly informed his Bulls teammates that he was going to match Smith’s 37 points…in the first half. He got close: Jordan scored 36 points in the first half.
“He was enjoying doing it. You could just see it,” Wilson remembered from his front row seat. “That was one of the great performances that night. You could just see it coming.”
That might have been the end of Smith’s night – years later, Jordan basically admitted to fabricating the slight – but Wilson, Maley, and Falloon’s was just beginning.
“I think late in the third quarter, they took [Jordan] out of the game and, as he comes out of the game, he’s walking down sweating like crazy, and he sees Doug Wilson — and me and Patty Falloon are in awe — and he yells, ‘Hey, Willie! What’s going on?’” Maley said. “He leans over to give [Wilson] a high-five and says, ‘Talk to you after the game,’ and me and Patty Falloon were like two little kids.”
Wilson confirmed that “Willie” was indeed his nickname in Chicago that didn’t quite make it to the Bay Area when got traded to the San Jose Sharks in September 1991.
“I think it was a pretty easy name to come up. [Blackhawks teammate] Darren Pang had always called me that,” Wilson said, before laughing. “Maybe there was not a lot of creativity in our dressing room at that point.”
So “Willie”, Maley, and Falloon were ushered into the Bulls’ locker room. Maley still hasn’t forgotten the ensuing exchange between Wilson and Jordan.
“The first thing he says is, ‘Man, you guys aren’t doing too good.’” Maley recalled. “I was, like, ‘Michael Jordan knows what we’re doing?’”
The second-year San Jose Sharks were on their way to an 11-71-2 finish.
“He’s a sports guy. He’s got a great sense of humor,” Wilson said of Jordan. “But he can bust your chops pretty good.”
Falloon remembered on the San Jose Hockey Now Podcast that fellow Basketball Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen was also there: “I was just a fly on the wall. I felt the size of a mosquito. I could not believe the height of these guys.”
“We just sat there, talked for a bit. I mean, me and Patty didn’t say much aside from hello because Doug introduced us,” Maley said. “So, afterwards, me and Patty were high-fiving and saying that we’re never going to wash our hands again and hoping that after the next game, we might get some luck.”
No such luck: The San Jose Sharks lost the next night 5-3 at Capital Centre. Even rubbing elbows with six-time NBA champion Jordan couldn’t change the fortunes of a Sharks squad in the midst of a 13-game losing streak – tied for the second-longest San Jose losing streak that season. The Sharks lost 17 in a row from Jan. to Feb. 1993 and 13 straight in late 1992.
But no matter.
“To this day, I’m still in awe that I even met the man,” Falloon said of Jordan. “That was all due to Doug Wilson.”
Wilson, for his part, took the opportunity to bust his old friend Jordan’s chops last week. Even though they haven’t played golf together or talked in a while, would Wilson say that Jordan was the superior golfer?
From one Hall of Famer to another: “Well, if I’m trying to get strokes from him, I’d say that.”
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