Understanding McHale’s comments
McHale comes off bitter here, and this isn’t the first time he’s made not-so-positive comments about the championship Bulls teams. It’s interesting to hear his perspective, as he played in the league before Jordan’s arrival and through MJ’s first nine seasons.
The former Houston Rockets coach is correct in referencing the 1979 NCAA championship game’s ratings between Bird and Magic, and he’s also correct that the Bird vs. Magic rivalry saved NBA basketball. But Jordan’s presence lifted the league to even greater heights and he also was responsible for the rebirth of USA basketball on the Olympic stage, although that’s fallen back off as of late.
Jordan also built the entire Nike/Jordan Brand empire single-handedly, and now many of the league’s top players are signed to the label. Bird vs. Magic is undeniably one of the greatest individual rivalries in NBA history, but that’s a different conversation than what we’re discussing here.
That also didn’t lead to the same ratings and attendance numbers as Jordan generated over the course of his career. There’s nothing wrong with giving credit to two all-time greats like Bird and Magic but to say Jordan wasn’t responsible for the NBA’s growth is factually inaccurate.