Armstrong: We Never Wanted Michael To Feel Alone

Former Bulls guard B.J. Armstrong reflects on being Michael Jordan's teammate and, more importantly, his friend

May 06, 2020 - 10:03 am
Michael Jordan 1998 Bulls

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Michael Jordan is a legend, an icon. He is recognized all over the world and has been for the majority of his life.

As evidenced in The Last Dance, however, that is not always easy.

“You got to be careful what you ask for because you just might get it,” former Bulls guard B.J. Armstrong told JR SportBrief. “Everyone has these aspirations to be the star player or be the leading actor in a movie – everybody wants to be the head character. But then no one wants the responsibility and all the demands and all of the things that come with it. You could see the toll that it took on him.”

Armstrong remembers a message his father gave him: you don’t want to stand in front of the spotlight too long because it might dim your suit.

“I never understood that, but as I got older and I started playing, [it made sense],” Armstrong said. “Everything that we think is going on, it’s not quite like that. Being a star, I don’t wish that on anyone. Being a celebrity and living your life, I don’t wish that on anyone because it’s a game that you can’t win. You can’t be yourself. I couldn’t go to the movies with Michael. He couldn’t go. We would go to a cafe to just grab a bite. He couldn’t do that. I don’t know if that’s the way to live – I’m not saying it’s right, I’m not saying it’s wrong – but I do know that it takes an incredible amount of discipline and it takes a toll on you after a while because you just want to live your life. Not being able to do that can be confining and it can be difficult at times.”

Armstrong played for the Bulls from 1989 to 1995 and again from 1999-2000. He and his teammates did their part to make life a little easier on their superstar.

“The thing for all of us was, yes, we understood the Air Jordan character,” Armstrong said. “We all wanted to make sure that our friend, Michael – the human side of him, the person behind all of this – was good, and we never allowed that person to feel alone. We didn’t want him to feel that it was him versus the world or whatever was going on. We always wanted to make sure that the environment was comfortable for him, that he [knew] that we always had his back. He knew that we were going to be there for him no matter what because we understood how popular he was.”

Armstrong remembers thongs of people waiting for hours to catch a glimpse of Jordan walking from the team bus to the arena before every game.

“It was different for all of us,” Armstrong said. “We got the brand and all of those things they were building business-wise, but the greatest thing about Michael was he was just one of the guys when no one else could see – and that’s the guy that we all knew, that we all loved, and he was part of our family. We just wanted to maintain that relationship because the person is important. To us, he was just MJ. He was a guy that we played cards with, we joked with, and we had a lot of fun with when no one could see it.”