Culture of Hoops

Does Michael Jordan Owe Pop Herring Anything?

Michael Jordan hasn’t seen his high school coach, Pop Herring, since 1994. Thomas Lake, in a Sports Illustrated piece, calls out Jordan for not keeping in touch with Herring, but most of all, for not helping Herring during his time of strife and misery. Please feel free to read the piece by Lake, but the gist of it is that Herring suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, is an alcoholic, has served jail time in part due to the aforementioned conditions, and has lost his job, wife, and daughter. Herring’s home is also physically falling apart and he is in need of new clothes and sneakers.

It’s Mr. Lake’s opinion that Jordan should, to some degree that is great or small, to help the fabled high school coach that “cut” (factually, Herring sent Jordan to junior varsity) His Airness in his sophomore year. Obviously, it was something that Jordan has never forgotten, even saying the following during his NBA Hall of Fame speech referencing Mr. Herring:

“I wanted to make sure you understood: You made a mistake, dude.”

Maybe this comes off as a bit callous from the greatest basketball player that ever lived. A player whose ability can never be questioned and any statements by him referencing his standing in the lore of basketball is a basic thumbing of his nose and sticking out of his tongue. We get it, Mike… you’re the best to have ever played the sport. If you saw his speech, you’ll know that Jordan basically kept that mixed tone of insecurity, braggadocio, and snarkiness throughout. If you haven’t seen it, have at it below:

That bit of background now in your minds, does Michael Jordan owe Pop Herring anything?

I understand where Mr. Lake is coming from, I really do. He’s obviously a good-hearted person as seen through his paying for Herring’s bond to get him out of jail, buying him lunch, and most of all, his writing about Herring and his situation on one of the most recognized brands in sports. But, to think that Jordan should in some manner pay back Herring, which at this point would be involuntary, is kind of ridiculous. As Mr. Lake writes:

Mike, I know you can’t fix Pop. But you can help him. He helped make you, and now you are a very rich man.

As if Jordan’s natural talent, indomitable spirit to beat every single person on the face of the planet, and working harder than others wasn’t the source that helped and truly made Jordan. Remember, Jordan has been carrying his “cut” from varsity from the point that it happened to today. If Mr. Lake meant that Herring helped Jordan in this way (negatively, mind you) then Jordan definitely doesn’t owe any help!

In the end, it’s obviously Jordan’s money and prerogative to do or not do whatever he wants when it comes to this situation. Jordan didn’t put forth the negative things affecting Herring’s life currently. Herring made some mistakes in life as we all have. And, yes, it’s both fortunate and very good when someone helps us through troubled times. But, unless you’re family (and even then), there’s no obligation to help anyone.

Acts of kindness should be done voluntarily and if there was any chance of Jordan helping Herring wholeheartedly, it’s now gone because Mr. Lake’s post will be seen as the impetus for a grumpy old man (Jordan) to help another. But, again, why should Jordan help someone that obviously still doesn’t have his priorities in life straight. Per Mr. Lake’s post:

I saw Pop the next morning, getting a shave and a haircut at Washington’s Barber Shop. He was talking about getting some new clothes so he could get a girlfriend or two. You could buy him new clothes.

I think Mr. Lake has sincere and good intentions, but it’s obvious that Herring doesn’t. Why should Jordan owe Herring anything?

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