Jordan: No fault with players' big numbers

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

NEW YORK -- When it comes to scoring points, Michael Jordan is an expert.

So he couldn't help but delight in Kobe Bryant putting up 81 and a New York high schooler going wild for 113.

Still, Jordan insisted things would have been a bit different if he'd been guarding Bryant.

"If I was on the other side, there's no way I would have been in at the end of that game without six fouls," Jordan said Tuesday. "I don't know if I could have given up 81 points and not fouled out of the game."

Bryant's total in a come-from-behind victory over Toronto last month was the second-highest in NBA history.

Epiphanny Prince set a national girls' record last week in a game that was a rout from the start. Some complained her performance in such a one-sided contest was poor sportsmanship.

"I can't fault the young lady for scoring 113 points when she goes out each and every minute to play the game hard," Jordan said. "If you're going to fault anybody, fault the coach for not taking her out of the game."

The former Chicago Bulls star was in town to announce the players for his high school showcase, the Jordan All-American Classic, set for April 22 at Madison Square Garden.

Jordan was so impressed by Prince -- one of the top prep players in the nation -- he's contemplating adding a girls' event next year.

"I think that she's going to innovate this game," he said. "I think we should give women an opportunity to be recognized."

Jordan, whose NBA career-high was 69, couldn't remember a specific time when people got on him about scoring too much. But he knows there were probably many occasions like that.

"I imagine you guys were mad at me a lot in New York," Jordan joked, in a lobby adjacent to the Garden. "People got mad at me for playing hard every minute I was on the basketball court, and it so happened that I scored a lot of points on their team."

Bryant has often said the he fashions his game after the 10-time NBA scoring leader. Jordan said he can see some similarities.

"You see him playing with any of the elite guys in the league ... he's going to guard them defensively, and he will beg for them to guard him on the other end. That's my approach. I would do the same thing."

Jordan would like to see the NBA tinker with its new rule on when players can be drafted. Now, they have to wait one year after high school -- he wants it to be two, so they get past their teens.

"I think from an educational and maturity standpoint it should have been at least 20," he said. "That way they get at least two years of college. Colleges get the chance to teach and educate them about the game of basketball and life and it trickles down."

"There's no way that an 18-year-old kid is going to be mature enough to handle some of the business things that they have to deal with on a professional level," he said. "Sure you have your obvious examples of a LeBron (James) and Carmelo (Anthony). But for every one of those, you can think of four or five who missed the boat and made the wrong decision and now they can't find their way," he said.

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