A Brief History of the Time Kenny Rogers Pump-Faked Michael Jordan Out of the Gym
Talk about the Gambler! Or something?
Photo via kennyrogers.com
This article originally appeared on VICE Sports in July 2014.
Oh, the 80s! It was a strange time, a pre-internet age when people, even famous people, were doing and saying embarrassing things, most of which ended up disappearing into the ether. Some of them were recorded on video, though, and some of those videos wound up on YouTube, where these moments are sitting there, just waiting to change your life forever. Case in point: This highlight video of a three-on-three basketball game (called by longtime Lakers play-by-play man Chick Hearn, no less) at the 1988 edition of the Kenny Rogers Classic Weekend, a three-day fundraising festival held at Kenny Rogers' Beaver Dam Farm near Athens, Georgia, that has to have been a precursor to MTV Rock N' Jock. The weekend featured a lot of musical performances, some tennis, a little golf, and, since it was in Georgia, fishing. But none of that matters. Look at that shit: Kenny Rogers pump-faked Michael Jordan so freaking hard!
MJ does his thing in the opening seconds of the above video, getting a put-back dunk and (most likely) saying something withering to Dominique Wilkins. Then we see 'Nique kicking it out to a wide-open Kenny. MJ recovers and closes in as Kenny catches it and executes just the most fundamental pump-fake you can imagine on His Airness. We've talked about how Adam Wainwright screwed up on purpose to make Derek Jeter look good, and it's possible Jordan bit on the fake to make Kenny look good in front of the meager crowd. But! Kenny still had to hit the jumper and inspire Chick Hearn to call the play beautifully ("Kenny Rogers puts Jordan in the popcorn machine and hits a 21-footer"—please someone google "Chuck Hearn drug use late 80s"). Kenny's reaction after the shot is a mix of some primo strutting and a "Deal With It" .GIF come to live. It's magic.
Then MJ takes over in a way that is probably not appropriate for a charity three-on-three game in which one of the entrants is a 50-year-old country singer. Kenny sloooooowly drives to the hoop, but his layup attempt is swallowed by Jordan. Then MJ beats 'Nique off the dribble and performs an acrobatic (and that's putting it lightly) layup. He answers Kenny with a clutch shot and we're all tied up at 20. White team ball. MJ blocks another and after Nique forces up a long two, it's Red ball. MJ takes it on the wing, drives against the entire White team, and floats a layup in for the win. Red wins.
As a bonus, we also get to see MJ and Larry Bird going at each other like it's Game 7 at the Garden. Bird recovers from putting a potential three-ball in the rafters and takes a pass from John McEnroe and glides down the center of the lane to grandma-style it in. Bird always did get the best of MJ.
David Matthews has no idea when to hold them or when to fold them. Follow him on Twitter.
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