25 Comments for this article

Tags: , , , , , ,


By Thomas Lake

Dear Michael Jordan,

I heard Pop Herring was in jail so I drove up to see him the other night. You remember Pop, your basketball coach at Laney High in Wilmington. The man who opened the gym at 6 a.m. so you could work on that jumper. The man who let you borrow his car and had you over to his house and treated you like a son. The man who put you on jayvee in your sophomore year. Didn’t cut you, as you always said after that, although at the time it probably felt like a cut. I guess it still does, or did in 2009, when you were inducted into the Hall of Fame, and you addressed Pop directly without actually using his name and said, regarding his failure to put you on varsity, “I wanted to make sure you understood: You made a mistake, dude.”

Well, it was your mistake. You used what should have been a joyful occasion to call out a man for something he did not actually do. A sick and indigent man at that. As we both know, Pop’s life fell apart after you left town. Not his fault. A disease ran in his family, paranoid schizophrenia or some such thing, and he started acting strange, and he lost his job, and his wife, and his daughter, and pretty much everything else. Took to drinking, as you or I might do in similar circumstances.

Did you help him? Not in the past 18 years. He and his friends say the last time you saw him was 1994, and no one from your camp has come forward to dispute this. That was at a celebration of you in Chicago, and you introduced him to your fans as “the first guy to ever cut me,” and they booed.

Click here to read more at SI.com

(Photo by Bill Frakes/SI)

Comment on this Story

  • Chicagohoops

    I read in one of MJ’s books, that he worked for about about 2 to 3 weeks; anyhow not very long. What you’re stating and expecting is no different than what the writer Mr. Lake is expecting. You cannot expect someone to do something or be somewhere because you wish it.

    How do you know if MJ was available? He can’t be 2 and 3 places at the same time. Was Mr. Prevatte expecting MJ to just pop by and say hello? Was Mr. Prevatte disappointed that MJ didn’t make an appearance? Quit expecting for this man to fulfill everyone else’s wishes, needs, and desires. Maybe it was you who wanted to see MJ. It is not MJ’s job to make you happy and do something that you expected him to do. I sure someone expected for you to do something and you were unable to comply.

  • chicagohoops

    You’re just mad and envious because you didn’t make it like MJ.

  • Buc Daddy

    It is sad about Pop’s life, but that is the same way he treat’s laney HS, only thing he gives back is 2 scholarships(2500), heck his son’s blow that away in single game of blackjack, just like daddy!!!! Ask coach Lynch what happen to the jersey that was in the trophy case(ebay), all of the area hs athletes that have gone on to the pro’s give back, accept Laney’,because of the way they have been treated by lynch,sutton,and dietz, the whole state of laney athletics is in bad shape,What jordan does give to the basketball team(seconds of air jordan warm ups) is used by lynch,sutton and a host of others to benefit them, heck all of lynch family has a multiple sets of shoes warm ups, while pop is left out on the street. joradn hope your new wife takes you to the cleaners like juanita, and your 2 boy’s are just like you sorry!!!!

  • JTH

    Never ever forget where you came from and who helped you along the way.

  • CFYS

    It’s not just someone he knew fool… You help the people who helped you especially those hurting in spirit or health! This man was instrumental in not only coaching but teaching, parenting, guiding young Jordan. I would like to hear Jordan’s side and commend SI for calling him out! If it’s false then shame on SI. But it sounds like they are in the know on this.

  • Justin

    Got a speeding ticket tonight. Going to call my high school driving instructor and see if he’ll pick up the court cost for me…it’s the least he can do.

  • fuzzymemory

    Why are you calling out Michael Jordan for not helping a coach that he feels cut him? That makes no sense at all. To someone who wants to be on a varsity team and who gets stuck on JV instead, it’s essentially a cut. On top of that, we all have coaches or teachers that held us back along the way.

    Beyond all of that, I ask you this. Whatever your occupation is, what is your high school, middle school, or elementary teacher that taught whatever subject that is up to these days? Did they have a serious disease, did they have serious hardships in their old age. Likely they did, where were you? Probably living your life, not knowing that your teachers that may or may not have been a positive influence in your life may have been suffering.

    Michael isn’t a psychic. Like the rest of us would, he thinks of pop as the jerk that cut him and didn’t see his true potential. Does he remember what pop looks like or anything that he said at the time, probably not. It’s a blur. So give Michael a break.

  • Guest56568

    Isn’t this “Pop” the same man who was living in the house where serial killer Andrew Adams murdered and buried a woman early this year?

  • stuffer1

    did you just overlook the fact that he is diagnosed with paranoid shizophrenia> THAT IS NOT A CHOICE. You and MJ have the same amount of compassion for their fellow human being. I pray that no one in your family is ever diagnosed with a mental illness, I’m sure your reaction would be its their fault.

  • stuffer

    played hs ball against mj – once an asshole, always an asshole.

  • Thereisnonews

    When did Michael Jordan become responsible for everyone he ever knew? The answer is never! His former coach has made nothing but bad choices in his life and now Jordan’s supposed to come to the rescue !? Why, because he’s famous !? Where are all of the people that aren’t famous who knew this misfit? The author isn’t interested in them because there wouldn’t be an article without dropping Jordan’s name. Jordan has had a problem with SI ever since the 1994 cover and they’re still playing the jilted girlfriend role. How embarrassing for Sports Illustrated.

  • 1981duke

    More to this than we know.
    MJ is very generous to many charitable organizations.
    I would like to hear his side as well.

  • Guest111

    I think this article is totally out of line. I’m surprised that it got published and I would be pi**** if someone called me out publicly because I don’t support someone from my high school days.

    That being said, the only remark I have for Mr. Jordan is I was very let down that he didn’t make an attempt to see Whitey Prevatte when Whitey’s closed. That was MJ’s first job and I know he knew Whitey thought a lot of him. I expected to see him at some point the last week they were open but he didn’t show.

    Again, as far as this article is concerned, it sounds like a personal revenge type of thing. Totally out of line.

  • Tracy Dillard

    Hello Thomas, My name is Tracy and I just recently moved to the Wilmington area and I would love to help Pop out in some kind of way, it may not be much, but I can do something. You can reach me at dillard_tracy@yahoo.com. Thank you.

  • TarHeel4Ever

    Lake chooses not to call out the employer who fired Herring. He does not call out Herring’s wife or his daughter, who both abandoned him. Lake chooses not to call out Herring himself for diving into a bottle to deal with his problems. He chooses not to point out the horribly insufficient treatment available for those who suffer mental illness.

    Instead, he singles out Michael Jordan to blame for Herring’s predicament. MJ was at Laney more than THIRTY Years Ago! He obviously never forgot that Herring took him off the varsity squad. I don’t have anything good to say about the guy who fired me from my first real job either.

    Jordan would have gone on to greatness, regardless of Herring or Laney High School.

    Yes, MJ could do more to help out Pop Herring. So could many other people who are much closer to the situation. But, the writer ignores all of them because they are “nobodies” and that wouldn’t sell magazines.

  • portcity rider

    Mike became one of the greatest to play the game.In high school people in the know know mike had no chance of making the Varsity.Mike and his people have told that story for so long they believe it.He should first get that straight.Truth be told he wasn’t the best player in Wilmington when he graduate.Mr Boney was the man then.Now should he help Pop thats totally up to him.He hasn’t done anything for his community.Great basketball player!!!!!Role model?????????

  • cfys

    I agree with a lot of what you say except for that Jordan would have gone on to greatness regardless! NO WAY can you say that. Every little choice or action in our lives can change our course. This not only coached but parented, taught, motivated and guided young Jordan. He was a MAJOR influence. Jordan may not have had the fire or the drive or fell into a life a trouble at that age. Your way wrong on this one.

  • John D.

    Liberals don’t help people. Jordon only gives to Obama.

  • Not a Jordan Fan

    I do not think highly of Michael Jordan as a general rule. With that being said, what exactly does Michael Jordan owe his high school coach? Jordan has no reason to feel as though he is indebted to this man. Teachers and coaches are there to be positive influences on their students without any expectation of future support or consideration. Why should any student be made to feel as though they owe an educator anything more than respect in their classrooms? Jordan may have gotten special treatment from Herring, but let us not forget that Jordan’s success was a combination of many factors…not just what happened in high school. To think that Jordan should somehow feel responsible for this man is just grasping at straws. I am sure that Herring had many students over the years and it just happened to be that one of them became a superstar. Someone taught every superstar, Herring is just one of many educators that did what they are supposed to do…help kids to become successful adults. Jordan should not be held accountable for the reaction of the crowd at the ceremony,that was on the crowd for not being more respectful. Jordan may be a jerk for many reasons, but this letter is a bitter attempt to make a man feel guilty for being successful.

  • ce

    Not too late MJ. Try to be bigger than the selfish high schooler you are.

  • Jerk

    Jordan will always be a jerk. Does he owe this old man, or this town anything? No. Would any decent human being with the resources of a small nation do something to help him? Of course. But Jordan’s just a washed up jerk.

  • Guest9743

    You can call him a washed up jerk if that makes you feel better but Michael Jordan doesn’t owe Pop Herring or anyone else in this town a damn thing….now, would it have been nice if he had helped him….sure it would have been but he’s not beholding to Pop Herring in any way shape or form, he would have most likely succeeded with or without him!! No one else is responsible for Pop Herring’s situation except himself, certainly not Michael Jordan.

  • NHHS

    I concur, Michael is a good man, and has helped countless people especially through his Foundation. Michael does not have to help anyone. Who really knows what went on between Pop and Michael. At some point in time people have to be responsible for their own action. I knew Pop in High School, he was one of my favorite coaches, but I heard it was more than just alcohol, I also heard drug use was part of it. Hopefully Pop can get straighten out.

  • GuestX

    Does Mike owe anyone from wilmington anything?The answer is simply no.Would it have been nice for him to have come back and have done something for the town who rallyied around him as he rose to stardom,yes.I knew Mike in a limited capacity at school,liked watching him play highschool ball as well as colledge,but who he feels he owes,is his business.Do the stars who come hear and shoot movies owe me anything since Im a fan and sometimes get inconveinenced around town due to thier shooting.It equates to the same thing.Pop was well down the road he is on now,even during Mike tender at laney.I hope he gets the help that all people deserve when dealing with any type of illness.

  • glendale

    Michael Jordan had great parents who raised him and disciplined him when needed. He would not have fallen into trouble. You speak of MJ as if he didn’t have parents who motivated and guided first and throughout his life. Michael’s biggest and greatest influences were his parents…not his coach Mr. Lake.


Related News