After non-casino tour, it's good bet Jordan is ready PRO BASKETBALL

June 02, 1993|By Dan Shaughnessy | Dan Shaughnessy,Boston Globe

NEW YORK -- No doubt you heard what happened last time Mike was here in this city of sin. He went out the night before the game. He took a limo to Atlantic City and gambled away some of his paycheck. It was in all the papers. The next night, he scored only 37 points and his team lost.

Not this time. Mike's a friend. I did the only thing a friend could do. I told Mike we'd go deep undercover and have a nice wholesome night in the Apple. No midnight rides through the swamps of Jersey. No gambling at Bally's on the boardwalk.

Mike said, "OK." He's not talking with the media, but he thinks of me the way he thinks of Ahmad. Mike knows I have his best interests at heart. I like Mike.

We began our night shortly after the Chicago Bulls checked into their Manhattan hotel. Mike said he needed some new sneakers, so the first thing we did was go shopping. Of course, we wore sunglasses.

Contrary to his image, Mike doesn't like fancy athletic shoes. We went looking for Red Ball Jets and PF Flyers. Unfortunately, the stores were full of $180 Nike ski-boots. Bo Jackson's fault. Charles Barkley's fault. Mike decided on a pair of low-cut, canvas boat shoes. I loaned him $20 for the shoes.

A couple of New York punks recognized us. One of them looked like John Starks. The guy tried slapping Mike's wrist while we were standing at the checkout counter. I told him to knock it off.

After shopping, we took a cab to Yankee Stadium, where the Yanks were playing host to the Cleveland Indians. Mike wanted to visit briefly with Wade Boggs.

We got to Yankee Stadium and chatted with Wade. Mike and Wade talked about Pete Rose, Lenny Dykstra and other ballplayers who have had their private lives invaded. Wade invited Mike to go out after the game. Wade said Debbie'd give us all a ride in the family jeep. Mike said, "No thanks." I knew what he was thinking. Imagine what the New York media would write if Mike was seen after hours with Wade. Suppose we got into a jam and had to will ourselves invisible? I thought Mike used good judgment. He usually does.

As our taxi left Yankee Stadium, a bunch of "yutes" (aka "youths") came over to wash the cab's windshield. One of them looked like John Starks. Another looked like a Times undercover reporter. Mike gave them a big tip.

Back in Manhattan, Mike wanted to pull over and run into one of those Off-Track Betting joints on 7th Avenue. I told him it would be a mistake. Somebody might see him. It might make all the papers.

Instead, Mike and I played cards in the back seat of the cab. We played "Tonk," a locker room version of gin rummy.

It was time for dinner. Where to go? In Chicago, we could go to Mike's place. Not his home -- his restaurant. But where in New York?

Toots Shor's? Ed Sullivan used to eat there. So did Joe D. We decided it was a little too high-profile for Mike. Too many newspaper people. For this reason, we also ruled out Runyon's, Mickey Mantle's and Rusty Staub's. We decided on the Carnegie Deli. It was great. No flies on the pickles. No flies on Mike's head. Our waiter looked a little like John Starks, and we saw a newspaper type taking notes at a corner table, but our pastrami sandwiches were delicious. Mike drank milk. I bought.

After dinner, we did a lot of stuff. We went to see "Tommy" at the St. James Theatre, then skipped over to catch the last act of "Miss Saigon." Mike liked the helicopter. We went to Flash Dancers on Broadway, then over to Tower Records for the release of Luther Vandross' new album. There was a man in the record store who looked remarkably like John Starks.

We went to the Metropolitan Museum, and the curator agreed to give Mike a Monet on loan. We went to the top of the Statue of Liberty, then to the top of the Empire State Building. Mike took a lot of pictures. I could tell he was enjoying his night on the town. Folks say he needs "action." This seemed to be enough action for Mike.

After seeing the sights, we made brief visits at the apartments/homes of Spike Lee, John F. Kennedy Jr., Woody Allen, Marla Maples, Bryant Gumbel and Pete Vecsey. They all like Mike. Nobody said a word about Atlantic City.

After visiting these friends, we went to see Liza Minnelli at Carnegie Hall. She sang, "New York, New York," and when she got to the line, "I want to wake up in the city that doesn't sleep," I saw Mike look at his watch. I knew what he was thinking.

It was time to call it a night.

I said "goodbye" to Mike just before midnight. He said he was going back to his hotel for a good night's sleep. I can't say for sure what he did after midnight, but Mike assured me he'd be ready for Game 5 tonight at Madison Square Garden.

I bet he will.

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