Early in the spring of 1982, when he was a skinny freshman at North Carolina, before he had enough fans to start his own religion, Michael Jordan was largely unknown outside the state. So when Dallas evangelist Bill Glass was planning a Carolina stop for his prison ministry tour that summer, Jordan was not the guy Glass had in mind when he called Dean Smith looking to line up a basketball player to beef up the act.
Glass remembers that Jordan willingly climbed onstage. Crain remembers it differently. See, the sword trick calls for Crain to chop a full-grown watermelon in half while it rests on the volunteer’s stomach. Most everyone who winds up as the fruit platter declines to do so at first, especially after watching Crain, a burly Southerner decked out in an all-white martial-arts suit accented with his black belt, slice the air with cold steel for a few minutes.
But Jordan was more skittish than most — and emphatically said, “No.” Crain wasn’t fazed. He worked the thrill-hungry crowd of inmates to his advantage, and when he began hinting to Jordan that maybe he wasn’t quite man enough to handle the job of human cutting board, the 19-year-old responded to the challenge just the way you would expect. He climbed up the wooden platform and laid himself back on a weight-training bench that had been used in an earlier act. And Crain placed the melon on Jordan’s belly.
As Crain produced another black sash and began blindfolding himself, a panicky Jordan started to get up. Crain held him down lightly between the produce and the bench. In a scene that looked like a jailhouse staging of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, the brothers in the yard inched closer to the stage. Crain told Jordan to shield his eyes so stray rind and seeds wouldn’t blind him, but MJ’s eyes were already shut tightly enough to secure a home.
Crain drew back his sword and slashed into the juicy melon. But his blade traveled too far south, and the rail-thin Jordan’s protruding right hip slowed the blow. The watermelon was torn, not severed. The crowd was now hypnotized and drew even closer to the laid-out Jordan.
Down came the blade a second time, and now shards of watermelon went flying into the sky and across the stage. Crain knew from his audience’s reaction that he succeeded in dividing the fruit, but he had the queasy feeling that he might have gone too far. This whack was in the right place, but Crain had misjudged the amount of give in Jordan’s lean belly. After pulling off his blindfold, Crain checked to make sure his volunteer was OK. When he and Glass wiped away the juice, melon and seed that covered the front of Jordan’s white jersey, Jordan spotted a tear in the fabric.
Jordan was irate.
“Look whatcha did!” he screamed at Crain. The warmups were Jordan’s reward from his first international tournament. But the guy who had driven Jordan to the prison was concerned about more than the jersey. He suggested Jordan check to see if he had been wounded by the blade. Still heated about the shirt, Jordan wouldn’t look until they were back in the car and the driver insisted. Then they both looked down and spotted a gash near Jordan’s navel. Because he hadn’t felt the wound, Jordan hardly was concerned, even after doctors at an emergency room used three stitches to close him up. He did harbor a small grudge — but not about the injury. That would heal in days. Warmup gear like this, though, was one of a kind
LEBRON COULD NEVER!!!!
If MJ had died that day, I don’t know that Twitter’s still in business today. I’d guess that 20% of tweets sent on Twitter each day are Jordan and Lebron comparisons/arguments. It’s like 20% that, 30% porn, 30% fake Ray Ban ads, 19.999% general nonsense, and then 0.001% good tweets. So you take Jordan out the equation, what’s the point of Twitter at all?
It’s such a Jordan move to care more about his jersey than the gashing wound in his stomach. Also such a 1982 move. Because if that happened nowadays, you’d text someone and they’d get you another shirt by the next morning at the latest. But in 1982? It took 14 days for the letter to get there, another 14 for you to receive confirmation they got it, then I’d imagine 6-8 months until the shirt shipped to your location. So I can understand the anger. But just a general rule, you should never volunteer to be in someone’s act. Hypnosis, throwing stuff, cutting stuff, comedy shows, nope. None of it. There’s nothing to gain there, except scars on your belly.