Many NBA players sign contracts that limit the amount of offseason basketball they can play. Since they are being paid so much money, ownership isn't wild about their investments going out to pickup basketball games and risking injury.
Michael Jordan didn't care.
Whenever Jordan negotiated new deals with the Chicago Bulls, he insisted that his contract specifically stated that he could play basketball any time he wanted to, any where he wanted to.
"I could get out of the car and just play basketball at any point in time," Jordan said "A lot of guys with their contracts can't do that without asking. For the love of the game, you can never let anyone tell you what you can't do with the game of basketball."
Jordan joined Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony at the 2010 World Basketball Festival in New York to share with young players what "love of the game" means to them. Jordan cited his contract demands, which showed his undying passion for the sport. His constant quest for competition--coupled with his legendary work ethic and exceptional athletic ability--made him the greatest basketball player who ever lived.
With the spotlight on, Jordan was amazing. But when the spotlight was off, he was amazing in different ways--and his love of the game fueled it.
"Some of my teammates for the Bulls--Scottie Pippen, Ron Harper--we would get up every morning before anybody else. We would get up and work out," Jordan said. "In life, it's the same way. If you're going to want to get ahead of everybody else, you're going to have to take those extra steps."
That dedication is shared by the other stars on hand at the World Basketball Festival.
"We just want to hoop," said Paul, a three-time NBA All-Star for the New Orleans Hornets. "Even though we play in the NBA, we still have the same passion that you guys have about playing basketball. You can go hoop at any time. At school, you can hoop in your jeans, anytime, it doesn't matter. That's the love of the game to me. It's like none other. It's a passion, and I love it."
Anthony, a three-time NBA All-Star for the Denver Nuggets, also recalled his passion for basketball when he was younger.
"My love of the game is waking up every morning knowing that at every corner, there is a court I can go out and play basketball at," Anthony said. "Getting in trouble at night for bouncing a ball in the house. Walking to school with a ball in my backpack. I just wanted to have fun. That's my love of the game."
Wade took it a step further. The basketball court meant a lot more than fun to him--it was therapy.
"When I was young, anytime something went wrong with my life, my sanctuary was the basketball court," Wade said. "Love of the game is more than just a sport. It is my life."
Before the four superstars said their goodbyes, a question was posed to the young players in attendance--one that applies to basketball players of all ages, shapes and sizes.
What does "love of the game" mean to you?