ADAM SILVER: Let me begin by thanking Marc Lasry and the Milwaukee Bucks and Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets for taking time out in what is a very busy regular season to bring their teams here to Paris.
They both have been in the community for several days now with their teams, have had the opportunity to participate in clinics with young players. They’ve been able to give their players an opportunity to experience the city a bit, and it’s also been an opportunity for their organizations to spend some time together and to get to know each other and the city a little more than they had before.
Let me also thank the city of Paris. Their reception has been tremendous. It’s been enormous accommodations that have been made for the league from the Mayor’s Office to the French Basketball Federation. While we were here, we announced that we’ve extended a program that we have with the French Federation to work in the community with our junior programs, particularly the Jr. NBA, for the development of young boys and girls.
And I think, as you all know, France is one of the best basketball markets in the world. I think they are disproportionately represented based on their population in the NBA (https://www.NBA.com). We have 10 or 11 players, depending how you count our players in our G League right now, who play in the NBA, and as you all know, we have some of our very best players who are from France.
In fact, tonight [during the] pregame, we’re going to be honoring the great Tony Parker, four-time NBA champion, and we’ve also had the opportunity to do some programs in town with him as well while we have been here.
Lastly, we mentioned it yesterday, but just to remind everyone, we are going to be back next year. Two different teams, but next January we’ll be back at this terrific arena, and I can tell you we’re already oversubscribed from our NBA teams. These guys have already volunteered to come back, and like I said, it’s two other teams’ turn.
With that, I’ll hand it over to you, Marc.
MARC LASRY: One, thank you. I would echo everything Adam said.
(Lasry spoke French for his opening statement)
So thank you. It’s all yours.
MICHAEL JORDAN: I didn’t know when I was supposed to speak (laughter).
I want to thank Adam as well as Marc for allowing us to be a part of this. The Charlotte Hornets, we’re always looking for an opportunity to expand our fan base, and giving us an opportunity to come back and play in Paris is truly an honor.
It’s been 23 years since I’ve been back, since the McDonald’s Open, so we take great pride in having the opportunity to come and play. The Paris people have been unbelievable, the restaurants, everything has been great. Thanks for having us. We look forward to coming back. Once again, it’s been a treat for me to come back and reminisce about the basketball that’s been played here.
Tony Parker, it’s good to see him. So we’ve had a good time so far.
- Michael, we all know that you have been a lot in Paris since the end of your career and even as a player. I would like to know what was your personal impact and involvement in this game happening in Paris?
MICHAEL JORDAN: Just a participant. I think Adam’s done a good job in expanding the notoriety of the NBA. I think the fan base has expanded. I think you’re starting to see more French players coming and playing in the states, as Adam has said. My impact was to come and show how much fun the game is. I think you can see that tonight as well, hopefully from my players, hopefully from Milwaukee’s players.
But I think the game is at an all-time high. I think the fans are starting to understand how much fun playing the game of basketball is.
- Michael, LeBron has obviously gone past a few of your statistical marks during your career, but how do you personally view the legacy that he’s built, and do you think that by the end he will merit a place in that conversation of top three, top one all time?
MICHAEL JORDAN: What was the name again? Pardon me, who?
- Some guy called James, LeBron James.
MICHAEL JORDAN: Is he playing? I didn’t know he’s playing (laughter). I just think we played in different eras. He’s an unbelievable player. He’s one of the best players in the world, if not the best player in the world. I know it’s a natural tendency to compare eras to eras, and it’s going to continue to happen. I’m a fan of his. I love watching him play.
But as you can see, our league is starting to expand [with] very talented players. I think he’s made his mark. He will continue to do so over a period of time, but when you start the comparisons, I think it is what it is. It’s just a stand-up measurement, and I take it with a grain of salt. He’s a heck of a basketball player without a doubt.
- Michael, you just mentioned the last time you played here was 23 years ago during the McDonald’s Championship. How do you think the global game has evolved since then?
MICHAEL JORDAN: Tremendously. I think it’s grown tremendously large since then. The Dream Team started it, and it just led right into us playing here. Now you’ve got two different teams playing. We’ve got China. We’ve got Africa now. So the game is expanding all over the globe.
I’m glad that I was a part of it, but I think it will continually get bigger because of the passion for the game of basketball.
- Sorry, my question isn’t related to Paris, but to Africa. Will the NBA organize soon a regular-season game in Africa like this one? And to Michael Jordan and Mr. Lasry, would you be happy to see your team play a game in Africa, especially you, Mr. Lasry, as you were born in Morocco?
MARC LASRY: I’m happy to play anywhere. If Adam would love us to play there, I think for our team we’d love to try to do it. The question is just a matter of the schedule. So I think it’s probably easier to do during the preseason than during a regular-season game. It’s just hard, just for the travel. But I think we’d love to try to do that and be a part of it.
ADAM SILVER: And I’ll just add to Marc’s point, we don’t have any plans right now to play either a preseason or regular season game in Africa. What we’ve been doing over the past several summers is playing with a collection of players, whether it was outside of Dakar last summer or in Johannesburg, that by bringing a group of players over, they can experience the community and do more activities in market.
These games, whether it’s regular season, it’s even tougher than preseason, but even preseason it’s a very condensed schedule, and I think we can have a much greater impact by coming over in the summer, at least right now.
- The question is for Michael. I will ask you in French. Is that possible?
ADAM SILVER: Sure. As long as someone is going to translate.
- Why did you choose Paris Saint-Germain rather than another team? Milan? Madrid? Why PSG?
MICHAEL JORDAN: Actually, they came us to do a partnership, and Neymar was a big Jordan fan, so the transition was much easier. Plus in terms of the market, Paris is all about fashion, and we see Jordan Brand as a leisure wear lifestyle brand. So the relationship was very easy.
- Mr. Commissioner, you say NBA is coming back to Paris in 2021. I was wondering if you have a plan for this game in Europe for the following years. And my question to the two owners, what made you interested in coming to Paris, to bring your team to play this game?
ADAM SILVER: We do have plans in Europe for the following years. We haven’t specifically set them yet. Part of the determination is based on arena availability, and there continues to be an investment in arena infrastructure throughout Europe, which is very encouraging to us.
And as both Marc and Michael have mentioned, the quality of the international play is incredible. I mean, just look at the recent All-Stars that were named just — in some time zone, yesterday or today. Plus 25 percent of our league now is based on international players. Europe, as a region, is still where the most international players come from in the NBA.
So we’re going to continue to invest in basketball in Europe, work with the local federations and clubs, and continue to bring teams over. The only real limitation is the way the current schedule is structured, and even as Marc and Michael know, one of the projects the league continues to focus on is what should a regular season look like in five years and 10 years from now? Maybe ultimately we’ll be building in more windows to allow for more travel during the regular season.
MICHAEL JORDAN: And you can see, I mean, we’re two of the 30 teams. We’re very happy to be here. I imagine there’s 28 teams that would love to do the same. So whenever the league comes to us and invites us, it’s great for our culture. It’s great for the kids to understand and see a different country, for us to bond as a unit. So I think every team welcomes the opportunity to represent the NBA, wherever they ask us to go.
- This question is for Michael Jordan. Michael, speaking of Jordan brand, I was just curious, Zion Williamson made his debut recently, and he is with you. I was just wondering — I know you issued a statement, but if you could expand on what traits he had as an athlete that made you want to sign him and what you thought of his debut.
MICHAEL JORDAN: Well, it’s not just myself. I think the NBA is very fortunate to have a talented young man who shows a certain passion about the game. That’s something that you can’t get. You’re either born with it and you basically want to share it with the rest of the world.
We looked at Zion being an impact player that would bring energy to the game of basketball, and we can do it with a lot of different factors and different ways of endorsement and marketing. So it was a great opportunity for us. I imagine the league has quite a number of those people, but we were very fortunate that he chose us, and we look at every opportunity to expand him to the consumers and yet showcase his personality and his basketball skills.
At the end of the day, we can’t play basketball for him, but we feel like he does present us with an opportunity to showcase his talents, and that’s what our job is going to be. It’s a great partnership. I think what you saw the other night was a taste of what you’re going to see coming forward. He still has a lot to do, but I think his passion for the game is coming through the way that he plays, and I think that’s great for the league. That’s not just great for Jordan.
- Mr. Jordan, in your opinion, top five European NBA players now and top five NBA European players ever.
MICHAEL JORDAN: Wow, do we have time for this (laughter)? You’re going to make me test my memory. Toni Kukoc is number one, everyone knows why. [Drazen] Petrovic, [Arvydas] Sabonis — can I get back to you on that one? That’s a lot to go through. I’ve got to go through the whole list of great NBA players. I mean, any of the guys that come from Europe, they all made their mark on the NBA, and to try to put one above the other, it takes a little bit more time than a press conference. I may give you that later, if you don’t mind.
- Even though the league has pushed back the plan for the Board of Governors to vote in April on schedule changes and the in-season tournament, what’s your level of confidence that tournament can still happen in the 2021-22 season?
ADAM SILVER: The ultimate issue is getting it right. I think we made a collective decision that we should continue to study all the various issues involved in making changes in the schedule. One of the things that came back loud and clearly from the teams is originally what we had proposed is doing, in essence, a one-off experiment in what will be the 75th anniversary of the NBA, the 2021-22 season, and what we heard back both from our teams and also from our media partners is that you should look at something as a multiyear program.
I’m not going to say something is forever because obviously we do make changes, and we might make changes if what we implement isn’t precisely right, but ultimately the thinking was there was no magic around a vote in April. In fact, the ultimate issue isn’t about the vote. It’s about what it is we should be doing.
I could say — and Michael and Marc can speak to that as well — I think there was enormous interest around some sort of play-in tournament, and what we’re now characterizing as an in-season tournament is something that even — I’m on a fact-finding mission of sorts even being here in Paris now because it’s a concept that we’ve, in essence, adopted from European soccer. We think this notion that you can play for more than one trophy or more than one cup ultimately makes a lot of sense for our league as well.
So it’s unclear right now whether it would start in the 2021-22 season. I think it’s more a function of, as the ideas evolve, where we end up, but I’ll tell you it will be very much discussed at our April board meeting, and as I said, we continue to work with our teams to figure out sort of what the best ideas and the best learnings from a group of really smart teams.
- My name is Thomas. Although I come from Luxembourg, I know there are not a lot of players from Luxembourg that join the NBA, but are you scouting a lot in Europe and which country? Are you searching for players in Europe?
MICHAEL JORDAN: We’re scouting everywhere, everywhere in Europe. Actually, my scouting team just got back from Brussels. They were in Germany. Like every other team, our eyes are opening all over the world. That’s what the game has done. It’s been expanded. And I imagine Marc’s staff is doing exactly the same thing. So teams are starting to look outside of United States for talent, and we’re no different than any other team.
MARC LASRY: We just follow Michael’s guidance.
MICHAEL JORDAN: So far you’ve been good at it.
MARC LASRY: That’s all we’re doing (laughter).
- My question is to Commissioner. We’ve lost at the start of this year David Stern, who was a visionary for the NBA. Do you think he’d be proud of this game, of this enthusiasm generated by this game in Paris?
ADAM SILVER: Thank you for asking that question. First of all, Commissioner Stern had planned to be here at this game. He and his wife Dianne had made plans back in November and had circled their calendars because I know David was such a big fan of the city of Paris. I think probably the two people who have had the greatest influence on the growth of the NBA outside the United States are Michael Jordan and David Stern.
Probably without David, the NBA as it currently stands would look very different. Certainly Michael knows from his playing days — and also, Marc was good friends with David long before he was a team owner in the NBA — that this was very much his vision, before the Dream Team that Michael mentioned, back when he became commissioner in the mid-’80s, that he saw the global opportunity for this league. I know because we had these conversations only as recently as December of last year, how proud he was of where the league stood today, the fact that, as I mentioned earlier, 25 percent now of our players were born outside the United States.
Again, if you look at the All-Stars that were just named, four of those players were born outside the United States, and I think just across the league you’re looking at this caliber of excellence. And I think the question of scouting, as Michael said, as Marc said, there’s great players coming from all over the world now.
We’re going to have a moment before the game tonight dedicated to David Stern, and as I said, he was a true visionary, and I think everyone who’s been involved in this game owes him their gratitude for where the league now stands today.
MICHAEL JORDAN: I agree. I wouldn’t be here without David Stern, and Adam could say the same thing. He meant that much to the game. His vision was something that we took great pride in learning from. I learned a lot from him, not just as a basketball player, but then obviously when I moved into the business. He had a lot to do with that. I don’t have enough time to pay as much thanks to that man. He did a lot for the game of basketball.
- Since the Wilt Chamberlain era, you still hold the record for points in a season average, 37.1. I just want to know how you feel about the fact that there’s a player getting closer and closer in James Harden. And I guess the question that goes with it is how do you feel about the way the game has evolved towards more points and more offense?
MICHAEL JORDAN: All records are a sense of pride of the work that you put into the game, so I’m happy to have it because it showcased actually how much practice and effort that I put into it. I think what you’re seeing with James Harden is the same. He’s not doing this off the whim. It’s something he’s worked and he’s perfected to the point where the results are starting to show.
The game itself, fun game to watch. A lot more threes. I think the European players have expanded the style of basketball because of the versatility they brought to the game, which I think is good for the game, which is increasing scoring. So I think it’s just going to keep getting better, and it forces us as Americans now to play a much more rounded basketball game. That’s what the European players have taught us as individuals in the states. So their education has been expanded throughout the globe. Quite naturally, I think the game is in a good place. It’s a fun game to watch.
- Michael, before I ask this question, please let me tell you that this situation, this is surreal to me. I would never say I’d be able to talk to the GOAT when I was watching you on TV when I was a kid.
MICHAEL JORDAN: Thank you.
- My question is what’s your view on today’s game, free-flowing position-less basketball? How would you find yourself in the game of basketball today? There’s no question in my mind you would be dominating, but I think it would be a little bit different.
MICHAEL JORDAN: You get a lot of different descriptions about how I would play in this basketball game. I’m pretty sure I would make my adjustments. I think the game would still be played with a sense of passion. I don’t think the passion in the game of basketball has changed. I think the talent has changed. I think the versatility has changed. Yeah, you have younger players, and you have bigger players, but overall you still have to shoot, you still have to defend, you still shoot free throws, you still shoot threes, you do all those things, you have to play as a team. Those things transcend generations.
So I mean, as much as I would have played here, things would have been totally different. I would have been playing against LeBron James. I would have been playing against Anthony Davis, as opposed to playing against Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Would I have had as much success? We’ll never know. I’ll let you guys speculate on that, but I think my passion for the game would have been the same. I love the game of basketball.
- My question is for Marc regarding Giannis [Antetokounmpo]. In the press conference yesterday, he was saying that he came to Paris like four years ago and nobody knew who he was, and now obviously he’s the biggest draw tonight. I wanted your opinion on how big he got, especially in the last two years.
MARC LASRY: I think for him it’s been great. He’s a great kid. It is, I think in the last couple years, just as more people have gotten to know him, it’s harder for him to go out to dinner. The good news is, for me, it’s still easy to go out to dinner. So there’s been no issues.
But I think for Giannis, he takes it all in stride. When you’re the MVP of the league, more people are going to get to know who you are. The fact that he’s 6-11 also makes a big difference. I think for him it’s a dream come true. I think he loves it. He’s an extrovert. He loves being around people. So I think it’s been a lot of fun for him. He loves being in Paris. I mean, it’s a beautiful city. You guys should be proud of the city that you have.
And I think for Michael, Adam, the NBA and us, it’s a real honor to be here. It really is. You guys have treated us so well, and we want to thank you for that.