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In Mumbai, Ahmad Rashad recalls friendship with OJ Simpson; why he prefers Jordan to LeBron

The former football star and NBA presenter weighs in on the Jordan-LeBron debate.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Oct 21, 2019, 05.05 PM IST
​OJ Simpson (R) was Ahmad ​Rashad’s teammate at the Buffalo Bills in the ’70s and the best man at his second wedding. ​
OJ Simpson (R) was Ahmad Rashad’s teammate at the Buffalo Bills in the ’70s and the best man at his second wedding.
Ahmad Rashad, former football star and NBA presenter, on his famous friends and the Jordan-LeBron debate.

“Every shoe he has, I have,” Ahmad Rashad says about his friend, the one and just the one Michael Jordan. “Me and Michael wear the same size. Thirteens.”

The NBA was in Mumbai recently. And as emcee at some engagements was Rashad — a recognised presenter, former football star and a friend to the mighty and inglorious. As a wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings, Rashad once took a famous Kapil Dev-like catch (in terms of impact) in freezing conditions in a game’s dying seconds that came to be known as the ‘Miracle at the Met’ (Metropolitan Stadium).

He is thick with Jordan, who lives across the street from him in Florida. Tiger Woods and Jack Nicholson are also his friends. OJ Simpson was Rashad’s teammate at the Buffalo Bills in the ’70s and the best man at his second wedding. (He’s had five.) And then in June 1994, OJ — a football legend and almost as revered as Jordan — stunned the world when he was suspected of committing the heinous murders of his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.

“People don’t understand that we were not friends close to 1994. We had not spoken four-five years before that happened,” says Rashad, looking younger than his 70 years in a black dress shirt, Nikes and an earring. “The way I see it, everybody has to walk in their own shoes. And you know, he [Simpson] has to live with that.”

Simpson was acquitted of the murders after being represented by what was called a legal Dream Team. It included powerful lawyers like Johnnie Cochran, Robert Kardashian and Robert Shapiro. Irrespective of the verdict, Simpson’s violent temperament was well-known, and most Americans believed he was guilty. In 2007, he kept his date with the law after being found guilty of robbery and assault.

But Simpson could also be charming, as evidenced by the many film cameos and commercials he did. Perhaps, that is why, when asked if Rashad ever sensed the amount of rage bubbling within Simpson, he says, “I don’t think anybody senses that. No. No. I think when things like that happen [the murders], it’s a surprise to everybody. Tragic.”

​Ahmad Rashad​ feels LeBron James (right) may be the best of his era, but Michael Jordan was the best of all time. ​
Ahmad Rashad feels LeBron James (right) may be the best of his era, but Michael Jordan (left) was the best of all time.

Jordan and Jack Nicholson are sunnier subjects to talk about. Is Mike as competitive as ever?

“Absolutely,” Rashad says. “Plays 36 holes of golf a day, and very competitive. And he would rather beat me than anybody in the whole group [of friends]. He wants to beat me all the time. It’s fun. It’s like two kids.”

And Jack? Still friends?
“Yeah. We got to know each other when I was in college [University of Oregon] and he was doing a movie on my campus,” Rashad says. “And I was like the big football player on campus and we got together. And he was at my house every day for, I don’t know, four months. We became close. We played a lot of golf together, we hiked in Colorado. He’s a huge sports fan and a fun guy to be around.”

Double dribble
As one who’s seen basketball for about half a century, Rashad has an informed take on the debate over who’s greater — Jordan or LeBron James. Both, however, played at different times, and Rashad says eras can’t be compared. If pushed, he votes Jordan.

“Even Michael says it’s unfair to compare eras,” says Rashad. “There’s a whole group of people who saw LeBron play but never saw Michael play. LeBron may be the best of his era. I don’t think he’s the best of all time. Michael was absolutely the best of his era. I think he was the best of all time. And that’s without any bias towards him and without taking anything away from LeBron James. Because LeBron is the best athlete I have seen. [But Jordan won] Six championships [to LeBron’s three], never lost the finals. That kind of stuff is hard to compare.”

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