How Michael Jordan And Tiger Woods' Friendship Fell Apart

Michael Jordan has been on Tiger Woods' radar since the golfer was 14. Woods was becoming something of a legend as a teenager, and when asked what he thought his career might mean in the future, Woods boldly asserted that he might be the Jordan of golf. "I might be sort of like a Michael Jordan in basketball, or something like that," the young, bashful Woods told Trans World Sport in 1990. He wasn't wrong.

Not only did Woods become a legend in golf akin to Jordan's stature in the basketball universe, the two men became extremely close. In 1997, Woods sat down with Oprah Winfrey to discuss his friendship with Jordan, a bond boosted by their athletic careers and also their partnerships with Nike. "I guess my association with Nike did help that," Woods said, (via Golf). "But Mike's in [a] position where I think my life is going. And I went through some problems, I didn't know how to handle certain situations. Like dealing with visibility, loss of privacy, articles, just people in general, and Mike helped me out because Mike has already been there."

Woods said that Jordan was the best basketball player of all time, and their bond came from their understanding of the demands of the athlete's life. "And Mike is almost like my big brother right now," Woods said. Despite this bond, their friendship fell apart for a time during Woods' most troubling years.

Tiger Woods' rough patch hurt their friendship

At his prime, Tiger Woods faced two serious hurdles. His father, Earl Woods, died in 2006. Then in November 2009, Woods faced the public backlash from an affair while he was married to Elin Nordegren. He crashed his SUV into a fire hydrant outside of his home and the high-profile scandal shattered his then-sterling public image. The death of his father, the cheating scandal, and Woods' ambition to remain the best in golf all contributed to a demise that spanned several years.

In light of everything that happened, Woods retreated into his own privacy and let his friendships fall by the wayside. "To this day, I don't have any idea what happened, friend Charles Barkley said of Woods at the time, according to the Daily Mail. "After that ... he just stopped talking to us. That's all I know." Woods' reputation had taken a beating, and it seemed as if, in order to spare his friends the trouble, he removed himself from their circles.

Jordan never really left, though. While their friendship might have changed over the years, the two men stayed friends, with Jordan bearing witness to Woods' struggles. In 2016, Jordan told ESPN that Woods couldn't let go of his golf career. "I think he's tired," Jordan said of Woods. "I think he really wishes he could retire, but he doesn't know how to do it yet." Jordan added, "The thing is, I love him so much that I can't tell him, 'You're not gonna be great again.'"

Where things stand today

While Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods might have lost the closeness they shared in the first bloom of their friendship, the two men have remained connected. Their friendship might have changed, but it's still there, proving that friendship can withstand the ebbs and flows of life, especially two lives that have shouldered the burden of public scrutiny, fickle fan opinions, and the pressure of athletic greatness. In fact, Jordan understands this better than anyone. He told ESPN in 2016 that Woods' weakness was looking back in an attempt to right the wrongs of the past. "That bothers him more than anything," Jordan explained. "It looms. It's in his mind. It's a ship he can't right and he's never going to. What can you do? The thing is about T-Dub, he cannot erase. That's what he really wants. He wants to erase the things that happened."

Jordan was also concerned for his friend. As he saw it, Woods had no one to lean on. "He has ..." Jordan paused, "... no companion. He has to find that happiness within his life, that's the thing that worries me. I don't know if he can find that type of happiness. He's gonna have to trust somebody." Apparently, though, Woods didn't appreciate what Jordan said, a source told the Daily Mail. What was once a friendship full of close communication has dwindled, but they still respect each other.