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Special report: Michael Jordan. Twist of fate makes Koehler

Special report: Michael Jordan. Twist of fate makes Koehler

For eight years now, Michael Jordan has carried the load for the Chicago

Bulls, During the same time, George Koehler has carried the load for Michael

Jordan.

Jordan tabs Koehler as his go-to guy, the one man he counts on in

last-minute situations. Koehler, a 30-year-old Chicago native serves Jordan as

chauffeur, body guard, advisor, companion at promotional and public

appearances, confidant, Ping-Pong partner and personal assistant, among a dozen

other functions.

If he had a title, it would be Michael's main man. Koehler was the one man

who knew Jordan's whereabouts when he didn't show up when the Bulls were

honored at the White House in October.

"Now, you see, I can't tell you that," Koehler confesses. "I get phone calls

all the time about that stuff. Michael doesn't know. When Magic came down HIV

positive, I got about 100 calls. I would never let Michael be bothered with

that stuff."

Koehler admits he's lucky to have this job. Actually it may be fate.

Eight years ago this past September, Koehler had started his own limousine

service and made a trip to O'Hare airport in search of a customer. As

passengers departed from the flight he went to meet, Koehler couldn't find his

party.

After the plane emptied of all but one person, fate soon smiled on George

Koehler.

"I saw this guy walk off the plane and I said, 'Oh my God, it's Larry

Jordan,' " Koehler said. "Larry Jordan is a guy I played high school

basketball with."

After realizing it was really Michael Jordan, Koehler admitted feeling the

least bit embarrassed.

"Anyway, Michael walks off and he needs a ride. I told him I would take him

anywhere he wanted to go for 25 bucks."

Koehler drove Jordan to the Hyatt Hotel in Lincolnwood where the Bulls

housed their rookies for training camp. He dropped Michael off, left him a

business card and they parted company.

Koehler figured that was the last he had seen of Michael Jordan.

"Well, the telephone rings 10 days later," Koehler recounts, "and a voice

says, 'George my boy, this is MJ.' Well I responded, 'I don't know any MJ, you

must have the wrong number.'"

Jordan hired Koehler to pick up his parents at the airport and bring them to

his first professional exhibition game at East Chicago High School. Koehler has

been his personal wheel man ever since.

Koehler's responsibilities range from staking out Jordan's house waiting for

deliveries to running interference for him as he leaves Chicago Stadium after

Bulls games. He goes to great extents to execute on Michael's behalf.

One day such effort almost killed him.

Five years ago, Jordan appeared at Chicago's Bud Billiken Parade, an annual

event honoring one of the city's most famous black citizens. Koehler's duty was

to escort Michael from the McDonald's float into a limousine and off into the

sunset.

"Well, 1,500 kids rush the float," Koehler explained. "We had a security

guard inside the limo, and he couldn't get out to help Michael. We had to

violently push people away from the car. Once we got Michael in, it took us 25

minutes to go 50 feet.

"I've never feared for my life like that."

Koehler doesn't mind being the guy who people try to push out of the way to

get to Michael Jordan. His standard quip reads, "Hey, if I wanted to be in the

limelight, I would go on tour with Madonna."

Koehler's contract with Jordan rests on a handshake. He makes no salary, but

stresses, "I get taken care of." He will go on working for Michael as long as

Jordan asks him too, for he considers this opportunity something he could never

put a price on.

"I'm hanging with the world's greatest athlete. How many people would pay to

do that? I honestly can't believe this has happened to my life."

Call it fate.

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