With ESPN’s massive The Last Dance documentary getting set to air, we look at 10 of our favorite Michael Jordan Stories that probably won’t make the doc.
As we are in the throes of a global pandemic that has closed public gatherings for the foreseeable future, fans of the National Basketball Association are hoping the season can be salvaged. Since the NBA decided to suspend games on March 11th due to Utah Jazz center Rudy Gubert as well as other players contracting COVID-19, basketball fans had to settle for virtual games of horse and NBA 2K games by the players.
While it’s been about a month since we witnessed NBA action, ESPN made the most of the moment by announcing they would push up the release of their highly-anticipated 30 For 30 documentary The Last Dance, which will premiere on Sunday, April 19 at 9 p.m. ET. The massive 10 part documentary — which will be aired in two hour blocks over five weeks — will be an all-encompassing look at the GOAT’s career. The documentary will be driven by hours of unreleased behind the scenes footage from Michael Jordan’s last season with the Chicago Bulls. (Coach Phil Jackson, who knew he wasn’t coming back, named the season “The Last Dance.”)
Michael Jordan is one of the most accomplished basketball players of all-time. In his 15 seasons in the league, he won six championships, six NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Awards, 10 scoring titles, five MVP Awards, 10 All-NBA First Team designations, nine All-Defensive First Team honors, 14 NBA All-Star Game selections, three All-Star Game MVP Awards, the 1988 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, and much more. He’s also a cultural icon. He’s the first athlete to touch $1 billion and his Air Jordan sneakers are an iconic brand that has only grown in popularity since their debut in 1984.
But what makes Michael Jordan so legendary is the myths and stories that have amassed throughout his time as a pop-culture phenomenon. His insane competitive streak, notorious gambling habits, and harsh treatment of teammates place him in a class by himself. We imagine all of this will be covered in the documentary. However, there are hundreds of Jordan stories out there, some that probably won’t make the documentary, for various reasons.
Here are 10 of our favorite Michael Jordan Stories that probably won’t make The Last Dance documentary.
Trash Talking Muggsy Bogues
Michael Jordan was an equal-opportunity verbal abuser. He doesn’t care how big you are or, in Muggsy Bogues’ case, how small you are.
At 5’3 Muggsy overcame insurmountable odds to make it to the NBA as the shortest player ever. He gained a reputation as a strong, determined, quick on-ball defender who loved guarding players full-court. (This was the hand-check era that favored defensive players.)
According to Bulls assistant coach Johnny Bach, during the 1995 NBA playoffs, the Chicago Bulls were facing the young and talented Charlotte Hornets in the first round. During a crucial moment in game 4 — with the Bulls up 2-1 in the series — Bogues had the ball during crunch-time with MJ checking him. Jordan eased back and gave Bogues the chance to shoot yelling, “Shoot it you fucking midget!“ The 5-foot-3 guard took the shot. It didn’t come close. The Bulls won the game, 85-84, and moved onto the semifinals to play the Orlando Magic. According to Bach, Bogues told him that his game was never the same after this encounter. However, earlier this year, during an interview with The Mulligan Brothers, Muggsy downplayed this rumor, saying that trash talk like that was a regular part of the game.
So maybe Bach was exaggerating. Or maybe Muggsy forgot.
Jordan’s Beef WIth Charles Barkley
For years, Michael Jordan was great friends with Charles Barkley. As two of the top 50 players in NBA history, they had a lot in common. They were both drafted in the 1984 draft, endorsed Nike sneakers, were chosen to be a part of The Dream Team, and loved golf and gambling. The two legends have always playfully taken digs at each other but now, they aren’t on speaking terms.
A few years ago, Barkley suggested on TNT that Jordan needed to chill on giving his boys gigs as the owner of the team, then known as the Charlotte Bobcats. Although Barkley was just doing his job as a sports analyst, Jordan was not thrilled to hear this critique from Sir Charles. Barkley’s comments caused a rift in their friendship that still hasn’t been completely mended.
When a picture surfaced of the two, along with former NBA player and current TNT sports analyst Kenny Smith, many assumed that they were finally putting their issues behind them. But this wasn’t the case. On ESPN’s Dan Le Batard Show, Barkley addressed his relationship with Jordan. “I love Michael. I miss Michael’s friendship. He was a great friend to me for a long period of time and I love him and miss him like a brother. I would love to mend that relationship, but we just happened to be at the same place and took a picture together. We are not back to where we used to be.” Damn.
Jordan Almost Became A New York Knick
Ever since the New York Knicks won the chip in 1973, the franchise has been one of the most snakebitten teams in the Association. The team represents the largest city and biggest market in the league; they have never won another championship. Adding insult to injury, they may have missed out signing Michael Jordan, who was born in Brooklyn.
Michael Jordan was a free agent in the 1996 NBA offseason, and he wanted to cash in on a new-one year “balloon” payment deal similar to that of New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing. For the 1995-96 season, the Knicks had Ewing on a balloon payment deal worth $18 million, which was the largest single-season deal in the NBA prior to Jordan.
Jordan was friends with Charles Oakley, who was still playing in New York, and the Knicks were the best opposition during the Bulls dynasty, making their chances to land Jordan quite appealing. Legend has it that the Knicks offered MJ an unprecedented one-year $25 million deal, leaving the Bulls 24 hours to make a counteroffer. And counter they did with a one-year $30 million dollar deal. MJ resigned with the Bulls. If Jordan would have joined the Knicks basketball history would have changed forever. Sorry Knicks fans.
Michael Jordan Schooling a Young Kevin Garnet
Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett is one of the most notorious trash talkers in the history of the NBA. But even he had to bow down to his Airness.
The Bulls and Garnett’s Timberwolves were playing in Chicago in 1996. After three quarters, the game was closely contested, and this put the battery in Garnett’s back to start challenging Jordan by telling his teammate Isaiah “J.R.” Rider to keep going at him. Rider, who always kept quiet when playing Jordan, tried to get Garnett to relax but to no avail.
Recalling the incident on Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson’s podcast “All The Smoke”, Garnett said, “As I say that, I feel it.” “Hands-on hips. Legs locked. Jordan stared at me for about 15 seconds.”
The Bulls went on a major run in the fourth quarter and coasted to a 120-99 victory. Jordan finished with a game-high 35 points, leaving both Garnett and Rider exhausted.
“Mike walked down toward us, ‘OK, young fella, OK. Damn, young fella, damn, y’all done?'” Garnett said. “Never talked shit to Mike ever again in life.”
Jordan Cheating an Elderly Woman in a Card Game
Michael Jordan will do whatever it takes to win. Even in a card game with an elderly woman.
When North Carolina teammate Buzz Peterson had Michael Jordan over to his house to play cards with his mother, Jordan was caught cheating. I guess MJ believed the old adage, “If you aint cheating, you ain’t trying.” According to reports.
Jordan Harassing Chuck Daly For A Rematch In Golf
Other than basketball, Jordan’s favorite sport is golf. MJ has been obsessed with the game for decades now. Just like in basketball, he wanted to be the best and beat everyone else. He exemplified this in Spain when he relentlessly pursued his Dream Team coach Chuck Daly for a rematch after taking an L.
The story goes that Jordan lost to Daly in golf in Monte Carlo. Daly wanted to savor then win and refused to ever give MJ a rematch. The next morning, he pounded on Daly’s door at their hotel until Daly finally agreed to go play him again.
“The next morning, at the crack of dawn, Jordan rang Daly’s room. Getting no response, he went directly to Daly’s room and knocked. Then he pounded. He wouldn’t go away until he got his rematch. He got it, and he won by a shot. But would you expect anything else?” Rick Reilly of Sports Illustrated wrote. Of course, Jordan won.
Michael Jordan Vs. Christian Laettner In Ping-Pong
Of all the players on the 92 Dream Team, Christian Laettner was the only collegiate player. In his previous season at Duke, he won the Naismith Award for College Player of the Year, and led the Blue Devils to two national championships. Laettner was not only a decorated collegiate athlete but an accomplished ping-pong player. He beat most of his Dream Team teammates and David Stern in the board game. Eventually, MJ would challenge Laettner to a game.
Laettner remembered, “When I was on the Dream Team, a lot of basketball players love ping pong. It’s a game that requires hand and eye speed, hand and eye coordination. You have to be unbelievably quick. I think every basketball player I know loves ping pong. Everyone played on the Dream Team. I played Clyde Drexler and Chris Mullin and even David Stern once David Stern saw I was pretty good. Jordan wanted a piece of me, too, and I beat him the first time.” This did not sit well with His Airness.
Nat Butler, a photographer who was covering the Dream Team, explains what happened next. “Laettner beat him. He threw the paddle. He didn’t talk for two days to anyone. Come to find out, he had a ping-pong table delivered up to his room. No one knew about it. and he was practicing for the rematch. They had a rematch two days later, three days later. It was (something like) 21-4. He destroyed him.”
Jordan Tricking Scottie Pippen
Arguably the greatest duo ever in the NBA, Jordan and Scottie Pippen were Batman and Robin on the court. But not even Pippen was immune to the dastardly gambling tactics of Jordan.
Amin Elhassan recounted this crazy story on Zach Lowe’s ESPN podcast, The Lowe Post. During Bulls home games, animated bull races would be shown on the Jumbotron. Those were prerecorded. Elhassan said Jordan would get the inside scoop to cheat Pippen out of a c-note in every home game. “Mike is watching this and says, ‘Oh, you guys already know which one will win?'” Elhassan said. “And the guy says, ‘Yeah, it’s all prerecorded.”
“Fast-forward: Game, timeout, Phil Jackson is drawing up some play. Mike goes to Scottie and says, ‘Hundred bucks the red one wins,'” Elhassan said.
Guess what? The red one won. MJ went undefeated for the entire season and Pippen never knew what the hell was going on, according to Elhassan. Another example of MJ being cold-blooded like Rick James.
Jordan Refusing Chamillionaire’s Picture Request.
The most infamous post-retirement story of Jordan may be his interaction with rapper Chamillionaire.
Chamillionaire had the opportunity to meet Jordan, at a party for the basketball legend after dropping a cool $7000 for one of his jerseys at a Reggie Bush charity auction. While Chamillionaire copped the Jordan merch, his meeting with Jordan did not go as expected.
Chamillionaire asked MJ for a pic but Jordan wasn’t having it. He said the GOAT disrespected him by saying, “I ain’t taking pictures with no niggas!” Chamillionaire thought that maybe Jordan didn’t hear him correctly and told him that he just dropped $7000 for one of his jerseys. Jordan responded; “You know what, I tell you what, you pay $15,000 right now for a jersey from me and I’ll take a picture with you.” MJ must have never rocked out to “Ridin Dirty.”
Jordan’s ruthless Hall of Fame Speech
Jordan’s legendary speech at his Hall of Fame induction not only produced the greatest meme of all time but it showed his competitive fire knows no end. Instead of enjoying the moment, Jordan decided to be petty and stunt on everybody.
In the 20 minute speech, Jordan took aim at the coach who wouldn’t put him on the varsity team as a sophomore (He wasn’t cut by the way); the dude who was picked over him, Harvest “Leroy” Smith, who was in attendance; some NBA vets he accused of freezing him out in his first All-Star Game; Jazz guard Bryon Russell for being on the other end of his final shot as a Chicago Bull; and frequent foil Jerry Krause, the general manager of the Bulls.
While other players who are enshrined at least try to act humble, MJ took the opportunity to shine on everybody. That’s why he’s Michael Jordan.
Rashad Grove is a writer from NJ whose work has appeared on BET, Billboard, MTV News, Okayplayer, High Snobiety, Medium, Revolt TV, The Source Magazine, and others. You can follow him at @thegroveness for all of his greatness.