23 Stories That Prove Michael Jordan Is The Most Ruthlessly Competitive Athlete Of All Time
Last week, I stumbled across a story about the time the Grizzlies accidentally lit a fire under Michael Jordan’s ass, a tale that only help solidify his status as the G.O.A.T.
Over the years, I’ve come across a number of stories highlighting Jordan’s competitive nature, and as a result, I decided to take the time to round up some of my favorite ones.
Without further ado, here are a bunch of anecdotes proving Jordan is the most ruthless athlete of all time.
The Time He Smoked A Victory Cigar Before A Game
There’s nothing quite like sparking a cigar to celebrate one of life’s little victories, but traditionally speaking, you want to make sure the victory in question has already come to fruition.
However, it appears Michael Jordan could not give two shits about tradition.
In 2013, Chris Webber shared a story about the time he and the team that was once known as the Washington Bullets rolled up to a game in Chicago during the Bulls’ legendary 72-10 season, where they were greeted by Jordan and Scottie Pippen sparking up a stogie in the former’s Ferrari outside of the arena:
Jordan was sitting on his Ferrari and Pippen was right there and they have a cigar lit. We get off the bus and we have to pass them with a lit cigar.
You want to talk about posturing? Forget Phil Jackson. You got Michael Jordan there behind the scenes smoking a cigar before the game, letting us know that he’s the Red Auerbach before the game even started.
It was almost like, ‘I lit the cigar. I’m celebrating already. This is just a formality, you guys getting on the court tonight.”
The Time He Ended Mugsy Bogues’ Career
Jordan had a tendency to make opposing players feel bad about the life decisions that resulted in them having to face off against him and I’m not sure if anyone suffered the consequences more than Mugsy Bogues, who was reportedly never the same after getting put in his place by Jordan during a game against the Hornets:
On the biggest possession of the game, Mugsy had the ball with the Hornets down 1. Jordan backed off of him and told him: “shoot it you fucking midget.” Mugsy shot it, didn’t come close. A year later Mugsy actually told Johnny Bach that he believes that single play ruined his career. His shot never recovered.
However, that wasn’t the only time Jordan seemingly brought an end to a player’s career.
The Time He Did The Same Thing To Rodney McCray
Jordan wasn’t exactly thrilled when the Bulls signed Rodney McCray ahead of the 1992 season and wasn’t shy about letting him know about how he felt about him—especially in practice, where he routinely attacked his teammate to lower his self-esteem and may have contributed to McCray abandoning the sport for good:
A former teammate from the time frame anonymously spilled the beans that Jordan would go after McCray in practice. The word “loser” would frequently be used from Jordan to break down the confidence of McCray. Chicago would only play McCray about 15 minutes per game and he chose to retire after that season at 32 years old.
It turns out McCray wasn’t the only Bull to suffer Jordan’s wrath.
The Time He Gave Steve Kerr A Black Eye
In 1995, current Warriors coach Steve Kerr found himself playing on the same team with Jordan and entered preseason camp intent on doing everything in his power to prove he could hold his own.
Kerr would eventually find himself guarding Jordan during a practice scrimmage and the two men got increasingly heated with each other until tempers boiled over as the trash talk got out of hand and resulted in Jordan shoving Kerr, which kicked off a fight that ended with the point guard walking away with a black eye.
While reflecting on the situation, Kerr said he had no clue what he was thinking and admitted Jordan “could actually probably kill me if he wanted to.” However, things ultimately worked out in the end, as Jordan apparently respected the fact that Kerr stood up to him and apologized for his role in the altercation.
The Time He Punched Another Teammate In The Face
It turns out Kerr wasn’t the only one of Jordan’s teammates to suffer his wrath, as the seven-foot-tall Will Perdue also found himself on the receiving end of the superstar’s hands after setting an illegal screen on him during practice.
Perdue recounted the encounter, saying:
We kept running this play, and sometimes my screens were illegal. Sometimes they were not. But my job was to make sure I hit him. Well, one time he said, ‘If you do that again I’m going to make you pay for it.’ Well, Johnny Bach just stood there and goes, ‘Run it again.’
So we ran it again, and this time I figured if I’m going to get my money’s worth. I nailed him, knocked him to the ground, kind of stood over him a little bit. He stood up, popped me and before I could get him they got us and that was the end of it.
He apologized later, but he got me pretty good.
I don’t know about you but I’m starting to think Jordan might have had some anger management issues.
The Time He Heckled A Heckler After Dunking On The Biggest Guy On The Court
In 1987, Jordan found himself facing off against John Stockton and the Jazz and managed to pull off a pretty standard dunk after the assist machine misread a pass and found himself on the wrong end of a throwdown.
After the play, a Jazz fan decided it would be a good idea to heckle Jordan and suggested he pick on someone his own size, as Stockon only stood a 6’1″.
On the very next possession, Jordan decided to take that fan’s advice when he found himself driving toward the basket in the direction of Mel Turpin, a 6’11” center who would ultimately get posterized before Jordan allegedly turned to the heckler in question and rhetorically asked, “Is that big enough?”
I think it’s safe to say it was.
The Time He Cheated To Beat A Teammate’s Mom At Cards
All of the stories on the list so far have something to do with Jordan’s prowess on the court but some of my favorite anecdotes involve his behavior off of it—especially when it comes to his gambling habits.
There are countless incidents to pick from to highlight his competitiveness but I don’t know if anything sums up the lengths he was willing to go to win a bet than the time he played cards with the mother of UNC teammate Buzz Peterson and allegedly messed around with the chip count when she went to the bathroom in order to give himself an edge.
If you need proof no one is safe from MJ’s wrath, I can’t think of a more fitting example than this one.
The Time He Bribed Baggage Handlers To Win A Bet
As you’ll soon see, there aren’t many things in life Jordan isn’t willing to gamble on but I don’t know if anything is more absurd than the wager he placed with some teammates while they were waiting for their baggage to arrive after taking a flight to Portland.
While standing at the carousel, Jordan apparently decided to see who would be willing to bet on whose luggage would arrive first and nine of his teammates took him up on his offer only to be forced to fork over their hard-earned cash when Jordan’s bag was the first to roll out.
What they didn’t know, however, was that Jordan had bribed a handler to prioritize his bag—but that wouldn’t be the only time he used inside information to take advantage of his fellow players.
The Time He (Allegedly) Tricked Scottie Pippen To Win Money On Virtual Racing
Back in the 90s, Chicago decided to entertain fans during breaks in the game by staging virtual races between bulls on the Jumbotron but it turns out the people in the stands weren’t the only ones paying attention.
A few years ago, Amin Elhassan relayed a story about Jordan’s interest in the races and claimed he convinced Scottie Pippen to pony up $100 during a timeout—a bet that Jordan won when his bull took first place.
Jordan would continue to wager on the races with Pippen over the course of the season and would continue to clean up thanks to his morally questionable strategy of taking to the court before games while the races were being tested out on the big screen to see what bull would take home first place.
However, it’s worth noting at least one person has questioned the validity of the story.
With that said, I—like Fox Mulder—want to believe.
The Time He Wagered $100,000 On Rock, Paper, Scissors
In 2015, Jay Williams recounted his time playing with Jordan and added to the legend of the G.O.A.T. when he discussed his penchant for dropping insane amounts of cash on rather benign competitions—including rock, paper, scissors.
If Williams is to be believed, Jordan would entertain himself by dropping six-figures on the game, saying:
“Think about gambling to the next degree. Rock, paper, scissors you bet $20,000 all day long. Why wouldn’t you? You get bored.
“And don’t get yourself down in the dice game. Don’t be in the corner and let some dude keep fading you out and all of a sudden you’re down $100,000 and he’s like, ‘Yo bet it back; rock, paper, scissors for $100,000.’”
However, that’s chump change compared to the next story.
The Time He Bet $300,000 On A Single Putt
Jordan might have made a name for himself on the basketball court but his prowess on the golf course is nothing to scoff at—nor is his eagerness to drop absurd amounts of money while playing a round.
A couple of years ago, Charles Barkley chatted with Dan Patrick about what it’s like to play with Jordan, and if you’ve ever lost a few bucks betting with your buddies, you have nothing on guys who have played with him:
“We’d be playing golf with certain people, for a couple hundred dollars a hole, nothing big, and he’d be playing some guy for $100,000.
He’s like, ‘Charles, pick that up.’ I’m like, ‘This putt is for $200.’ He’s like, ‘Pick that up, Charles, get out of my way, you’re in my line!’ I’m like, ‘How much is that putt for?’ He’s like, ‘$300,000.’ I said, ‘Let me get out of your line.'”
I think Barkley made the right move.
The Time He Won $500 Off Of A Fan At A Charity Golf Match
I don’t know the real backstory behind this video, but as far as I can tell, a fan at a charity tournament decided it’d be a good idea to challenge Jordan to hit the green on a par-3 with $500 on the line.
As you can see, it wasn’t the best idea in hindsight.
The Time He Shamed Bill Clinton For Playing From The Easy Tees
Jordan has played golf with a number of high-profile (and rich) people over the years but not too many of them are more famous than Bill Clinton, who once found himself on the links with His Airness.
In 2011, the former president reflected on the day and said Jordan shamed him for not playing from the toughest tee box, saying, “You’re going to play from the little girls’ tee?” when Clinton arrived on the first hole.
Jordan then challenged Clinton to shoot under 100 over the course of the round, and while it’s unclear if any money changed hands, he was able to come away with what was at least a moral victory.
The Time He Tracked Down Chuck Daly And Pounded On His Hotel Door For A Rematch
Chuck Daly was the coach of the legendary Dream Team and apparently a pretty adept golfer, as he reportedly managed to beat Jordan during a round when they faced off in Monte Carlo in the 90s.
Daly was apparently intent on resting on his laurels but Jordan was not having it, as he spent a fair amount of time tracking down the coach before pounding on the door of his hotel room before forcing him to get back onto the course for a rematch, which Jordan would ultimately win.
Hell hath no fury like a Jordan crossed.
The Time He Dropped 40 Points After Reggie Miller Talked Trash To Him During An Exhibition Game
Reggie Miller established himself as one of the most entertaining antagonists in the history of the NBA thanks to the feud that blossomed between him and Spike Lee back when the Knicks were good enough at basketball to actually have a rivalry with another team.
He’s also one of the few players who managed to provoke Jordan, as the two of them exchanged some not-so-pleasantries during a game in 1993 where flaring tempers led to MJ throwing a punch that resulted in him being hit with a one-game suspension and a $10,000 fine.
As the former Pacer recalled while chatting with Jimmy Kimmel, the two of them had a history stretching all the way back to Miller’s first year in the NBA when Jordan welcomed him to the league during an exhibition game where the rookie thought it would be a good idea to talk trash to one of the most dominant players in the league.
Miller said he was outscoring Jordan by six points when halftime rolled around during the entirely meaningless contest and thought it would be a good idea to tell him “there’s a new man in town.”
It turns out it was a decidedly bad idea, as MJ dropped 40 points in the second half while limiting Miller to just two and gave him some advice before heading off of the court, saying, ““Be sure, and be careful, you never talk to Black Jesus like that.”
The Time He Was Given Final Say Over Who Played On The Dream Team
There will likely never be another collection of basketball players who will be able to come remotely close to matching the caliber of talent possessed by the squad dubbed “The Dream Team” that represented the United States at the 1992 Summer Olympics.
The roster was stacked with future Hall of Famers (with the lone exception of Christian Laettner) and all of the guys on the team—even Larry Bird and Magic Johnson—were able to put their differences aside to unite and make every other player who competed in Barcelona wonder why they even bothered to start playing basketball in the first place.
Rod Thorn was one of the people who were tapped to serve on the committee USA Basketball tasked with curating the lineup and Jordan was obviously a unanimous choice. However, in Jack McCallum’s book about the legendary squad, he revealed Thorn and the other members essentially ceded their power to the superstar to give him final say.
Johnson said Jordan obviously wanted to win but also wanted to enjoy himself while doing so, which he apparently wouldn’t have been able to do if he’d been playing alongside Isiah Thomas, who was on the receiving end of a veto from MJ after Thorn suggested he should be included.
The Time He Told Craig Ehlo How He Was Going To Score On Him Before Doing Exactly That
In 2013, Deadspin chatted with Craig Ehlo, who found himself tasked with guarding Jordan during a game when the Bull managed to drop 69 points on his team.
At some point during the contest, Jordan decided to entertain himself by toying with Ehlo by telling him how he planned to score on him during a play, saying:
“I’m gonna catch it on the left elbow, and then I’m gonna drive to the left to the baseline, and then I’m gonna pull up and shoot my fadeaway.”
He then went on to do exactly that and further cement his legend in the process.
The Time He Drove A New Ferrari To The Gym Each Day To Put Antoine Walker In His Place
Antoine Walker was really the lone bright spot for the Boston Celtics in the 1990s—a decade the franchise would likely prefer to pretend never happened—and while he’ll never end up in the Hall of Fame, he still had a pretty respectable career.
Sadly, his legacy will likely have less to do with his performance on the court and more with the fact that he somehow managed to blow the $110 million he made over the course of his time in the NBA, which was more than enough to earn him the right of being one of the central figures in the 30 For 30 “Broke.”
Walker made a number of regrettable purchases and I’m going to assume the Ferrari he bought was one of them—especially when you consider how hard he was stunted on after he drove it to a workout where Jordan was in attendance.
Jared Jeffries was there that day and said Jordan was decidedly unimpressed with Walker’s attempt to flex and opted to put him in his place over the course of the next week by arriving at the gym each day in a different Ferrari while outfitted in a Jumpman sweatsuit that matched the paint job for good measure.
It’s hard to come back from that.
The Time He Taunted Dikembe Mutombo By Shooting A Free Throw With His Eyes Closed
As the Jazz fan we previously talked about learned the hard way, the last thing you want to do is heckle Jordan because he’ll take great pleasure in shutting you the fuck up.
During his rookie season in 1991, Dikembe Mutombo also learned his lesson when he decided to taunt Jordan while the Bull was at the free-throw line, and he decided to taunt him back by closing his eyes and nailing the shot.
The Times He Studied The Personal Life Of Referees To Get On Their Good Side
It’s not exactly a secret that the biggest superstars in the NBA tend to get preferential treatment from the officials and there is perhaps no one who reaped the benefits of this reality more than MJ did.
Tim Donaghy claims veteran referees instructed their younger counterparts to give Jordan the benefit of the doubt and blow the whistle if there appeared to be even the slightest bit of contact when he drove to the basket, which must’ve been pretty nice.
However, Jordan didn’t get on their good side based on status alone, as he made sure he knew the name of every ref in the league. He even often went beyond that and researched their personal lives so he could bring up things like their son’s performance on his middle school basketball team prior to tipoff.
It’s kind of like how Kevin Garnett tried to dig up sensitive information he could use to get under the skin of his opponents only infinitely more wholesome.
The Time He Didn’t Talk To Anyone For Two Days After Losing A Ping Pong Match
In 1992, Jordan traveled with the Dream Team to Barcelona for the Olympics, where the coaching staff decided to set up some entertainment to prevent players from going out on the town—including installing a ping pong table in their hotel.
The team quickly set up a bracket and Christian Laettner would find himself facing Jordan in the championship round, where he ultimately came away with the victory following a hard-fought match.
Here’s what happened next according to NBA photographer Nat Butler:
“[Jordan] 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 re-match.
They had a re-match two days later, three days later. It was (something like) 21-4. He destroyed him.”
Much like the Wu-Tang Clan, Michael Jordan ain’t nuthin’ ta fuck wit.
The Time He Shut Down Allan Houston After Losing A Game
The Dream Team is legendary for a reason and the world may never see a more dominant sqaud assembled. However, they weren’t entirely unbeatable, as they somehow managed to fall to a team of college players during a closed scrimmage.
As we all know by now, Jordan is not one to lose without demanding a rematch and demanded he guard Allan Houston, who was the lead scorer the previous game. Over the course of the next two hours, Houston failed to touch the ball a single time and the Dream Team redeemed themselves by taking home the victory.
The Time He Went Scorched Earth During His Hall Of Fame Speech
If you’ve previously watched Jordan’s Hall of Fame acceptance speech, you know why he’s gone down in history as one of the cockiest (and douchiest) players of all time.
If you haven’t, you need to do yourself a favor and take the time to view the entire thing, as there is no single better example highlighting Jordan’s reputation as the most ruthlessly competitive player of all time.