Former Bulls Players Describe How Common It Was For Michael Jordan To Fight Teammates In Practice
Stories of Michael Jordan’s competitiveness and drive continue to leak out as millions of people take in The Last Dance documentary on ESPN — which showcases the GOAT’s final season with the Chicago Bulls before his second of three retirements. While we all knew MJ was built differently than other athletes, the series really showcases the drive Jordan had, and how he tried to motivate both himself and his teammates in order to compete for championships during their dynasty in the ’90s.
Although Jordan admitted before the series debuted that people will think he’s a horrible guy for the way he pushed his teammates, given the outcome and six NBA titles, it’s a safe bet that most former Bulls’ players were totally OK with the way Michael Jordan tried to motivate them. Sure, it was unconventional, but MJ needed to know that his guys could handle hecklers and opposing players in hostile environments on the road during the playoffs before really gaining their trust — and some of those former teammates are speaking out about how common it was for Jordan to fight with them during practice in order to test their mettle.
One of MJ’s former teammates, Will Perdue, was a guest on CBS Sports the other day, and he spoke about how aggressive Jordan was during practice — even describing an incident in which Michael Jordan punched him; and how he wasn’t the only one. Take a look below.
“He did, and I wasn’t the only one. But also — and Scottie will second this — that’s how competitive our practices were. That wasn’t the only fight. That was one of numerous, but because it involved Michael Jordan, and it leaked out, that it became a big deal. “And the funny thing was, in that practice that it happened, we basically separated, regrouped and kept practicing. It wasn’t like that was the end of practice. Stuff like that was common, because that’s how competitive our practices were.”
We’ve heard stories about this involving Michael Jordan before, so it’s not surprising that more of his ex-teammates are talking about it now as The Last Dance consumes sports fans during the ongoing pandemic. Still, it’s wild to think how frequent and common MJ physically got into it with other Bulls’ players — because, in present time, it’d be a lead story and something that would be talked about for a week.
Echoing Perdue was former Bulls player (and current Golden State Warriors head coach) Steve Kerr, who famously punched Michael Jordan during a scuffle they were involved in during a practice once. Kerr also mentioned how things have changed since then in the modern NBA, and how people have gotten smarter about protecting players. See what Kerr had to say below.
“One thing that was more prevalent back then than now is the intensity of practices back then. I think we’re smarter now with preserving our players. We don’t have as many practice days now; it’s more about rest and recovery, so there’s not as much competition.
“My point is practices were really intense, and they were a huge part of the Bulls and Michael setting a standard for our play. So practice fights, not only on that team — there were probably three of them during the year on that team — on every team I played on [in the] late 80s, early 90s, there were a few practice fights. There was just a lot of competition, things would get out of hand, and it really wasn’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. But for me in that case, Michael was definitely testing me, and I responded, and I feel like I passed the test and he trusted me more afterwards.”
It’s interesting to hear Kerr’s perspective, because, in addition to being a member of the second three-peat with Michael Jordan and the Bulls in the ’90s, he’s also led the latest NBA dynasty as a head coach, winning three of the past five titles with the Warriors — which, like the Bulls, have had the top talent and tons of contrasting personalities. Those different egos and some internal fighting are part of the reason why Kevin Durant left during the 2019 offseason, proving how things have changed since Jordan played.
Jordan may have been rough on his teammates, but the results proved that it worked. Sure, it may have caused a little friction and awkwardness — and an actual fist fight is way different than just a shouting match — but such was the price for playing alongside the GOAT, who had a high bar when it came to expectations.