In principle, attempting to rile up Michael Jordan, a basketball-playing android sent to Earth to destroy his opponents, was a fool’s errand. Giving the best player to ever grace a basketball court extra motivation was the exact opposite of what you wanted to do.
For most of his career, Los Angeles Lakers point guard and Hall of Famer Magic Johnson respected that advice. But on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Thursday night, Johnson told a story about a time he stepped across the smack-talking line with MJ, and never returned again.
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During the summer of the Dream Team, the legendary 1992 USA Olympic squad that crushed opposing teams by an average of what seemed like 100 points per game, Magic decided to get in Jordan’s ear during practice. USA head coach Chuck Daly had divided his players into their respective NBA conferences and mandated scrimmages between East and West.
Johnson said, “We got out on them about 12-2, and I said, ‘I’m going to really rattle his chain.’ So I went over there, tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘Hey man, if you don’t turn into Air Jordan, we’re going to blow you out today.'”
As soon as Jordan heard those words, his eyes immediately widened. On the next possession, he dropped a 3-pointer and proceeded to stare Johnson down. But that was only the beginning of the torture MJ inflicted. Later in the game, he drove down the right side of the court and lifted off for a potential dunk. San Antonio Spurs big man David Robinson was waiting for him and met him in midair, but Jordan pulled a 360 and threw down a dunk anyway. Johnson said it was one of the best moves he’d ever seen.
Moral of the story: Don’t ever smack-talk His Airness, even when he’s 100 years old in a retirement home about to play you in Connect Four.