Jim Brown, Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps, Muhmmad Ali, Jack Nicklaus, Babe Ruth, Wayne Gretzky, and Michael Jordan are considered some of the greatest professional athletes in sports history. The list is not very long and that has a lot to do with how tough it is for a man to become the greatest in any one sport. But when it comes to the NBA, one name always comes up as the greatest of all time, and it is Michael Jordan.
Michael Jordan left a positive impact on the sport of basketball that would last a generation and change the NBA for the better, forever. He brought a passion and drive for the game that was never seen before. He got the best out of everyone he played with or against and wound up getting some of the best performances from all of his opponents in their entire career's because of his inability to slow down. He just kept driving forward and working harder than anyone else in the league, just to be the best. He wanted it and he owned the title of the best in the NBA.
He also brought about an idea that a professional basketball player can be a fashion icon and have significant impact simply from branding themselves, such as he did with the Air Jordan's. The shoes were made by Nike but were not considered Nike shoes, they were called Jordan's. That simple idea has turned NBA players into marketable commodities.
But his biggest impact was all of the angry Hall of Famers that he left retiring without a single Championship title. He beat out several of the games best players throughout his career and even angered a few of them in the process. So let's take a look at the 15 NBA players that had on-court beefs with the G.O.A.T. himself, Michael Jordan, and where they are today.
16 Chris Mullin
From first glance, you probably had no idea about Chris Mullin having an on-court beef with Michael Jordan but the two faced off against one another, 21 times during the regular season, dating back to 1986. Although Michael Jordan had the better stats between the two of them, averaging 30.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, 6.1 assits, and 2.8 steals, Chris Mullin still had some Hall of Fame numbers, averaging 18.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.0 steals, and a 50.5% FG shooting percentage.
They even had one of those games that is worth remembering, back in 1991, when MJ dropped 40 points, grabbed 7 rebounds, dished 4 assists, and even had a steal and a block. Chris Mullin, won the game by adding 38 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. It was the one and only time the two men collided like that and went back and forth for 42 minutes.
Chris Mullin's beef starts with the 1992 Dream Team and the fact that he was never given the respect he deserves because MJ and the Bulls blocked him from winning just about anything.
He is currently the head coach of the St.John's men's basketball team.
15 Vernon Maxwell
One of the most underrated defensive matchups in Michael Jordan's career was whenever Vernon Maxwell (Pictured Left) and the Houston Rockets collided with Air Jordan and his Chicago Bulls. The two teams are won a combined eight consecutive NBA Titles between 1990 and 1998 but never got to face-off against one another in a the NBA Finals because MJ retired for almost two seasons, leaving the Chicago Bulls far from the Finals.
So, although we never really got a matchup between Mad Max and Air Jordan during the NBA Finals, the two men battled throughout the '90s, leaving each with a mark or two along the way. They almost came to blows in 1991 but all that happened was a quick shove by Mad Max before the two were broken up and pulled apart.
Vernon Maxwell was a quiet guy on the court that took no-prisoners when it came to defending anyone. Their rivalry has continued throughout the years and in 2015, Mad Max said in an interview, "I wanted to fight him, really." He was talking about Jordan's arrogance that the Houston Rockets, that won back-to-back titles when he retired, would not have beaten the Chicago Bulls in the Finals.
As long as he is not going to jail, Mad Max is relaxing in Gainesville, Florida, where he now lives. But you just never know what the man is going to do next.
14 Bryon Russell
During Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals in Salt Lake City, Utah, the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz found themselves in a battle for the series, and a possible Game 7 with the Jazz trailing 3-2 games. With just 41.9 seconds remaining, and the score tied 83-83, John Stockton got wide open for a three pointer that put the Jazz up 86-83. After a quick layup from MJ, the Bulls got within one point, making it 86-85. Then, in one of the most underrated plays in Jordan's career, he sneaks up behind Karl Malone to steal the ball and give the Bulls a chance to win the game with 15 seconds remaining. The next ten seconds became iconic as Michael Jordan dribbled the ball to the right of Bryon Russell (Pictured Left) before crossing him over and sinking the medium range jump shot that has become his signature shot.
Although Bryon Russell belongs on this list because of this moment, and the shove heard round the world, he remains level-headed and calm, even in 2017, almost 20 years later. He gets asked the question all the time, and he simply says, "It doesn't offend me because it happened against the best player to ever play the game."
He is currently living in California where he is happily married and loves being a father to his children.
13 Xavier McDaniel
Michael Jordan never took all the credit for his success, he always gave love and respect to Scottie Pippen, and even said during his Hall of Fame induction speech that he could not have done any of it without him. However, back before all of the titles and records were broken, many fans of the NBA assumed he was a selfish player that was tough to deal with and did not care much for Scottie Pippen off the court. But then, the 1992 Eastern Conference Semifinals happened and New York Knick defensive specialist Xavier McDaniel, also known as X-Man, proved the complete opposite.
During the series, he was assigned to push around Scottie Pippen, throwing him off his game and breaking up the dangerous 1-2 Bulls combo or Jordan and Pippen. However, after McDaniel and Pippen nearly came to blows, Jordan had enough and stepped in. He started to go after Xavier and they got into a scuffle themselves. He showed us all that he had Scottie's back and that you do not mess with the Chicago Bulls.
Today, X-Man lives in South Carolina, his home state, running his company, 34 X Man LLC, handling anything from construction, trucking, and plumbing, to electrical and janitorial services.
12 Penny Hardaway
Throughout his entire career, Penny Hardaway was considered a younger version of Michael Jordan, constantly being compared to the man known as the greatest of all-time. That comparison was something he wanted to prove to the man himself and anytime that Penny Hardaway and Michael Jordan squared-off, it was a battle of who is the better version, with Penny fighting even harder to overcome the obstacle of being MJ lite.
Unfortunately, however, Penny faced the injury bug and it stopped him dead in his tracks, nearly ending his career several times. If he never got hurt, or miss as many games as he did throughout his career, could he have surpassed Michael Jordan and win multiple titles? Doubtful, but it was still fun to watch them fight for every inch of court they could grab against one another.
Penny Hardaway has moved on and is now the head coach of Memphis East, a Class 3A high school powerhouse that won a state title in 2016.
11 Clyde Drexler
The Portland Trail Blazers have always been one of those teams that has been blessed with the misfortune of bad luck, only winning one NBA Finals about 40 years ago. Since then, they have gotten back to the Finals twice, in 1990 and 1992, thanks to the Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler, who carried the Trail Blazers on his back throughout most of his career in Portland.
But his hatred on the court goes back to the 1983 when Clyde Drexler was drafted 14th overall. His addition meant that the Trail Blazers would not draft any other shooting guard for awhile and instead, went and drafted Sam Bowie, passing on Michael Jordan. The move eventually became a chip on Drexler's shoulders. How would you feel if you were a Hall of Fame superstar and your fans still dreamt that you played somewhere else so they could have gotten MJ instead?
Today, Clyde "The Glide" Drexler is a member of the Houston Rockets broadcast team, providing his services as the color commentator for ROOT Sports coverage of the team.
10 John Starks
As you will soon notice, Xavier McDaniel is not the only New York Knick to make this list and with good reason. The New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls blasted each other for years, fighting for the Eastern Conference in the process and players like Xavier McDaniel and John Starks (Pictured Middle) were among the many reasons Michael Jordan had issues with them.
John Starks was a fighter. He was not a dirty player but he was also not very clean. His defensive style was tough and gritty and angered players like Michael Jordan. It even led to a fight between the two men that ended with John Starks being pulled off the court by teammates and head coach Pat Riley before being ejected from the game. Even after being pulled away from MJ, John Starks was not finished and went back at him, twice.
He currently works for the New York Knicks as a fan developmental official while also being a co-owner of Ektio shoes, a basketball shoe brand made to help prevent ankle injuries.
9 Stephon Marbury
Long after his NBA career has come to an end, Stephon Marbury continues to drop dimes in China, where he has received a Chinese "Green Card" and is now a permanent residence of the country. He also recently filmed a autobiographical film about himself called, "My Other Home."
But before he left the league, he was making comments that opened up some eyes in regards to Michael Jordan, including blaming his shoes for the rise in violence across the country. Michael Jordan's shoe brand has become a huge part of American culture and are so valuable now that people have died over them either from an attempted burglary or simply from a business deal gone bad. But for whatever reason, Stephon considers it Michael's fault for allowing this go down instead of being more responsible about his shoes including the pricing and the style.
7 Steve Kerr
Just because you are a teammate of Michael Jordan, does not mean you are exempt from his competitive nature. In fact, you are even more likely to face-off with him, practicing against him everyday, getting the best out of him in the process.
During one practice in 1995, as Michael Jordan was trying to prove his value since retiring and coming back to the league, the two men started talking trash, up and down the court, exchanging shoves and verbal insults in the process until MJ gave him a forearm to the chest. Steve Kerr than retaliated with a punch and after a quick skirmish, the two were separated, Kerr leaving with a black eye.
As many of you already know, Steve Kerr is now the head coach of the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, who could be right back where they have been the past two seasons, the NBA Finals, later this summer.
6 Will Perdue
Long before Will Perdue became an analyst for CSN Chicago and a color analyst on the SEC Network for college basketball games, he was getting into fights with Michael Jordan during practices where Phil Jackson, the legendary head coach of the Chicago Bulls, would put MJ on the second team.
By putting Michael on the second team during scrimmages, it forced the first team to improve while also pushing the backups to work even harder. Things got heated during one practice when Will Perdue started setting an illegal screen on Michael. Of course, MJ did not like it and warned him to stop. Will acted as if he did nothing wrong and continued to do it, two more times. Finally, Mr. Jordan walked right up to him and laid him out. Or, at least, that is the way Horace Grant remembers it when he tells that story.
5 Muggsy Bogues
Not many NBA players can blame Michael Jordan for ending their careers but in the case of Muggsy Bogues, he can. He has even come out and said that one incident, from the 1995 NBA Playoffs, completely destroyed him.
During the 1995 Eastern Conference First Round matchup between the Charlotte Hornets and Chicago Bulls, in a very tight game, Michael Jordan ended up guarding Muggsy Bogues during a very important moment in the game. Muggsy was dribbling the ball just outside the perimeter, at the top of the key, when Michael backed up off of him and challenged him to take the shot. He even jokingly said something to Muggsy that we cannot repeat. He said something like, "Shoot it you freaking midget!" But you can replace freaking with another word you might know very well.
Muggsy stepped up and took on the challenge, badly missing the shot, leading to an eventual Bulls win. From that moment on, Muggsy was never the same and only averaged 6.0 points per game for the rest of his career.
Muggsy Bogues does a little bit of everything these days and is involved in traveling the country, speaking to people about his story and how his size had nothing to do with his hard work.
4 Gary Payton
In 1996, Gary Payton was named the NBA's defensive player of the year even though the Chicago Bulls were in the Eastern Conference, breaking the NBA record for most wins in a single season with 72. The record was recently broken by the Golden State Warriors but it stood for nearly 20 years before breaking.
That same season, Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp led the Seattle Supersonics to an epic NBA Finals matchup against the Bulls that spawned a rivalry between Gary Payton, also known as "The Glove" because of his defense, and Michael Jordan. Throughout the entire 1996 Finals, Gary did not back down from the challenge of having to guard Michael Jordan for Games 4, 5, and 6. He held MJ to performances that were good but not as great as we were used to thanks to Gary Payton's tough-nosed style of defense.
Today, Gary is a proud father to current NBA player, Gary Payton II, and continues to try and get the NBA back in Seattle.
3 Reggie Miller
If there was ever a player that could get under the skin of even the most even keel players, it was Reggie Miller. He could talk himself into a second shot half the time, forcing defenders to focus on him rather than the ball. However, during a game against the Chicago Bulls, in February of 1993, his trash talking got him ejected after just eight minutes of action. It was not because of his mouth, it was because he turned Michael Jordan into an emotional mess, and a fight ensued.
The fight was part of a rivalry between the two men that began the moment the Indiana Pacers started winning games and competing in the Eastern Conference. The two men rarely, if ever, showcased any affection or love, just respect.
Reggie continues working for TNT as an on-air analyst, something he has done for many years and is one of the best in the business, probably because it involves talking the whole game.
2 Charles Barkley
What happened to the NBA? It used to be a league of superstars that hated each other on the court. They talked trash and got into fist fights during a game because of how competitive these guys were, and not because of anything else. These matchups and fights started from the opening whistle and would continue throughout the game. Two of the greatest competitors and trash talkers, who could back it up too, were Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan. They used to get into it during a game and would challenge one another the entire game, nearly coming to blows several times.
That was back before the NBA decided to start calling flagrant one fouls and eject players for accidentally bumping into another player. There was a game when Charles Barkley headbutted Michael Jordan after MJ shoved him to the floor. And the refs did not even call a foul, not once. They got to play it out.
However, long after both players retired, and Michael Jordan was an owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, Sir Charles, who was on the same show he is on today, on TNT, made comments criticizing MJ's performance in the front office, basically saying he was terrible at it.
1 Isiah Thomas
In 1984, when these two icons faced each other on the court for the first time, fans knew they were in for a treat. A rookie at the time, Michael Jordan, in just 27 minutes, had 25 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals. On the other side of the court, Isiah Thomas outplayed him, scoring 35 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals. However, the Chicago Bulls got the victory, something that eluded MJ for most of the next few seasons against the Detroit Pistons and Isiah Thomas.
Isiah Thomas comes in at number one because during the selection of the 1992 US Dream Team, Michael Jordan admitted that he said he would not play if Isiah Thomas was on the team, almost forcing the front office no choice but to leave Thomas off the roster, shocking a lot of people during that time. Adding fuel to that fire, Michael Jordan admits to doing it and that he has never liked Thomas, probably never will.
Today, Isiah Thomas deals with champagne, and no, not the city in Illinois, the kind you drink. He just recently came out with a collection of imports called the Cheurin Thomas Champagne Collection.
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