Michael Jordan is, without question, the greatest player in NBA history. His Airness has five MVP Awards, ten All-NBA First Team designations, nine All-Defensive First Team honors, fourteen All-Star Game appearances, ten scoring titles, three steals leader titles, six NBA Championships, six NBA Final MVP Awards and did more than any player to grow the game of basketball.
In order to achieve all this, Michael Jordan used his unmatched competitiveness. However, sometimes Air Jordan let this desire to win stray away from competitive and into bullying territory. He may have been all smiles on Wheaties boxes or in shoe commercial, but make no mistake, Michael Jordan was a big time bully.
For proof, you only need to check out these crazy stories. From fellow teammates to opposing players, from regular season to playoffs—MJ never took a day off. Here are the top 15 NBA players who were bullied by Michael Jordan.
15. O.J. Mayo
When O.J. Mayo was still just a high school phenom, he made the mistake of trash talking Michael Jordan at one of Jordan’s summer basketball camps. Jordan, who was a few years north of 40 at the time, didn’t take too kindly to the young buck’s jawing and took it upon himself to teach young Mayo a lesson.
Jordan cleared the gym of bystanders and went to work on Mayo. O.J. described the incident in an interview with Bucks.com, “We continued playing pick-up. Mike was Mike. He was jawing a little bit, really getting into me defensively. He’s backing me down. He said, ‘Better scream for mama. Mama. Mama.’ Hit the famous fadeaway on me. I said, ‘OK, OK, you’ve got it going.'”
According to Mayo, the night ended with Jordan telling the high schooler, “OK, young fella, let me tell you something. You may be the best high school player in the world, but I’m the greatest ever. Don’t you ever disrespect the great like that.”
14. Isiah Thomas
The 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona were the first to feature active NBA players. This allowed the United States men’s Basketball Team to field an embarrassment of riches. Magic, Bird, Jordan, Pippen, Barkley, Stockton, Malone and more. Although, there were two notable omissions: Shaquille O’Neal and Isiah Thomas.
Shaq’s spot went to Duke University sensation Christian Laettner. Shaq was the first pick of the 1992 NBA Draft and guaranteed to be a star at any level, but Laettner received the nod thanks to his accomplished college career. But why wasn’t Isiah Thomas there? He was only two years removed from winning back to back championships and still a top guard.
According to Dream Team wing Clyde Drexler in Jack McCallum’s “Dream Team,” Isiah never had a chance. Michael didn’t want to play with his Bad Boy arch nemesis and used his clout to deny Isiah Thomas a chance to win a gold medal.
13. Mel Turpin
Michael Jordan was on his way to another 47-point night against the Utah Jazz on a December night in Salt Lake City. Late in the second quarter, Air Jordan took flight and dunked all over 6’0″ John Stockton. A Jazz fan sitting courtside took exception and yelled at Jordan, suggesting he pick on someone his own size.
The very next possession, MJ posterized seven-foot conter Mel Turpin. He turned to the fan and asked, “Is that big enough?” From that moment on, Mel Turpin, John Stockton and Jazz fans knew that when you mess with this Bull, you get the horns.
12. Shaquille O’Neal
On January 13th, 1993, the Chicago Bulls were in Orlando for MJ’s first showdown against Shaquille O’Neal. Excitement was through the roof. Michael Jordan was the best player in the world, but the rookie Shaq looked like he might soon take the mantle. The current best vs. the future’s best.
Michael Jordan made sure to assert himself over the 7-foot rook. On the first play of the game, Shaq caught a rebound off a Nick Anderson miss, took one dribble and went to lay it in off the glass only to have it blocked by Jordan. It was Jordan’s way of reminding the world not to get excited over this strong, agile big man, this is still my league.
11. Jim Jackson
During the 1996-1997 season, the New Jersey Nets’ Jim Jackson was having a good game against Michael Jordan and the defending champion Bulls. Staying afloat against the all-time greatest inspired Jackson to get into a bit of jawing.
Unfortunately for Jackson, his attempt at trash talking Jordan was in vain. Jordan shut up Jackson by pointing out that he was wearing Jordans. The Bulls went on to the game. We can only assume that Jackson switched his shoes right after the game.
10. Rip Hamilton
On ESPN’s The Jump, Rip Hamilton told a story about being bullied by Michael Jordan.
When Hamilton was a rookie with the Wizards, Michael Jordan was about to call it a career. Young Rip Hamilton approached MJ about hooking him up with Jordan Brand. The Hall of Famer wasn’t too into the idea of adding the rookie. He said, “My sneaker is for All Stars.”
9. Steve Smith
Steve Smith was drafted by Miami Heat as the fifth overall pick in 19991, making his sole All-Star appearance in 1998 while playing for the Atlanta Hawks. During that period, the shooting guard had the misfortune of checking Jordan, who liked to have some fun with Smith by playing some serious mind games.
On NBA TV’s Open Court, Smith described one particular game where MJ hit a shot and said, “38.” At first, Smith didn’t think much of Michael saying what seemed like arbitrary numbers. But after hitting more shots and declaring, “36,” “34,” “32,” Steve Smith realized that Jordan was counting backwards from 40. Jordan finished the game with 40 points.
8. Craig Ehlo
Michael Jordan holds the record for most points in an NBA Playoff game with 69 points. What’s even more impress than scoring 69 points in a playoff game is the fact that he told Cleveland’s Craig Ehlo exactly what he was going to do.
Ehlo told Deadspin Michael said, “Listen man, I’m hitting everything, so I’m gonna tell you what I’m gonna do this time and see if you can stop it. You know you can’t stop it. You know you can’t stop this. You can’t guard me. 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.” And he did just that. “I was right there, step for step with him, just like he said. It was amazing. I guarded it as well as I could. I had the hands up in his face to defend [the shot]. But that’s just how good that guy was.”
What could be more humiliated than hanging 69 points on someone? Telling them how you’re going to do it the whole way through. If that wasn’t bad enough, Jordan hit ‘The Shot’ over Ehlo in Game 5 to win the 1989 Eastern Conference First Round series.
7. Dikembe Mutombo
On November 23rd, 1991, the Chicago Bulls were in Denver to see what this red hot new rookie named Dikembe Mutombo really was the next Patrick Ewing as some pundits had claimed.
For what it’s worth, Mutombo didn’t do too bad in the loss. He scored a team-high 22 points, grabbed 9 rebounds, blocked 2 shots and got 2 steals. Unfortunately, no one remembers that stat line. What people do remember is Michael Jordan dropping 37 points on the Nuggets with the final point made at the free throw line with five seconds left. “Hey, Mutombo. This one’s for you,” Jordan said and nailed a free throw with his eyes closed.
6. Steve Kerr
Long before Steve Kerr held the reigns of the NBA’s most powerful offense, he was rotation player with Chicago Bulls. Kerr recalled the training camp of 1995 being particularly intense because Michael Jordan had just come out of retirement for the first time.
During a scrimmage, Kerr got upset that the assistant coaches weren’t calling fouls on MJ and proceeded to voice his displeasure to the superstar. Though Kerr doesn’t recall getting hit, the official story is that Michael Jordan punched Steve Kerr in the face and stormed out of practice.
The story concludes with Kerr coming home to find an apology from Michael on his answering machine and describing the whole experience as weird.
5. Kwame Brown
There is always a ton of pressure on the number one pick to perform, but that pressure is exponentially higher when the number one pick is hand-selected by Michael Jordan to help him take his comeback to the next level. Unfortunately for Kwame Brown, the first overall pick in question, he wasn’t ready for it.
Kwame Brown, coming straight out of high school, thought he would receive mentorship from the greatest basketball player ever. Instead, he ended up receiving more abuse than guidance. According to multiple sources, Jordan would say and do everything he could to make Brown cry in front of the team. Maybe Michael was trying to motivate the kid. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that Kwame Brown never fully developed into the player he could have been.
4. Bill Cartwright
Michael Jordan wasn’t happy when the Bulls let Charles Oakley go and brought in Bill Cartwright. According to Yahoo! Sports’ Eric Freeman, “When the Bulls let Charles Oakley go and brought in Bill Cartwright, Jordan resented the loss of his friend and took it out on Cartwright, calling him “Medical Bill” and intentionally throwing impossible-to-handle passes at him in practice to draw attention to what he perceived to be his bad hands.”
3. Rodney McCray
Rodney McCray only spent one season with the Chicago Bulls but was constantly berated by Michael Jordan. MJ’s most infamous putdown to McCray was, “You’re a loser, you’ve always been a loser.”
McCray retired after the 1993 Championship.
Former Chicago Bulls assistant coach Johnny Bach said, “He’s the most viciously competitive player I’ve ever seen. That’s what makes him, I think, the greatest player ever. He practically ruined Rodney McCray for us.”
2. Muggsy Bogues
When former Chicago Bulls assistant coach Johnny Bach was coaching the Hornets in 1995, they had a good team. Glen Rice, Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson, Dell Curry and Muggsy Bogues. In a playoff series against the Bulls, the series was tied at 2 and the Hornets had a chance to win game 5 in Chicago.
The Hornets were down 1 and Muggsy had the ball. Jordan, in true bully style, backed off Bogues and told him, “Shoot it you f—ing midget.” So Muggsy shot it and missed it.
1. Charles Barkley
During the 1993 NBA Finals, Suns vs. Bulls, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley agreed to play some golf the day before game 4. The pair allegedly played 48 holes that day. And to sweeten the afternoon, Michael Jordan also gifted a pair of $20,000 to Barkley.
When asked why he gave Barkley the earrings, Jordan replied, “He won’t get in my way the rest of the series, what’s $20,000 to me? Charles thinks we’re great friends. I hate that fat f*ck.”
Jordan scored 55 points in game 4 and robbed Charles Barkley of his only chance at a championship two games later. What makes this even sadder is that the summer before they were teammates on the Dream Team and certainly looked like friends. Unfortunately for Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns, Barkley’s friendship with Jordan was merely gamesmanship at the highest level. Is it bullying or gaslighting?
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