If you didn’t know the name LaBradford Smith before last night’s episode of The Last Dance, you’re probably not alone. However, you now may not ever forget it as yet another crazy story has come to light involving Michael Jordan and the interesting ways he would motivate himself while winning six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s. If by chance you didn’t see the episode, allow me to recap.
LaBradford Smith had the game of his life against Michael Jordan
On March 19, 1993, the Washington Bullets came to Chicago Stadium for a late-season matchup with Michael Jordan and the Bulls. LaBradford Smith, a former star at Louisville, was in his second season in the NBA and had the game of his life that night, scoring 37 points shooting 15-for-20 from the field and perfect 7-for-7 from the free-throw line. What The Last Dance didn’t tell you is that Smith had just four points in the fourth quarter and none of them came in the final five minutes.
Meanwhile, Michael Jordan did not have his best shooting night, making just nine of his 27 shots on his way to 25 points. Again, The Last Dance withheld a little bit of information in that Jordan scored 11 of those 25 points in the final 4:59 to lead the Bulls to a 104-99 victory.
Following the game, reporters were all over LaBradford Smith. Even though the Bulls won the game, a little-known player had outplayed Michael Jordan for the majority of the game. The Bullets were not a good team that year and they didn’t have much to celebrate so this was about as good as it was going to get. What LaBradford Smith didn’t know was that Michael Jordan had taken things personally and was preparing for a bit of revenge the following night.
The following night, MJ got his revenge
Despite leading his team to victory, Michael Jordan knew he had been outplayed by LaBradford Smith. And things like that don’t sit well with MJ. So he told his Bulls teammates that, following the game, Smith had come up to him, put his arm around him, and said “Nice game, Mike.” The Bulls were again playing the Bullets the following night, this time in Washington, and Jordan told his teammates on the plane that he was going to match Smith’s 37, only he was going to do it in the first half. And he nearly pulled it off.
B.J. Armstrong said during The Last Dance that he’d never seen someone go after a player the way Michael Jordan went at LaBradford Smith on March 20, 1993. Jordan shot the ball much better than he had the previous night in Chicago and lit up Smith and the Bullets, nearly reaching his goal by scoring 36 points in the first half on his way to 47 for the game in a blowout win for the Bulls. In case you’re wondering, Smith scored 15 points in the loss.
What came out later was that LaBradford Smith never said “Nice game, Mike” to Michael Jordan after that first game. Jordan had completely made up the story to give himself some extra incentive for the second one, which just goes to show how far he would go to motivate himself.
LaBradford Smith says he was warned that Michael Jordan was coming for him
Ahead of last night’s episode of The Last Dance, LaBradford Smith was interviewed by WAVE 3 in Louisville and was given a chance to tell his side of the story as he knew the ESPN docuseries was about to make him famous again. He initially discussed the first game and said he knew he was feeling it but wasn’t completely aware of what was happening.
“Once I hit about two or three shots, the confidence grew and it seemed like the basket got bigger.
“I didn’t realize how many points I had until the guys was like, hey, you gave Mike 37.”LaBradford Smith
He then went on to tell the story of how he was warned ahead of the second game by another former Louisville star, Rodney McCray, and B.J. Armstrong that Michael Jordan was gunning for him.
“Rodney McCray and BJ Armstrong, I was at center court stretching, and they was like LA, I hope you got your rest last night because he said he’s going to have 37 by half.”LaBradford Smith
Smith jokingly made sure to point out that Jordan didn’t have 37 at the half and said that he was going to turn his phone off on Sunday night while The Last Dance was airing.
“36, man. He didn’t have 37. He had 36.
“Yeah, I’m going to turn my phone off, and me and my wife will watch it later on.
“Yeah, you had to bring up that second game.”LaBradford Smith
At least he can look back on those two nights that happened more than 27 years ago and laugh. LaBradford Smith played just one more season in the NBA and retired from the game for good in 2000 after spending time in the CBA, overseas, and the IBL.