During the summer of 2001, Michael Jordan trained in Chicago as he geared up for his comeback stint with the Washington Wizards. One of the players he played pick-up games with was Ron Artest, who is now called Metta Sandiford-Artest.
Artest played for the Chicago Bulls, which is why he was in Chicago during the summers. The physical defender thought he made a terrible first impression on Jordan after breaking the six-time champion’s ribs on the first day the two played together.
However, Jordan actually developed an appreciation for Artest.
Michael Jordan: ‘I love Ron Artest’
Jordan told Sports Illustrated in 2002 that he loved Artest and appreciated how hard the New York native played. MJ played full throttle every time he stepped on the basketball court, so he admired that Artest had the same mindset as him.
“I love Ron Artest,” Jordan said. “He’s got so much intensity and such drive. I wish I could have played against him six years ago.”
Jordan scored his 30,000th career point against Artest and the Bulls during the 2001-02 season. The St. John’s product was so angry that he punched the scorer’s table three times.
“I almost put a hole in it,” Artest said. “I didn’t want him to get to 30,000 on us.”
Jordan and Artest faced each other five times in the NBA. Although Black Jesus didn’t shoot the ball well, he did get the best of Ron-Ron.
Michael Jordan went 3-2 against Ron Artest
Jordan averaged 22.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in five games against Artest while shooting 40.6% from the field. The Hall of Famer won three out of the five matchups versus the one-time Defensive Player of the Year, who put up 12.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game in the five contests.
After Jordan retired in 1998 following his sixth title, the Bulls embarked on a rebuild. They drafted Artest with the 16th overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft and were hopeful he could be the next franchise player in the post-Jordan era. However, Artest only played 175 games in Chicago. He was traded to the Indiana Pacers on February 19, 2002.
Jordan retired for a third and final time in 2003 after playing two seasons with the Wizards. He likely enjoyed watching Artest have a career year in 2003-04. The swingman not only made his first and lone All-Star team, but he also won the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Jordan, who made nine All-Defensive teams with the Bulls, won the 1987-88 Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Since Jordan was such a big fan of Artest, he probably wasn’t pleased with what the defensive specialist did in 2004-05. NBA fans will presumably never forget what happened on November 19, 2004, at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Malice at the Palace changed the NBA
The Pacers were up by 15 points against the Detroit Pistons with 45.9 seconds left in regulation when Artest fouled Ben Wallace hard. Wallace retaliated by shoving Artest, and all hell broke loose. Wallace aggressively went after Artest but was unable to get to the Pacers wing, who laid down on the scorer’s table and was protected by teammates.
A fan in the crowd threw something at Artest as he laid on the scorer’s table, and the 6-foot-7 forward charged into the stands and started punching people. Stephen Jackson went into the stands to back up Artest and viciously punched a fan. Jermaine O’Neal also got into a fight with a fan on the court.
The Malice at the Palace was a bad look for the NBA and changed the Pacers’ dynamic. Artest was suspended for the rest of the 2004-05 season and was traded to the Sacramento Kings in 2006. Meanwhile, Jackson was sent to the Golden State Warriors in 2007 before getting traded to Charlotte in 2009. He wound up playing for Jordan, who bought the franchise in 2010.