Michael Jordan always took care of his body and worked on his basketball skills during the offseason, which is why he never liked NBA training camp. The Chicago Bulls legend felt training camp was another opportunity for him to get hurt.
However, after he came back to the NBA following his baseball stint in 1994, Jordan grew to appreciate training camp and took it seriously.
Michael Jordan in 1995-96: I see the meaning of training camp now
Before the start of the 1995-96 season, Jordan told Bulls reporter Cheryl Raye-Stout he appreciated training camp after hating it for so many years.
“I always thought it was another opportunity to get hurt, with no meaning behind it,” Jordan said. “Well, I see the meaning going through this now, sharpening some of my tools. There’s a purpose for it. For a lot of players who don’t work out as hard during the summer, it’s a means for them to get themselves into shape. I always was in pretty good shape. I always prepared myself. That was the difference. I always felt that way when I came into training camp, that I was in pretty good shape. And that I didn’t really need training camp. It’s a different outlook. There is a purpose to training camp. I kind of lost it. That was probably one of the things that I had to take the time away and re-evaluate. Those things were slipping away.”
Bill Wennington and Steve Kerr said in Episode 8 of The Last Dance docuseries that the Bulls’ 1995-96 training camp was unbelievable since Jordan was in incredible shape after he ran out of gas in the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Orlando Magic following his return to the NBA from baseball. MJ was not only on a mission and frothing at the mouth after losing to the Magic, but he also went after guys and talked a lot of trash, leading to one of his most controversial moments.
Michael Jordan punched Steve Kerr in 1995-96 training camp
Scottie Pippen was the only player on the 1995-96 team who was with Jordan on the first three-peat squad. As a result, Black Jesus wanted his new teammates to understand what it felt like to be in the trenches.
Jordan went after everybody during the 1995-96 training camp and played with an aggression nobody expected since it was just training camp. Phil Jackson put Kerr on Jordan during one practice and started calling ticky-tack fouls, which didn’t sit well with the All-Star shooting guard.
Jordan sent Jackson a message by fouling Kerr hard on one possession. The sharpshooter responded by hitting Mike in the chest, and all hell broke loose from there. Jordan punched Kerr in the face and was thrown out of practice by Jackson. It was an intense moment at the Berto Center.
While in the shower, Jordan realized he made a mistake. After cooling off, the 10-time scoring champion got in his car and called Kerr to apologize. Strangely, Kerr said in The Last Dance that getting punched by Jordan was probably the best thing that could have happened since their trust in each other went to another level.
After the Bulls’ feisty 1995-96 training camp finished, Jordan and his teammates embarked on the season and dominated from start to finish.
Bulls won 72 games, beat Seattle in Finals
The Bulls won 72 games in 1995-96 and only lost 10. Jordan won his fourth regular-season MVP by averaging 30.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists in 37.7 minutes per game.
Chicago only lost three games in the 1996 playoffs. They swept the Miami Heat in the first round, beat the New York Knicks in five games in the second round, swept the Magic in the conference finals, and defeated the Seattle SuperSonics in six games in the Finals.
Jordan played two more seasons with the Bulls after 1995-96 and won two more championships. His attitude change about training camp may have been the key to Chicago’s second three-peat since players were always on edge whenever their leader was around.