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In the late ’90s, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods were two of the most famous people in the world. The former was the best player in the NBA; the latter was starting to come into his own on the golf course.

Since they were both athletes and global icons, Jordan and Woods developed a friendship. The Chicago Bulls superstar played golf with the Stanford University product several times. However, Woods never played basketball with Jordan since he was frightened. Here’s why:

Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods never played basketball together

After winning his fifth NBA championship in 1997, Jordan was asked by SLAM Magazine if he played basketball with Woods. While the 10-time scoring champion admitted Woods had talent, he revealed the California native was too scared to play him in a real game.

“He’s scared. I’ll knock his brains out. I’m in a contact sport,” Jordan said. “He can’t hit me on the golf course. Basketball, I’d knock him out. But I could see his talents. That goes without question. He’s a good kid. He doesn’t intimidate me on the golf course.”

Not only were Jordan and Woods the top players in their respective sports in the late ’90s, but they were also in the limelight continuously and faced absurd expectations. Although the Bulls shooting guard could relate to the Florida resident, he told SLAM that he felt sorry for him.

Michael Jordan on Tiger Woods: ‘He doesn’t know what he’s got to deal with’

Michael Jordan felt sorry for Tiger Woods since he knew what the up-and-coming golfer would have to deal with moving forward regarding expectations, responsibilities, and social pressure. MJ explained:

“He doesn’t know what he’s got to deal with. It’s unbelievable. And in terms of the hype and the expectations that I created, in terms of sports in America and the sports arena, his is gonna be 10 times harder than mine.

In an individual sport, he doesn’t have support systems to help him overcome a bad day. If I have a bad game, we still can win. He has a bad game; he’s gonna be crucified on TV. It’s totally unfair. He’s in a game where he represents minorities in all respects. He’s certainly feeling — he carries those types of social pressures.”

Unfortunately for Woods, he didn’t handle being in the spotlight as gracefully as Jordan did. Although he’s undoubtedly one of the best — if not the best — golfers ever, Woods experienced an infidelity scandal in 2009 and was arrested in 2017 for driving under the influence.

While it was certainly sad to see Woods go down a dark road for a couple of years, we shouldn’t forget how spectacular of a golfer he was during his prime. After all, like Jordan, Tiger was must-see TV.

Both athletes are in their respective Hall of Fames

Jordan is in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He won six championships and six Finals MVPs with the Bulls and never lost in the NBA Finals. His Airness is also first in NBA history in points per game and player efficiency rating.

Meanwhile, Woods is in the World Golf Hall of Fame. He is tied for first in PGA Tour wins and ranks second in men’s major championships. In February 2021, Tiger was involved in a severe car crash and underwent surgery after suffering multiple leg injuries. Now, he’s attempting to maintain his golf career in his late forties, having appeared in the 2022 Masters since his accident.

Jordan and Woods are two of the biggest sports icons ever. While a few controversies impacted the latter’s public image, he’s still up there with the Bulls legend on the Mount Rushmore of sports due to his stellar golf statistics and cultural influence.


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