During The Last Dance documentary, we saw that former Seattle SuperSonics head coach George Karl gave Michael Jordan extra motivation during the 1996 NBA Finals. This did not work out well for Karl and the SuperSonics as Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won the Finals that year in six games. While what Karl did was very minuscule, it certainly rubbed Jordan the wrong way. However, Jordan has not been the only NBA star that Karl has ticked off over the years.
George Karl was a good but not great NBA coach
George Karl has coached six NBA teams over the years and has had a lot of success. After coaching the Cleveland Cavaliers for a couple of seasons, and spending two seasons with the Golden State Warriors, Karl really began doing well as the coach of the Seattle SuperSonics.
From the 1991-92 season through the 1997-98 season, Karl was in charge of the SuperSonics. They ultimately made the playoffs in each of those seasons. He helped lead them to a couple of deep playoff runs too. The SuperSonics went to the Western Conference Finals in 1992-93. They then played against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals during the 1995-96 season.
However, the SuperSonics fired Karl in May 1998. This came after the SuperSonics lost in the Western Conference Semifinals during the 1997-98 season.
Karl then coached the Milwaukee Bucks from the 1998-99 season through the 2002-03 season, and then the Denver Nuggets from the 2004-05 season through the 2012-13 season. He had some success in both stops too. The Bucks went to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2000-01, and the Nuggets went to the Western Conference Finals in 2008-09. Karl won the 2012-13 Coach of the Year award too, as the Nuggets won 57 games that year. However, the Nuggets fired him after that season as the team was upset in the First Round.
Karl then coached the Sacramento Kings in 2014-15 and 2015-16. The Kings fired him in 2016, though.
Snubbing Michael Jordan during the 1996 NBA Finals
Karl and the Seattle SuperSonics took on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls during the 1996 Finals. During the series, Karl and Jordan happened to go to the same restaurant at the same time, but Karl decided to snub Jordan and not say hello. This was despite the two having a preexisting relationship, according to CBS Sports.
This ultimately gave Jordan extra motivation during the Bulls’ six-game win over the SuperSonics, and he discussed it during The Last Dance, according to Bleacher Report. On Sunday, Karl explained his reasoning on SportsCenter.
“I had Brendan Malone on my staff from the Detroit Pistons, and he said Michael plays head games with you all the time,” Karl said, according to Bleacher Report. “He said you don’t want to mess with him in the series. Say hello at the beginning of the series, shake his hand at the end of the series, but during the series, don’t let him use anything to motivate himself to be a better player than the greatest player in the game of basketball.”George Karl
Well, Karl ended up doing exactly that. His decision to not say hello gave Jordan the motivation he needed.
Jordan was not the only one Karl ticked off
George Karl came out with a book titled “Furious George“, and some specific comments from it surfaced in 2016. A few of the players he discussed in the book were then not too happy.
Karl described former Denver Nuggets players Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, and Kenyon Martin as selfish players. He also questioned if the absence of a father figure had an impact on the development of Anthony and Martin, according to CBS Sports. Additionally, he wrote this about Anthony, according to ESPN.
“Carmelo was a true conundrum for me in the six years I had him,” Karl wrote, according to the New York Post. “He was the best offensive player I ever coached. He was also a user of people, addicted to the spotlight and very unhappy when he had to share it.”George Karl
Martin gave a few responses on Twitter, according to CBS Sports.
Smith also responded on Twitter, according to CBS Sports, saying, “Still trying to be relevant. Sad just sad.” Anthony did not stoop to Karl’s level, though. He ultimately said this, according to ESPN: “I just hope that he finds happiness in what he’s doing. His book, hopefully, will bring him happiness.”
Throughout his career, George Karl was a pretty good coach. He, however, rubbed some people the wrong way. He paid for it when he did it to Michael Jordan. Anthony, Smith, and Martin, on the other hand, will never be able to get payback as Karl has not coached in the league since coming out with the book.