If there is one thing we learned last summer by watching The Last Dance, the documentary on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, it’s that MJ takes a lot of things personally.
So, you had to know that when former Utah Jazz player Bryon Russell piped up about challenging Jordan, it probably did not sit well with the Hall of Famer.
Did Michael Jordan push off?
Jordan would face Russell in the 1998 NBA Finals when the Jazz squared off against the Bulls. By that time, Russell had become one of the league’s top defenders and was put on Jordan.
Jordan went directly up against Russell in Game 6 when he hit the game-winning shot that put the Bulls into sports history, allowing them to win their sixth NBA title and complete their second three-peat.
But did Jordan push off on Russell on that final shot? It depends on who you ask. The video evidence may prove he did, but this is Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, and more than likely, the NBA refs were not going to make that call even if he did do it.
Russell has continued to trash-talk Jordan
Even though it’s been nearly 25 years since that game was played, Russell just can’t seem to let it go. As recently as 2009, when Jordan recalled the 1994 conversation he had with Russell in his Hall of Fame speech, Russell challenged Jordan to a one-on-one game, which Jordan flatly declined.
Perhaps neither Karl Malone nor Russell appeared in The Last Dance because there are still some hard feelings between the latter and MJ. Ironically, Jordan would play with Russell on the Washington Wizards during his last season in the NBA.
But Russell said back in 2009 that if trash-talking the greatest basketball player of all time brought him back to the game of basketball, then it was a good thing.
“I must have done something to leave a good impression because he’s still talking about me to this day, about giving me what I wanted,” he said on ESPN 1000’s Waddle & Silvy.
“I challenged him [in 1994],” he continued. “I got him out of retirement, and if I did, it was good for the game.”
The rivalry began when Russell trash-talked Michael Jordan as a rookie
To understand how all this started, you have to go back to the 1993-94 NBA season. That year, Jordan had just retired from basketball and was playing baseball with the Birmingham Barons, the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.
According to Jordan in The Last Dance, he went to speak to Karl Malone and John Stockton. They were in town to play the Chicago Bulls, and Russell, then in his rookie season, approached Jordan and said, “Man, why you quit? Why you quit? You knew I could guard your a–. You had to quit.”
Jordan said, “Karl, you need to talk to this dude.” Malone responded, “Ah, he’s just a young rookie.”
“But from that point on, he’s been on my list,” Jordan explained in the documentary.
As we learned throughout The Last Dance, you don’t want to be on MJ’s list.
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