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Over the years, NBA players and basketball fans alike became rather familiar with Michael Jordan. His Airness, of course, possessed incredible talent and used those skills to dominate the competition. The UNC product wasn’t just gifted, though. He also possessed an incredible will to win, which served as the genesis for countless trash-talking stories.

By and large, those tales can play out in two ways. Either Jordan talked some smack and backed it up, or some opponent made the mistake of taunting His Airness only to pay the price. There is at least one exception to that norm, however.

As legend has it, Rex Chapman trash-talked Jordan during a famous 39-point explosion. And while that may be a great story, there is a key problem: the guard has since clarified what he said — and didn’t say — to Mike.

Let’s check it out.

Rex Chapman did score 39 against the Bulls, but his conversation with Michael Jordan wasn’t what you’ve heard

Every once in a while, a player will put in a performance that captures sports fans’ collective imaginations. On February 23, 1996, Rex Chapman did just that.

On that fateful night, Michael Jordan and his dominant Chicago Bulls visited Miami. The Heat barely had enough players to field a team — with a big trade in the works, the home team only had three subs on the bench — but Chapman was more than prepared to pick up the slack.

The Kentucky product poured in 39 points that evening, shooting 12-of-17 from the floor and an incredible 9-of-10 from three-point range. That was enough to power the Heat to a 113-104 victory.

While that upset — this was, after all, the year that Chicago went 72-10 — would be enough to live on in Miami lore, there’s more to the story. At one point, Chapman got face-to-face with Jordan, who defended him for most of the night, and the two men exchanged a few words. Over the years, various rumors have swirled about what the Heat guard said, but most of those boil down to “You can’t guard me,” with varying amounts of vulgarity added in.

The appeal of that story is obvious. Jordan was usually the one talking trash; in this case, he had to get shown up and eat some humble pie. The problem, however, is that Chapman wasn’t saying what social media would lead you to believe.

During an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show (embedded below), the Kentucky native explained that the Heat had a team rule that you had to try and foul Michael Jordan if you saw him going for a dunk in an effort to keep the crowd quiet. That’s what set the stage for the two men to get up close and personal.

“He made a move baseline, and I was a help defender running through the lane with my back,” Chapman remembered. “And I turned and saw him coming. And, you know, I sort of launched into him, just to get him before he got off the ground. And I don’t think he — we had the same agent forever, Michael called me to go to Carolina in 1984, so I’d known him forever — but I think he didn’t see who got him. And he turned around to say something, and we kind of got nose-to-nose.”

And what did the guard actually say to His Airness?

There was no anything really said worth anything. I think I said something like, “You know I can’t just let you dunk it.” But it looked like we’re [jawing at each other.] Yeah, so everybody’s like, “You were talking so much noise to Jordan.” I was like, “Nah, I was not doing that.”

Rex Chapman

And there you have it, straight from the man himself.

Trash talk or not, Jordan still managed to get his revenge


Michael Jordan Made J.R. Smith Feel Like a Child, Then Talked Some Low-Key Trash

Given that Rex Chapman didn’t actually talk trash, you might think that Michael Jordan wouldn’t hold a grudge. MJ was a fierce competitor, but he also could respect his fellow pros; perhaps this was a case of simply being on the receiving end of a hot performance.

In reality, though, that’s not how things played out. The next time the Bulls and Heat met, His Airness sent a message in the opening seconds of the game. Thirty-nine points were then, and this is now.

“We played them a few weeks later at home, and again, Michael and I are buddies,” Chapman also told Dan Patrick. “We got the same agent. The ball goes up, and we’re around the jump circle, and bang [throws and elbow] right into my chest. Right to my chest, and I went, ‘All right, great. Let’s do it.’ That’s the mindset you have to have, but right then and there, I knew I was not having 39 again.”

Needless to say, the guard did not have 39. He finished the contest with 12 points; Jordan dropped 32, and the Bulls won comfortably.

When the regular season ended, the Heat and Bulls met in the first round of the playoffs. As you might expect, Chicago comfortably dispatched Miami 3-0 to advance.

That just goes to show that, even if you don’t talk trash to Michael Jordan, you weren’t safe from his on-court wrath.