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While Ron Harper eventually teamed up with Michael Jordan in Chicago, he was well aquatinted with His Airness before joining the Bulls. No. 23, of course, had a reputation, and that reputation proceeded him. He wasn’t someone to be messed with; the consequences of him taking something personally, after all, could be disastrous.

Harper understood that reality quite well.

In fact, on one occasion, the two men crossed paths at a card game, and the Ohio native essentially refused to speak to Jordan. He knew what could happen if he poked the bear and wasn’t going to take a chance.

Sound unbelievable? Allow Harper himself to explain.

Ron Harper played cards at Michael Jordan’s house, but he didn’t want to speak with His Airness


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In most social situations, it’s polite to speak with whoever is hosting a social gathering. Ron Harper, however, knew what could happen if you said the wrong thing to Michael Jordan.

During a 2019 Q+A with Alex Kennedy of Hoops Hype, Harper was asked about seeing MJ intimidate opponents. That prompted the NBA veteran to tell a story about how it could be a bad idea to provoke the Chicago Bulls star.

“Before we were teammates, I remember I was getting ready to play against him, and the night before our game, he had me and some other guys over to his house to play cards,” Harper remembered. “So we’re at MJ’s house the night before [our game], and we’re playing cards, and he was sitting right next to me.”

That set up something of a conundrum for the visiting guard. Jordan, of course, wanted to talk, but, at the same time, discretion would be the better part of valor. You didn’t want to give His Airness any extra motivation ahead of a game.

He kept trying to talk to me like, “Harpy! What’s up, man? Everything good?” I’m just like… [Looks straight ahead, wide-eyed]. I’d just mumble, “Hey Mike, how you doing?” That’s it. He asked me, “What’s wrong?”

Ron Harper

At that point, he had to come clean.

“I told him, ‘I ain’t going to talk to you and say anything you can use to get upset because you’ll just keep shooting the damn ball over me and score on me all night. I’m just going to be nice and polite to you, buddy,'” Harper added with a laugh.

It’s not clear when that card game took place — Harper suited up for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the LA Clippers before joining the Bulls — or what happened the following day on the court. When it comes to dealing with Michael Jordan, though, it’s hard to object to playing it safe.

Enough guys tried getting into his head and failed; it couldn’t hurt to try a different strategy.