Michael Jordan is a complex guy. Much more so than the smirking, friendly boy scout we saw in post-game interviews and Space Jam. He was driven by a large ego and a killer instinct on and off the court. These things served him incredibly well.
As Jordan’s legacy continues to be an indelible touchstone of American culture, more stories are coming out of the woodwork. Let’s explore three of Jordan’s most ego-driven moments, including the funniest story from his monumental career.
Michael Jordan told Byron Scott he could drop 50 — and did it
The key to understanding MJ’s enormous ego is that it wasn’t technically oversized. He said and did many infamous, even downright mean things. But he also had the ability to back up his bragging with results. Consider the Byron Scott incident.
Scott shrewdly noticed Michael’s drive to win increase with how much the guy guarding him trash-talked. So he opted to simply compliment Jordan on his shots instead. Apparently, the respect was mutual.
When Scott sprained his ankle, reports Basketball Network, Jordan noticed an unexpected replacement assigned to guard him. He turned to Scott at the bench and said “50.” He put down 54 points that night.
Michael Jordan’s trash talk game was so strong he ruined Muggsy Bogues’ career
Muggsy Bogues, at 5-foot-3, remains the shortest player in NBA history. Given what NBA players are usually built like, his ability to play at a pro level was a sign of incredible skill. Not that Hir Airness cared.
During a 1995 playoff game, Jordan went in to guard Bogues. Jordan’s nasty choice was pure, borderline evil mind games. He stepped back, yelled, “Shoot it you f***ing midget,” and quickly transitioned as a frazzled Bogues bounced his shot off the rim.
The funniest Michael Jordan ego moment of his career
Jordan’s third run in the NBA was a mostly unremarkable time with the Washington Wizards. But he was still Michael Jordan, and he knew it. He made a habit of holding back while the rest of the team was announced. Then he’d step in, alone, and bask in the crowd’s delight.
Wizards teammate Jared Jeffries, an enormous Jordan fan himself, asked why his idol didn’t come in with the rest of the team. MJ minced not a single word, according to Basketball Network: “‘Cause they’re here for me, they’re not here for y’all!” Jeffries couldn’t find it in him to push back on a statement that was true.
Bonus retirement round: Jordan takes a side bet from a fan
Even long after Jordan’s third and final exit from the NBA, his ego-driven antics continue. One of his more famous moments — alongside the time he harassed Bill Clinton — went down on the golf course. At a charity golf event in Reno, a spectator started yelling at Jordan, according to Golf Digest.
Turned out, this random guy didn’t think Jordan could hit the green in one shot on a Par 3. Likely thinking the former Bulls star must be physically well over the hill by now, the conversation got heated. It resulted in the fan putting $500 on the line.
Jordan, of course, made the shot. And he marched straight to the fan, demanding the money. $500 can’t mean much for Jordan, who is reportedly worth around $2 billion. It’s about more than the cash; it’s about Jordan’s command of his capabilities, even this far removed from his athletic peak. You simply cannot bet against him.