Summary List Placement
- Michael Jordan is known as one of the most competitive athletes in all of sports.
- Jordan’s competitiveness is legendary, from his tireless work ethic, trash-talking on the court, mean streak in golf, and love of gambling.
- Read 27 examples of Jordan’s competitiveness below.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Michael Jordan’s competitiveness is as legendary as his career.
Jordan was known as one of the fiercest competitors in the NBA, unafraid to talk trash and mix it up with other players.
However, that competitiveness extended beyond the court. He was known to be ruthless in golf and would look to make everything a competition — even drinking water.
Here are 27 examples of Jordan’s extreme competitiveness.
Actor Will Smith said he’s never met anyone as competitive as MJ.
“Mike will compete with anything, though. If we’re drinking water, Mike will be like, ‘I’ll race you!'”
Source: Jimmy Kimmel Live
He trashed all his doubters in his Hall of Fame induction speech, saying of former Bulls GM Jerry Krause: “I don’t know who invited him … I didn’t.”
As ESPN’s “The Last Dance” revealed, Jordan and the Bulls were often ruthless to Krause, making fun of his height, weight, and appearance.
As it’s told in “The Last Dance,” Jordan and his teammates’ mocking of Krause was a result of feeling like Krause didn’t appreciate their work and success as a team. They often tried to prove points about their talent over other players to make a point to Krause.
Jordan made it his mission to destroy players that Krause scouted and liked. He and Scottie Pippen famously shut down Toni Kukoc, a Croatian prospect, in the 1992 Olympics because Krause was recruiting Kukoc to the Bulls.
He punched former Bulls teammate Steve Kerr in the face during a scrimmage.
Kerr said he talked back to MJ during training camp, and then:
“He punched me in the face … It was one of the best things that ever happened for me. I needed to stand up and go back at him. I think I earned some respect. But, we have a great relationship ever since … you gotta prove it, and then once you prove it, you’re fine.”
Source: Dan Patrick Show
Kerr wasn’t the only one — former Bulls center Will Perdue said Jordan also punched him. He said fights were common at Bulls practices because of their intensity.
“He did, and I wasn’t the only one,” Perdue said. “That’s how competitive our practices were. That wasn’t the only fight, that was one of numerous. But because it involved Michael Jordan, and it leaked out, that it became a big deal. And the funny thing was, in that practice that it happened, we basically separated, regrouped and kept practicing — it wasn’t like that was the end of practice. Stuff like that was common, because that’s how competitive our practices were.”
He put on 15 pounds of muscle in one summer to better withstand the beating of the Detroit Pistons in the playoffs.
His trainer, Tim Grover, said: “I would give him a certain amount of reps to do, but he would never stop at that number. If I asked for six, I knew he was gonna do 12.”
At age 50, he made it a goal to lose 45 pounds to get down to his playing weight of 218.
He played through the flu and scored 38 points.
It was the pivotal game of the 1997 NBA Finals. Jordan had a nasty flu, but he dropped 38 points and the Bulls won. They won the series two days later. “The Flu Game” is considered one of Jordan’s defining moments.
He allegedly ruined Rodney McCray’s career by dominating him in $100 post-practice shooting games.
ESPN’s Rick Reilly wrote he witnessed Jordan eviscerate McCray in practice in 1993.
A source told him: “MJ is in Rodney’s face, screaming, ‘You’re a loser! You’ve always been a loser!’ Rodney can hardly put up a jumper now.”
He psyched out the Washington Bullets in the playoffs by smoking cigars before games.
From NBA star Chris Webber told Dan Patrick that Jordan walked into the Bullets locker room with a cigar and asked, “Who’s going to check me tonight?”
Later on in the series, the team went back to Chicago. When the Bullets got off the bus, Jordan and Scottie Pippen were in a car, smoking cigars together.
“We get off the bus and we have to pass them with a lit cigar,” Webber said.
“You want to talk about posturing? Forget Phil Jackson. You got Michael Jordan there behind the scenes smoking a cigar before the game, letting us know that he’s the Red Auerbach before the game even started.”
Source: Bleacher Report/Dan Patrick Show
He allegedly broke the jumpshot of former NBA point guard Muggsy Bogues with one sentence of trash talk.
“On the biggest possession of the game, Mugsy had the ball with the Hornets down 1. Jordan backed off of him and told him: ‘shoot it you f—ing midget.’ Mugsy shot it, didn’t come close. A year later Mugsy actually told Johnny Bach that he believes that single play ruined his career. His shot never recovered.”
Kobe Bryant, whose competitiveness and overall game has been likened to Jordan’s, said Jordan once tried to trash talk him during a friendly dinner.
Jordan said that at his peak, in 1991, he would have beaten Bryant during his respective peak. Bryant said he politely steered the conversation elsewhere.
Source: Jimmy Kimmel Live
He destroyed O.J. Mayo, then a top high school prospect, in a pickup game at age 43.
He played a Bobcats player one-on-one in 2013, and had to get treatment from the trainer the next day.
Former college teammate James Worthy said Jordan used to make him stay after college practices to work on their games and play one-on-one.
Worthy said he was better than Jordan for about two weeks before Jordan surpassed him as a player.
Source: “The Last Dance”
He made a $500 bet with a fan that he could hit the green at a charity golf event in 2011, and won.
Charles Barkley said Jordan used to bet “hundreds of thousands” of dollars on golf matches.
He forced Dream Team coach Chuck Daly to play him in golf by pounding on his hotel room door.
Rick Reilly reported that Jordan lost to Daly in golf in Monte Carlo. The next morning, he pounded on Daly’s door at their hotel until Daly finally agreed to go play him again. Jordan won.
Source: Sports Illustrated
He once trash-talked Bill Clinton on the golf course.
They two were playing golf together when MJ forced the former president to play from the farthest-away tees.
“You’re going to play from the little girls’ tees?” Jordan asked him.
Source: Wall Street Journal
He has even brought his competitiveness to the race track as the newest owner in NASCAR.
When Jordan’s formed his new NASCAR team, 23XI Racing, with Denny Hamlin, they recruited Bubba Wallace as their first driver. When Jordan first spoke with Wallace, the first thing he said was, “Hey, man. If we do this deal, there is no more running in the back.”
He would play quarters with the United Center security guard. As shown in “The Last Dance,” he once lost $20.
Source: “The Last Dance”
He used to never lose arguments.
He led a group of hard-line NBA owners who refused to budge during the lockout in 2011.
Source: New York Times
He continually cheated Scottie Pippen out of money by betting on pre-recorded races.
From ESPN’s Amin Elhassan:
“[Jordan] would show up really early to get his shots up on gameday. If you show up to an arena early enough, you’ll see the gamehouse people basically doing a dry run through everything. Everything from the national anthem to the … One of the things they have is that thing where it’s like the three Bulls flying, and it’s like ‘Who’s gonna win?’ So Mike is watching this and is like, ‘Oh, so you guys already know [who’s going to win]?’ And the guy says, ‘Yeah we know; it’s all pre-recorded.’ [Jordan says] ‘So you know who’s gonna win tonight, right?’ And he says, ‘Yeah, the red one.’
“Fast-forward to the game. Timeout. Phil is drawing up a play. Mike goes to Scottie and says, ‘Hundred bucks the red one wins.’ And then proceeds to do this for the rest of the season and Scottie never catches on.”
He had final say on who made the Dream Team.
In his book “Dream Team,” author Jack McCallum hinted that no one was allowed on the team unless Jordan wanted him on the team.
Magic Johnson even echoed the sentiment, telling McCallum: “Michael was all about who was going to be on the team. It was more important … no, make that just as important, for Michael to have a good time as it was to play games.”
Jordan denied having a say, specifically on not including Isiah Thomas on the team, in “The Last Dance.”
He once told Shaq exactly what he was going to do against his teammate, and it worked.
Shaquille O’Neal says Jordan told him:
“I’m coming down. I’m going to dribble it between my legs twice. I’m going to pump fake, and then I’m going to shoot a jumper. And then I’m going to look at you. And that’s exactly what he did.”
Source: Dan Patrick Show
Magic Johnson said he once trash-talked Jordan during a practice with the Dream Team and lived to regret it.
Johnson told Jimmy Kimmel that his team was beating Jordan’s in a scrimmage, and Johnson told Jordan, “If you don’t turn into Air Jordan, we’re going to blow you out today.”
Jordan proceeded to lead his team to a comeback, hitting consecutive three-pointers and staring down Johnson. The coup de grace was a 360 dunk around David Robinson that blew Johnson away.
Now, see where the other members of the 1997-98 Bulls are today…