Former Chicago Bulls power forward Horace Grant recently paid a visit to New York City hip-hop radio station Hot 97, and during his time on "Ebro in the Morning with Laura Stylez and Rosenberg," he recounted the famed story of Bulls legend Michael Jordan getting furious and physical with reserve center Will Perdue:
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As Grant — who played 17 NBA seasons with the Bulls, Orlando Magic, Seattle SuperSonics and Los Angeles Lakers, playing an integral part in the Bulls' 1990-1993 three-peat and winning a fourth ring with the 2000-01 Lakers — tells it, the scuffle sprang out of Jordan's legendary competitiveness and a surprisingly stiff screen in practice:
“Our practices were so intense because Phil [Jackson], the mastermind behind everything, would put M.J. on the second team. Me and Scottie [Pippen] would be on the first team. And then, being competitive like [Jordan] was, man ... unreal, unreal. And, you know, of course, punches got thrown, many fights. I’m just so happy that social media wasn’t [around] back then.” [...]
On whether Jordan just went after "little white boys" like Jud Buechler and Steve Kerr:
"No, he beat up a big white boy. Will Perdue. I mean, I hate to tell the story, but Will and I are still good friends […] Typical Phil, running this this play, and Will set an illegal pick on M.J. M.J. said, ’Will, don’t do it again.’ ‘What are you talking about?’ That’s Will. M.J. says, 'All right.' Phil says, 'Run it again.'
"So naturally, we ran it two more times. Illegal pick. M.J. walks up to Will — boom. Lit him up. It was over.
"We grabbed Will — you’re not going to hurt M.J. M.J. can take care of himself, but, you know ... So, the next day on the plane, Will gets on the plane with a huge shiner.”
Grant's version of events tracks pretty cleanly with the famed retelling of the incident by longtime Chicago scribe Sam Smith in "The Jordan Rules," his seminal book on the inner workings of the Jordan-era Bulls:
Perdue was in his third season and was waiting patiently. He'd rarely played in his first season; [then-coach Doug] Collins and [general manager Jerry] Krause feuded over his use and he became a pawn in their battle for control. Jackson had used Perdue more, but thought he was too weak defensively to play for extended periods of time. And it didn't help that Jordan had once felt inclined to punch him around in a practice.
It was during the 1989-90 season. Perdue was setting a screen, which usually resembled a seven-foot piece of spaghetti, but this time he dug in. Jordan came by, expecting Perdue to give way as usual, when Bang! Jordan slammed into Perdue and stopped, almost sliding down to the floor like some life-size cartoon character. Jordan stopped, looked hard at Perdue, and swung. One! Two! Right to the side of the head. Perdue's knees wobbled, but he remained upright.
"Why the hell don't you ever set a pick like that in a game?" Jordan screamed.
Everyone stopped, and since this was early in practice no one was watching from outside the glass-enclosed gym in the Multiplex. The incident would lead to Jackson's demand that the team install a curtain so practice could be private. Explanation: The players need to concentrate. Reality: We can't have people seeing this stuff.
Gee, I can't imagine why.
Perdue wasn't the only teammate with whom Jordan tussled over the years — Kerr has spoken openly about the time he punched M.J. during a heated scrimmage at the Bulls' 1995 training camp, and we've all heard the stories about Jordan the relentless competitor, the guy who took pleasure in trying to break Toni Kukoc, who humilate a teenage Kwame Brown in Washington, etc. But he was also the guy who tried build Brown back up, who brought him back in Charlotte years later, whose determination to treat practice like war "made everyone around him want to do the same thing," and whose undeniable desire to win made him into the best basketball player of many of our lifetimes, and one of the greatest winners of the modern era ... even if, sometimes, hands got thrown.
Those hands, however, never belonged to Horace, according to his Hot 97 interview:
On whether he and Jordan ever got into it:
"No, not physically. But verbally? Oh, we went at each other."
On whether he ever thought about smacking Jordan:
"No. Because if M.J. goes out, the Bulls go out."
Smart man, that Horace Grant.
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