Michael Jordan and Ron Artest were two of the most tenacious and physical athletes of their time. Aggression was simply a part of their skill-set.
One of the most incredible and unlikely stories regarding the duo came during an offseason practice in the summer of 2001. Michael Jordan was in the midst of his second NBA comeback. The Bulls legend couldn’t stay away from basketball for too long, and so when the opportunity came knocking to play for the Washington Wizards, he took it.
However, being out of the league for three years hadn’t exactly kept Jordan in the greatest physical shape of his career. He needed to train hard if he was going to have a successful comeback.
As a result, the future Hall of Famer would hit various gyms, playing in scrimmages with several NBA players and trainers. One of these days, he invited Ron Artest to play with him. Neither him nor Artest could imagine how this fateful scrimmage would turn out.
Ron Artest Would Wind Up Injuring Michael Jordan, Breaking His Ribs
In 2001, Ron Artest was a member of the Chicago Bulls, the team where Jordan had solidified his legacy. Notorious for being a scrappy defender, Jordan felt like Artest would make the perfect training partner to whip him back into shape.
These scrimmages were never serious. At most, you’d be playing for bragging rights. That didn’t deter Artest nor take him away from his game. After being invited by Jordan, Artest made sure to make it as difficult as possible for His Airness. However, sometimes over-agresssion can be costly too, as Artest would quickly find out:
“And then you know, [on that day] when he locks you in the post, I tried to deny, because the key to Jordan is you can’t let him touch the ball, right? So then, as I was denying with the left hand, my right elbow went under his hand that was under his left hand that was grabbing me, so I get his hand out the way, then I hit him with my elbow in his ribs, and then the ref called an offensive foul.”
“Jordan had refs at every single run, and the ref called an offensive foul, and I’m like, ‘Yeah!’ And then Jordan went like this [holds his side], and I was like ‘Oh…’”
Artest had just broken the NBA legend’s ribs. That didn’t exactly sit well for the young NBA forward. Jordan was a player he looked up to, and just to have a chance to play against him, in a scrimmage, that was more than he could’ve asked for. But to injure him? That changes the narrative.
Michael Jordan’s Phone Call To Ron Artest Was Perhaps One Of The Greatest Of His Life
“I remember [thinking] like, ‘I think I hurt Michael Jordan,’ so I went home, and I didn’t leave my house for like two days. I didn’t go back to the gym, and everybody’s like. ‘Where you at?’ I was just home. I was drinking some Hennessy, and the Bulls didn’t hear from me, and then … my agent called me at the time, it was Mark Bartelstein. And he called me and said, ‘Hey, you all right?’ I said, ‘No, I think I hurt Michael Jordan.’”
Things weren’t looking well for the young Bull. To add on to Artest’s misery, rumors started floating around that he had beat up Michael Jordan in a fight. Artest was in a bad space mentally, and he needed anything he could have to boost his spirits.
That boost came in the form of His Airness himself. Jordan would call Artest up, reassuring him that everything was fine.
“Then Jordan calls me, and Jordan was like, ‘Hey man, it’s OK. Things happen, and don’t worry about it.’ And then I went back to playing. It was one of the greatest phone calls I got in my life.”
The fact that Jordan took this step clearly means he had respect for Artest’s game. Throughout the Last Dance and from other stories we’ve heard, we’ve seen how Jordan doesn’t back down from anyone. He’ll go to extreme lengths, just to fulfill his competitive desire. The fact that he didn’t with Artest shows that he had some admiration for him.
The interview regarding this legendary phone call can be found here:
A broken rib.
And a 16-year-old @KingJames.@MettaWorld37 shares the story with @AllenSliwa. Listen to The Sliwa Show now on 710 AM ESPN https://t.co/Wda75IMccI pic.twitter.com/rdIYkIvu8g
— ESPN Los Angeles (@ESPNLosAngeles) May 21, 2020