Jordan didn’t exactly need the extra motivation but he still got it when SuperSonics coach George Karl snubbed him at a restaurant before the start of the Finals. He said it helped give him the edge.
“He walked right past me,” Jordan said. “I said, ‘It’s a crock of s—t.’ We went to Carolina. You know Dean Smith … You’re gonna do this? OK, fine. That’s all I needed. That’s all I needed — for him to do that — and it became personal with me.”
Jordan averaged 27.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists in the series. The Bulls defeated the SuperSonics, 4-2. They captured their fourth NBA championship.
As for the snub, Karl talked to ESPN about the interaction.
“It is true. I had Brendan Malone on my staff from the Detroit Pistons, and he said ‘Michael plays head games with you all the time,’ and he said ‘you don’t want to mess with him in the series, say hello at the beginning of the series, shake his hand at the end of the series.’”
Karl said he was warned not to do anything during the series that would motivate Jordan to push himself to another level. Karl appeared to be in awe over how Jordan motivated himself.
“He made things up to motivate himself, to reach a level of intensity that very few players ever got to,” Karl said.
For an insider’s perspective on “The Last Dance,” check out Fox Nation’s new show “Guarding Jordan,” where former NBA star and coach Jeff Hornacek reflects on going head-to-head against the NBA superstar in the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals.