Michael Jordan revealed when he saw a sign of weakness in Shaquille O’Neal.
A ruthless competitive player, Jordan didn’t believe in helping opponents off the field and judged those who did – like Shaq – to lack a killer instinct.
“When I came back from baseball, I don’t know if I ever said that to anyone, I play against Shaq,” Jordan told Jackie MacMullan of The Ringer on her basketball podcast Icons Club. “Shaq is physically the tallest player I’ve ever seen. He was such a big, massive guy when I got back from baseball, so I was a little intimidated.
“I didn’t really know how to play against him. Am I going straight for him? Should I stop and drive up? Bla bla bla. So I walked right up to him and he threw me straight to the ground and then he reached down to pick me up.
Jordan smelled blood.
“I said, ‘Nah, he didn’t mean it, he’s a nice guy.’ If he left me, stepped over me, old school, I would have been a little intimidated,” Jordan said. “But his heart is too good. He’s not that type. It took away some of the intimidation factor.”
MacMullan asked, “You knew you had him?”
“I did,” Jordan replied.
Shaq and Anfernee Hardaway’s Magic defeated Jordan’s Bulls 4-2 in the semifinals of the 1995 Eastern Conference after Jordan returned to the NBA near the end of the regular season. The next year, however, the Bulls defeated the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals to earn the last laugh en route to an NBA championship.
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