Michael Jordan, the most competitive athlete in sports history, chickened out of a one-on-one challenge against a former rival.
That’s the story Bryon Russell is selling, at least.
The former Utah Jazz player who guarded Michael Jordan’s last shot in a Chicago Bulls uniform claims he challenged Jordan to a televised one-on-one game, but His Airness refused.
The challenge was issued shortly after Jordan’s Hall of Fame induction speech, according to TMZ. The gossip site claims Russell recently reached out to them to set the record straight and put the ball in Jordan's court.
Russell says he challenged Jordan to a televised game of one-on-one in 2009, and that Jordan copped out without giving a reason.
Now, this normally wouldn’t be a surprise. Jordan cannot just play every guy who comes along claiming he can beat him, however, there is that whole thing where Jordan announced to the entire NBA that he would play Russell anywhere, at any time.
Indeed, Russell and Jordan are not friends, and if you’ve forgotten about their mini-rivalry, well, Jordan hasn’t.
He devoted an entire minute or so of his 2009 Hall of Fame induction speech to Russell, who once claimed in 1994 that if Jordan would come out of (his first) retirement, he would “shut him down" (20:20 mark).
Well, Jordan did come out of retirement and nailed the game-winning shot in Russell’s face at the 1998 NBA Finals.
Even in 2009, it was evident Jordan still thought about that moment, and he ended his remarks about Russell with the comment that he would play the former Jazz small forward if he ever saw him in shorts (21:00 mark).
If Russell did challenge him shortly after this speech, why didn’t Jordan accept? If Russell can be believed, why didn’t Jordan pony up and take him down when he got the chance?
His Airness is not afraid of gambling, however, perhaps this was one game Jordan didn't want to play. Maybe he realized he would be playing someone eight years his junior and didn’t want to risk ruining his mystique. Perhaps Russell is lying for attention. Maybe Michael just laughed and hung up.
It’s hard to tell, but Russell told TMZ that he would still beat Jordan in one-on-one. Russell "guarantees it," claiming that there wouldn't be any "Jordan Rules" to save His Airness.
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