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Metta World Peace Talks Accidentally Breaking Michael Jordan's Ribs in 2001

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistMay 5, 2020

Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace (37) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, March 13, 2017, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Details of a 2001 incident between Metta World Peace—then known as Ron Artest—and Michael Jordan that left Jordan with broken ribs have been talked about for years, but World Peace has shed some insight into what exactly happened.  

Appearing on the Tampering podcast hosted by The Athletic's Sam Amick and Joe Vardon, World Peace said the accident occurred "because of how hard I played against him" during a pickup game at a private gym in Chicago:

"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…'"

As soon as that happened, World Peace noted he thought he "hurt Michael Jordan" and stayed at home "for like two days" until eventually his agent at the time, Mark Bartelstein called him:

"And he called me and said, 'Hey, you alright?' I said, 'No, I think I hurt Michael Jordan.' Then it came out: Michael Jordan's ribs [are] broke. And Metta World Peace had a fight with Michael Jordan. And I'm like, 'I did not have a fight with Michael Jordan.' They said, 'He punched Michael Jordan.' And I'm like, 'Oh man…'"

Eventually, World Peace was able to collect himself after Jordan called him on the phone: "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. I spoke to Jordan twice on the phone in my life.”

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The former NBA star revealed on Inside the Green Room with Danny Green (h/t CBS Sports' Sam Quinn) that he changed his name again to Metta Ford-Artest. 

"I actually took my wife's last name and added it to mine," he said. 

When the incident with Jordan originally occurred in June 2001, Sam Smith wrote in the Chicago Tribune that the "hottest rumor" was that the two stars were involved in a fight that resulted in the six-time NBA champion being "slammed to the ground."

Smith noted that participants "were sworn to secrecy" otherwise they wouldn't be allowed back to Jordan's private gym. 

In the years since, World Peace has consistently maintained what happened was an accident that came from playing defense too hard. 

"When Jordan got the ball, he would always score," he told Yahoo Sports' Jack Baer in 2016. "So, the one time, I moved his arm out of the way so I could get in front. The referee blows the whistle, calls an offensive foul on Michael Jordan, and in the meantime, I hit him in the ribs, by mistake, and I accidentally broke his ribs."

World Peace spent the first two-and-a-half seasons of his career with the Chicago Bulls before being traded to the Indiana Pacers in February 2002. He was drafted No. 16 overall by the Bulls after spending two years in college at St. John's. 

Jordan became part-owner and president of basketball operations for the Washington Wizards in January 2000 after retiring from playing for the third time in January 1999. 

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