Countless stories showcased why Michael Jordan is arguably the best player in NBA history, and the ‘Last Dance’ documentary gave everyone a small glimpse into his greatness and what made him a remarkable basketball player. However, over his 15-year-long career, numerous stories didn’t end up in the documentary. Still, in a great interview for HoopsHype, several former NBA players talked about the comparisons between Michael Jordan and LeBron James and shared a few stories on what made Jordan so special.
Former NBA player Brendan Haywood shared a locker room with Jordan during his time with the Washington Wizards and witnessed firsthand what it was like competing with Jordan in practice. Haywood played center, so he didn’t have to guard Jordan in one-on-one situations, but Byron Russell did, and that didn’t go so well for him because MJ was schooling him daily. Even though he was close to his 40s and won everything a player can win, he was still incredibly competitive and straight-up dominant.
Mike wanted to cut your heart out. He wanted you to fear him. Mike wanted, defensively and offensively, to dominate you. That’s where they are different. He wanted to talk trash to you. He wanted to let you know that you couldn’t guard him. Some of the days in practice, what MJ was saying to Byron Russell were just flat-out embarrassing. He would just go after this guy! It wasn’t like he didn’t like him. It’s just how he was. They used to compete in practice, but Russell was just a gluten for punishment. He would talk trash to MJ every day. But you can’t win that battle. One day, MJ was cooking him and he pulled up and hit a game-winner. He said: “That’s why they call you the human highlight reel. Not because you have any highlights of your own but because you are in all of mine.” That’s GOAT trash talk. That shut it down.Brendan Haywood, via HoopsHype
Haywood played two seasons with Jordan, and during that time, he had the opportunity to observe what made him such an amazing player and a great leader. Jordan was incredibly competitive, and he wanted his teammates to be just like that because he knew if he showed up every day in practice, they would all follow his lead, which is detrimental to the teams’ success. That is why he was so hard on Kwame Brown every day in practice, and since he was only a teenager at the time, he wasn’t mentally ready for that type of school of hard knocks from Jordan.
MJ liked you if you were playing well. But he didn’t like you if you weren’t playing well. Look at Kwame Brown. We all grew up idolizing Michael. So when MJ was just going at him, it hurt him because the criticism was coming from Jordan. He is 19 years old, and Michael Jordan is going after him. It’s totally different. Kwame would have had a completely different career path if he was drafted by any other team. He needed to go somewhere and play and make mistakes but just continue to grow on the court.Brendan Haywood, via HoopsHype
Even though he was in the twilight of his career at that time, Jordan was still the best player on that Washington Wizards squad, and there were multiple games when it seemed he was at least ten years younger. He didn’t have the same type of explosiveness and speed, but his fundamentals and basketball IQ enabled him to be efficient and dominant against the opposing guards. On top of that, his competitiveness and willingness to win at all costs was still there, despite the fact he already accomplished everything in his NBA career.