“Well, it’s an unconscious habit that I picked up from my father,” Michael Jordan said about the origin of his iconic tongue tic. “Being a little kid and you’re watching your father work, he used to stick his tongue out, and I took it up and made it a habit.”
Soon enough, MJ turned that habit into a trademark. And naturally, due to potential consequences of trademark infringement — that being Michael’s revenge — no other NBA player was allowed to do it. But Mark Jackson tried, and it backfired.
I was just young and dumb. But I had a moment.Mark Jackson, Club Shay Shay
His moment came in Game 2 of the 1989 second-round matchup between the Bulls and the Knicks — New York came out on top 114-97 to tie the series at one game apiece. MJ struggled that game — he finished with 15 points on 7-for-17 from the field — and Jackson, who led the Knicks to victory with 20 points and 16 assists, started feeling himself.
I thought we had every answer because we were rollin’. So I stripped him and I’m like, ‘Oh it’s on New York City, I stripped him.’ Now they foul me on the break and I go in the air and I stick my tongue out. Mistake. Huge mistake.Mark Jackson, Club Shay Shay
The morning before Game 3, Doug Collins showed Michael a video of Jackson sticking his tongue out. Later that day, once the game tipped off, so did Jordan’s revenge campaign. And to no one’s surprise, it ended up being a success — he led the Bulls to a 111-88 victory with 40 points, 15 rebounds, and 9 assists on 14-for-25 from the field.
Like he talked about it in the documentary; he takes all of that and uses it as fuel. And he took advantage of that and used it as fuel and took over the game. I don’t know what made me do it. I remember looking over at my dad and he’s like, ‘don’t do that.’Mark Jackson, Club Shay Shay
If only his dad had given Mark that advice earlier. Because once he stuck his tongue out to taunt No.23, the damage was already done. And at that point, there was no going back. Michael “took it personal,” and the rest is history.