First, let’s set the scene — it was the night before Game 4 of the ’93 NBA Finals, and the series’ two most prominent protagonists – Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley – went golfing. According to the then Bulls assistant coach Johnny Bach, the two played 48 holes of golf as a way to blow off some steam before what was going to be a series-decisive 48 minutes. Or at least that’s what Barkley thought.
For Michael, this was more than a leisure activity. Coming off a Game 3 loss to the Suns, he had seen it as an opportunity that, if utilized correctly, would tilt the balance of power towards the Bulls. And so, under the guise of friendship, Michael pulled off a mental gimmick for the ages.
According to Bach, who narrated the story, Jordan gave Barkley a $20,000 diamond earring bribing Charles into the “take it easy on him” state of mind right before the biggest game of his NBA career. He presented it as a friendship gift, but as Bach said, there was a hidden intention behind MJ’s generosity.
Jordan put up a “double-nickel” in Game 4, leading the Bulls to a 111-105 win over the Suns. He followed it up with a 41 point outing in a losing effort in Game 5 and a 33 point performance in what proved to be a series closeout Game 6 for the organization’s first-ever three-peat.
As far as Chuck’s concerned, he also had an incredible three-game stretch after the infamous bribe by his friend wearing No.23. He had a 30-point triple-double in Game 5, 24/6/6 in Game 6, and 21/17/4 in Game 6, but ultimately fell short of winning his first NBA title.
Was it due to earrings — I don’t think so. But the fact Michael did something like that speaks to how insane of a competitor he was. It also goes along with what Will Perdue said when he described MJ as an asshole. Because that’s who Jordan was, and he was okay with that. As long as championship rings were piling up, No.23 didn’t care.