Aside from being the greatest basketball player of all time in the eyes of the majority of NBA fans, Michael Jordan was also one of the most feared and scariest individuals you could ever face. Not many would try to get under his skin, and rare would succeed, but one guy actually irritated MJ, in the words of Kenny Smith.
You don't get nicknamed "Mad Max" if you didn't have that special kind of edge to your personality and game. But that's precisely who Vernon Maxwell was. The 6'4'' guard spent the best and longest part of his career on the Houston Rockets, winning two championships and playing a vital role.
Even though it was all about Hakeem Olajuwon, Maxwell was one of those key supporting guys from the perimeter, bringing in shooting, playmaking, defense, and toughness to that team. The last aspect was especially important, as Maxwell did a lot of the dirty work, clashing with opposing stars and irritating them. Even if it was Michael Jordan on the other side.
"You scoring on me too easy!"
Another one of those key role guys on the championship Rockets teams was also Kenny Smith. "The Jet" shared the backcourt with Maxwell in those years, as he had the chance to see and hear a lot of his heated moments from up-close.
A few years ago, on Open Court, Kenny shared a hilarious story of Maxwell and Jordan getting into it while explaining how Vernon was really the only guy to be able to irritate the great MJ:
"Playing with Vernon Maxwell was great. His personality was infectious on the court. This 'Mad Max' persona. He was the only guy I saw that irritated Michael in his career. Vernon told him twice. He's like:'If you score again, the way you're scoring, I'm going to fight you. He's disrespecting me. He's scoring on me too easy.' So, Michael scored again, and he actually swung on him."
Kenny Smith, The Universe Galaxy NBA
Talk about staying true to your word. Maxwell was so competitive and fired up that he saw Jordan scoring over him as a sign of disrespect towards him. Pretty crazy, but I guess that is why they called him "Mad Max." No wonder Jordan found it annoying to go up against such a fiery competitor.