Michael Jordan is a god-like icon for many basketball fans, but even MJ can be beaten on his off days. When an unknown player was invited to the Chicago Bulls camp, no one would have guessed that he would be the guy to beat Michael. If he was that good, why didn’t he make the team?
Abdul Fox’s crazy stories about MJ, Bulls
Every year, teams conduct tryouts for interested players who get to play with the team regulars. Abdul Fox received an invite to Bulls' camp sometime in 1995. On the Vintage Ballers podcast hosted by Brad Coreno, the little-known player shared what it was like meeting the players and playing alongside MJ.
“The first time Michael even just walked in the building it seemed like everything was in slow motion.”
Abdul Fox, ">Vintage Ballers
The first thing that struck Fox was the work MJ put in every day. ”To watch Michael be the first one in, the last one to leave, you know, I thought I had a work ethic until I ran into him.” A few weeks into camp, Abdul realized he was admiring MJ so much it was affecting his performance. So he turned on the competitor in him, and then things got interesting.
”I remember it was a day where we didn't lose in practice and you know you'd think I was Michael's enemy just because we didn't lose a practice game. And from that one, from that day on, he just tried to destroy me in practice. It was like 'Wow dude I'm just trying to make the team' but he was just so competitive that he was pissed that we didn't lose.”
It wouldn't be a classic MJ story if he didn’t get his revenge, so naturally, Jordan had the last laugh in the end. Fox, unfortunately, was cut, but he earned the respect of Jordan and assistant coach John Paxson who sent him a handwritten note. His Airness, meanwhile, sent some vintage #45 memorabilia such as jerseys and signed shoes, which Fox gave all away. He regretted he didn’t make the team, but it was something outside his control. However, giving away Mike’s rare items, probably worth millions now, was unimaginable.
Now to answer the question in everyone’s mind: if he beat MJ in practice, how come he failed to make the cut? Did Jordan take it personally and make sure Fox would not get in the Bulls roster? We can’t say for sure, but it was probably a coaching decision since Abdul played in the guard position, which Chicago had an overabundance with Steve Kerr, Ron Harper, Mike, and Scottie Pippen. Abdul Fox had the skills and work ethic to beat MJ but was not good enough to make the team or the NBA.
MJ’s soft side in the training camp
In the '95/'96 season, Jordan was already established as the face of the league. Trash-talking opponents and crashing their egos were part of his myth. Based on the stories shared by Fox, it revealed MJ’s soft side. No one asked him to give anyone signed jerseys and shoes, but he still did it. Jordan gave props to Abdul Fox, the camp invitee who beat him and made a nice gesture. It wasn’t like they became friends or went to dinners after, but a virtually unknown player served him an L, to which Jordan responded with class.
Based on his Sports-Reference page, Abdul averaged 11.7 points, 3 rebounds, and 1.6 assists playing for St. Peters and Rhode Island. Those are respectable numbers that would make any scouts look into his potential. However, as fate would have it, Fox didn’t make it to the NBA, but he has memories of a lifetime sharing the court with MJ and the 72-10 Chicago Bulls roster.