Skip to main content

How two Denver Nuggets rookies brought out the greatness in Michael Jordan by telling him to "take them ugly a-- Jordans off"

MJ fired back at the Nuggets' rookies before he led the Wizards to victory
Washington Wizards guard Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan

Many players knew you can't talk trash to Michael Jordan and get away with it. Vincent Yarbrough learned that the hard way. 

Yarbrough, then a rookie with the Denver Nuggets, found himself on the receiving end of Jordan's ire during a game in January 2003. Jordan was in his final season with the Washington Wizards and was playing poorly early on in the game. In an effort to get into Jordan's head, Yarbrough started talking trash to him. You know what happened next.

Yarbrough grew up idolizing MJ

Like any youngster who grew up in the 1990s, Vincent Yarbrough dreamed of being like No.23. He watched Jordan dominate the NBA for years, watched every game, and followed his every step.

"When the Bulls came on television in my house. You couldn't talk," recalled Yarbrough.

So it was no surprise that when Yarbrough finally made it to the league as the 33rd pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, he took note of the date, January 20, 2003, as it was the first time he would get to play against his childhood idol. By then, Jordan was already 39 years old and playing in his last year for the Washington Wizards.

As the game got underway, it became apparent that Jordan was not himself. He missed nine of his 14 attempts from the field, and Washington was getting blown out by the Nuggets.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

The rookie starts talking trash to MJ

With Jordan struggling, Yarbrough and fellow rookie Junior Harrington were disappointed to see their idol looking so mortal.

"Kobe averaged 44 against us that season and Tracy McGrady gave us 43. So with Mike retiring that season, we really wanted to see him go off. So me and Junior started to poke and prod him, telling him, 'That's garbage,' each time he missed," Yarbrough said.

The two young men even went as far as rankling Jordan over his famed Air Jordans, saying, "Take them ugly a– shoes off."

Big mistake.

As the game continued, Jordan kept chipping away at the Nuggets' lead. And with every basket he made, he glared at Yarbrough and Harrington and said something to them.

"Hold on now, you little b—-. You grew up watching me, I didn't grow up watching you!"

Jordan scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, including numerous clutch baskets that put the Nuggets away in an 89-74 win. He finished the game with 25 points, six assists, five rebounds, a steal, and a block.

Despite the loss, Yarbrough was all smiles after the game, as he had accomplished his goal of getting into Jordan's head and making him play his best.

Los Angeles Clippers guard John Wall

“I would have been starting or I would have been playing big minutes” — John Wall on if he didn’t sign with the Los Angeles Clippers

Wall apparently understood that taking his talents to L.A. meant sacrificing a potentially more substantial role elsewhere

Shaquille O'Neal and Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis

"AD is balling, he's dominating" — Shaquille O'Neal speaks on Anthony Davis' recent play

NBA champion Shaquille O'Neal sat down to discuss the recent dominant play from Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis.

Stephen A. Smith

"Kobe was a better individual talent, but Magic got everyone else better" — Stephen A Smith leaves Kobe Bryant out of his top five all-time list

ESPN's Stephen A Smith discussed leaving out Los Angles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant from his all-time top-five list.

Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry and Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan explains why he'd rather take on Steph Curry 1-on-1 instead of LeBron James

In 2019, Jordan claimed that Steph wasn't a Hall of Fame candidate yet but took it back 2 years later.

Chicago Bulls forward Scottie Pippen

"I got plenty of clothes with me" — when Scottie Pippen reiterated his trade request on live TV

Scottie Pippen and the Phoenix Suns engaged in outright tampering, and no one batted an eye.

Cedric Maxwell realized what made Larry Bird special on their first practice together

"Hey mop boy, go run and find the scoring record in this building" — how Larry Bird got himself fired up before games

Larry Legend would always go the extra mile to find little ways to motivate himself for a game.