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Christian Laettner brought out Michael Jordan’s competitive fire by defeating him in ping-pong

MJ couldn't take the L, even in table tennis. So, he set out for revenge versus Christian Laettner by doing the unthinkable.
1992 USA dream team guard Michael Jordan - Christian Laettner - Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, John Stockton and Larry Bird on the bench

Christian Laettner, Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan is known for his competitive drive in basketball or whatever sport he played. Apparently, the Chicago Bulls legend also played table tennis, as did his former Dream Team teammates. So, when the team got together in Barcelona in 1992, they whipped out a ping-pong table and held a mini-tournament. NBA photographer Nat Butler, who covered the Dream Team, once shared a story about the tournament during an appearance on SLAM's "Respect the Game" podcast in 2017.

"These guys are all competitive," said Butler. "They see a ping-pong table, the first thing is make the brackets. First thing. Boom. Boom. Boom. For some reason, Christian Laettner was good at ping-pong. So, Laettner and Jordan in the finals."

Losing to Laettner

Those who followed Jordan's NBA career know how the man considered by many as the GOAT stepped his game up in the Finals while playing for the Bulls. Of course, he never lost a Finals series.

But playing against Laettner in a final round of table tennis, he apparently suffered defeat.

"Like, there was some side action going on, we'll leave it at that," Butler continued. "Michael is playing ping-pong, sweating, like fourth-quarter-at-the-free-throw-line kind of sweat. For some reason, Laettner beat him. He threw the paddle. He didn't talk for two days to anyone."

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The story would have been entertaining had it ended there. But interestingly enough, MJ couldn't accept the loss and decided to get revenge.

"Come to find out, he had a ping-pong table delivered up to his room," Butler stated. "No one knew about it. And he was practicing for the rematch. They had a rematch two days later, three days later. It was (something like) 21-4. He destroyed him."

Laettner does not admit he lost to Jordan

The rematch tale came from a third party, and a confirmation of the story from Laettner would be in order, but the Duke University standout denied losing to Jordan in ping-pong when he appeared on "The Dan Patrick Show" in 2019.

"Over the years, I've heard through the rumor mill that Jordan had someone go out and buy a ping-pong table and take it up to his room so he can practice," Laettner told the host. "I don't know if all that's true. I've never heard that until the rumor mills, and I didn't see it. But someone said it in a book or some rumor mill, maybe. I don't know. But I know we played again, and I might have won again."

When asked by Dan Patrick if the news that Jordan demolished him were true, Laettner answered while smiling, "Well, I don't know about all that." Patrick again asked him categorically if Jordan ever beat him, to which Laettner hilariously responded, "Not that I recall."

Given the former NBA All-Star's non-answer, it might be difficult to deliver a final verdict on whether Jordan got his revenge. Whatever the case may be, there is no doubt that anybody can beat the five-time MVP's competitive spirit.

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