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Steve Kerr recalls the time Jordan punched him at practice

Jun 21, 2012, 7:31 AM EDT

Jordan Kerr Getty Images

It’s just one of the legendary stories about how intense Michael Jordan was during practice for the Bulls…

The day he just punched Steve Kerr during practice.

Kerr, now an analyst with TNT, was on the Dan Patrick show and recalled that day (via Nina Falcone at

“I disagreed with him one time,” Kerr said with a chuckle. “I think he punched me in the face.”

That disagreement happened during a scrimmage at training camp when Kerr took offense to something Jordan said, and he didn’t refrain from expressing his true feelings.

“It was one of the best things that ever happened for me, I needed to stand up and go back at him, I think I earned some respect. But we have a great relationship ever since… you gotta prove it and then once you prove it, you’re fine.”

So it was with Jordan — you needed to gain his respect and trust, and once you did it was all good. But getting there was not easy.

Kerr said he couldn’t recall what the dispute was even about anymore. You wonder if Jordan can.

  1. andrewproughcfe - Jun 21, 2012 at 8:52 AM

    Smaller, weaker Steve Kerr? Punch in the face.

    Bigger, stronger Robert Parrish? Jordan threatens to “kick your a$$”, and then backs off.

    Very manly, Michael – VERY manly. Do you think Tim Duncan had to punch Steve Kerr in the face in order to win championships with him? Somehow I doubt it.

    • hollywood26 - Jun 21, 2012 at 10:14 AM

      Umm, you do know that he also punched 7 foot Bill Wennington right? And don’t forget him pimp slapping Horace Grant. Trust me, he didn’t care who it was he was ready to throw down

      • trollaikman8 - Jun 21, 2012 at 2:59 PM

        I reckon MJ also cornered Toni Kukoc too…granted this was NBA rookie Toni who probably weighted 145lbs.

    • bougin89 - Jun 21, 2012 at 10:14 AM


      • bougin89 - Jun 21, 2012 at 10:43 AM

        Just to make this clear, my “Fail.” comment is in response to andrewproughcfe.

    • Mr. Wright 212 - Jun 21, 2012 at 1:48 PM

      He backed off Parish AND Cartwright, and it’s not because he was scared of Parish. But Big Bill really was going to knock him silly. Had he not been at the end of his career at age 36, you have to wonder if Bill Cartwright, aged 26, averaging 20 and 10 like he was here in NY at that time, would have been banished off the team right after it happened, as it were in Chicago?

      • 1historian - Jun 22, 2012 at 10:30 AM

        He did not back off Cartwright – it was the other way around. Cartwright got real tired of Jordan’s mouth and told him so and Jordan backed off.

    • florida727 - Jun 22, 2012 at 8:24 AM

      Punching a teammate isn’t ‘intensity’. It’s called being an @$$hole.

      • namriverrat69 - Jan 26, 2013 at 12:09 AM

        You betcha

    • Sideline Mob - Apr 17, 2013 at 6:00 PM

      What they’re not telling you is that this happened when Steve Kerr visited a Bobcats practice 4 days ago.

  2. dirtyharry1971 - Jun 21, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    If jordon was white and kerr was black this would have been a very big deal, jesse jackson would transform right before your eyes had it been that way

    • Kurt Helin - Jun 21, 2012 at 7:16 PM

      I think it’s less a race thing and more a different era. Like others said, Jordan’s image if he played now and did what he did off the court would be very different.

    • 1historian - Nov 30, 2012 at 11:54 AM

      Interesting reference to ‘Jordan Rules’

      Check page 205-206

  3. loungefly74 - Jun 21, 2012 at 9:25 AM

    ahhh…what a different time it was back in the 90’s where something like this didnt get blown up by twitter, media, etc…i think Jordan’s legacy would be a lot different if everything was exposed right then and there.

    about the article…good. jordan was the man. it was his job to run that squad. that is what leaders do.

    • divan22 - Jun 21, 2012 at 9:55 AM

      Yeah, assaulting a teammate is the epitome of leadership.

      Latrell Sprewell choking his coach? Leadership!

    • bougin89 - Jun 21, 2012 at 10:37 AM

      loungefly…I agree, the way Jordan competed in practice made the Bulls team who they were, although he would catch a lot more flak in the social media era of today. It wasn’t exactly a secret that Jordan liked to “party” and gamble in the 90’s, he had a clean cut image to the masses but I don’t think any diehard fans thought he was an angel by any stretch of the imagination.

    • ludachrisgsx - Jun 21, 2012 at 10:56 AM

      Just imagine if any of the top players today did some of the things that Jordan did – like punching a teammate in the face in practice. If Kobe did that he’d be blasted and would be labeled the worst teammate ever. If LeBron did it his “decision” would be the second worst PR situation of his career. When Jordan did it he was just being the leader of the team…

      I love all the double standards with the Air Jordan marketing machine. He lived in the perfect era where marketing could completely dictate how you felt about a sports figure and media coverage simply couldn’t penetrate and expose someone like Jordan. He is loved because of his on-court accomplishments, but almost just as much for the marketing machine that helped build his larger-than-life image and brand.

      No player will ever benefit from all of that again, it’s a different age and marketing can’t win out over the media these days – whether it be media outlets or social media. Nike will never be able to reproduce what they helped create with MJ. If any of their athletes punches a teammate in the face or has a gambling problem it won’t be swept under the rug and dismissed. Marketing machines no longer dictate the topic of the discussion (nor does the player), they can only try to steer it in a different direction.

      I also wonder what Jordan’s legacy would look like had he played today. Back then he could have spit in Phi’s face but we all would have given him the benefit of the doubt and wondered what Phil did wrong to deserve that. Funny how that works.

      • 700levelvet - Jun 21, 2012 at 1:07 PM

        Jordan…6 NBA finals……….6 rings………LeBron, is more known for his mom being the team slut, then titles….Don’t blame MJ for being the best ever………He aspired to it, willed it, Lebron will never EVER reach his statuus, no matter how much you jock sniffers try too…………There is ONE MJ

      • Mr. Wright 212 - Jun 21, 2012 at 1:50 PM

        Kobe berates his teammates (although Jim Buss won’t have it, which is why he’s backed off Bynum after obviously having reason to do so the past two postseasons) publicly and privately, but punching them would definitely earn you an even worse reputation in the haters’ eyes.

      • slopmcflop - Jun 21, 2012 at 5:21 PM

        I don’t understand people like you 700levelvet.

        Yeah, there is one MJ. And he played at the best possible time for his demeanor and skillset, as said in the post you’re replying to.

        And it is true that the media as a whole are constantly trying to turn LeBron into the next MJ instead of letting him create his own legacy. Completely unfair to Lebron, and anyone else they try to make the comparisons to. Kobe, for instance. MJ is fresh in our minds, so we are constantly hoping that the next one is right around the corner, even though he was a once in a generation talent. Soon, MJ fade from our minds and current players will be able to make their own mark outside of his shadow.

        So yes, when you say Lebron is not MJ, you are correct. But when you say things like Lebron is best known for the personal relationships of his mother? Makes me think that I should never listen to a damn thing you say. If you’re going to make an argument over the merits of a basketball player, how about you mention what they actually do, you know, on the court?

      • rushbacker - Jun 21, 2012 at 5:27 PM

        Well, Kobe had the whole rape accusation, and his jerseys still sell fine. Don’t think marketing has lost power.

      • eddiecrash1976 - Jun 23, 2012 at 7:14 PM

        Mj didnt win those rings until Magic and Bird were at the end of their careers. Bird and Magic owned MJ’s ass and anybody who watched BBall in that era knows it. Why do you think it took MJ all those years to win his first ring? If he was so goo why didnt he win a ring the first season he was in the NBA? Hell why didnt he win a ring every season that he played until he got Scottie and Kukoc? And Gmen4life, Jordan wouldnt have won all those rings if he didnt have the refs in his pockets, he was the king alright. The king of getting all the calls! Lol

  4. theahbal - Jun 21, 2012 at 9:47 AM

    I lOve this everyone forgets all of these stories about Jordan and all that stuff that’s kept behind closed doors. Yet he is worshiped. A man like Lebron though is held to such higher standards you begin to think if his nect gig is at the Vatican! But Lebron still has not done a quarter of the things God MJ did!
    Marinate on it

    • gmen4life33 - Jun 21, 2012 at 10:47 AM

      “But Lebron still has not done a quarter of the things God MJ did”

      Lebron hasnt done 1/6th the things MJ did (rings). MJ got away with what he did (intense, mean, gambling) because he backed it up by being the greatest. If he failed to win almost every game he had to, he would too be picked apart for what he did.

      You think if Lebron had a few rings already people would pick on him? He could have did the decision twice and then took his dong out on nation t.v and he would be fine, IF HE HAD WON something. Dont call yourself the King and show your arrogance if you are not going to back it up, because people will get on you.

      • borderline1988 - Jun 21, 2012 at 11:24 AM

        That’s how the world works.

        If you win, everyone forgets about all the wrongs and they love you to death. If you lose, you could be the greatest human being on the face of the planet, but no one will care.

        Kobe was easily the most hated athlete in sports in the mid-2000’s, but once he won 2 more championships, suddenly he’s revered for his intensity and competitiveness. He’s still the same jerk and coaching headache that he was in the mid-2000s, but his legacy is now cemented, and it would be difficult for him to screw it up.

        Lebron may be arrogant (although, would you say more arrogant than Kobe? No way..) but he’s ripped on b/c he hasn’t won a championship.
        After tonight, a lot of the hate will just melt away overnight, and if he wins a second championship nex year, people will be considering him as the GOAT.

        That’s the way America works. We love our winners, hate the losers. It’s cutthroat and sometimes unfortunate, but that’s just the plain and simple truth.

      • bigmeechy74 - Jun 21, 2012 at 5:03 PM

        Did you expect him to win rings on that AWFUL Cleveland squad? No one could have won a ring on that lousy team. Including “his airness.”

      • dacapt704 - Jun 21, 2012 at 5:35 PM

        I love how ppl say Lebron named himself King…the media gave that name to a 17 year old kid. If YOU were on the cover of every sports mag and the media called u King, u would have ran with it too. I hate how ppl act so perfect…

        Second– Lebron has never been in trouble with the law and by all accounts is a great team mate and gives back to his community but yet everyone hates him>???

        MJ was KNOWN for being a d**k to everyone, teammates included…Once we waited for an hour outside the stadium for an autograph (group of 10-13 yr olds) and when MJ came out he simply said “get outta my way, I’m going home”…true story! Let that be Lebron and you would never hear the end of it.

        Im not a Lebron apolgist but it does bother how the guy gets slammed because he chose to go to another team in a better city to live in. Sounds logical to me…who wouldn’t leave Cle for Mia? I mean really…

        And I live in Charlotte where MJ is owner but to me he is the epitome of “free pass”. All the bad bahavior that was reported (on a small scale) was chalked to his “fierce competitiveness”..gimme a break! Steve Smith punches a teammate and he’s a thug, a deviant…MJ does it, hes got fire…GTFOH

    • camnellum12 - Jun 21, 2012 at 4:41 PM

      @700levelvet Get off of his d*ck. ludachrisgsx couldn’t have said it better, all of the things Jordan did: physically belittle his teammates, gamble, cheat on his wife, not even caring to give back to the community, he still gets praised as “The GOAT”. I believe there is no “GOAT”, too many eras and differences of the game to hold one player on top, but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had a much more successful basketball career than MJ. 79-2 record in high school and 3 city championships, the day he stepped foot at UCLA he dominated, won 3 national championships, had one of the three greatest rookie seasons ever, won 6 rings as well, 6 MVP’s, 19 x All-Star, All-Time leading scorer and the list goes on. But since he wasn’t media friendly or didn’t sell sneakers, he gets no props? Hell, Jordan could have been accused of rape like Kobe, and he still would be untouched.

      Jordan may have been a great player, but separate his personality and play, don’t blindly praise an asshole for being a good player.

  5. dunkindan - Jun 21, 2012 at 10:59 AM

    were they in prison or the NBA?

  6. bjtmeyer - Jun 21, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    Now it all makes sense why Jordan’s wife filed for divorce.

  7. toosano - Jun 21, 2012 at 12:11 PM

    I wouldn’t have too much respect for anybody that I punched and they didn’t punch back. I would have at least sucker punched him when he wasn’t looking after that, lol!

  8. miamijcrod - Jun 21, 2012 at 1:32 PM

    Guys remember that Mj started to get rings at age 28 enough said……

  9. chitownjeff - Jun 21, 2012 at 1:35 PM

    punching kerr was nothing..what i laughed about was mj hitting stacy king with a bag of chips and calling him fat boy. jordan told king even a dead man could get more than two boards..then slapped the chips out of his hands…big dogs rule end of story..

  10. badintent - Jun 26, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    Stacy King to MJ , ” u Don’t mean sh*t ” Go find a casino to drop your paycheck.,

  11. bosspower - Jun 29, 2012 at 12:25 PM

    Magic and Bird dominated MJ? Yeah right. Jordan dropped 63 on Bird in a playoff game, and beat Magic for his 1st chip. And the Kareem argument goes like this, Kareem got those stats in the course of 25 seasons. Jordan got Drafted in 84, retired in 93, cameback in 95, retired in 98, cameback 2001 retired 2003. Jordan only played 15 seasons total, and got 5 MVP’s, 6 Championships, 6 finals MVP’s, Defensive Player of the Yr, 10 time Scoring Champ. And had he played straight thru from 84-03 his numbers would look like this, 9 Championships, 13 scoring titles, 9 Finals MVP’s, 8 MVP’s. This is y he is the Greatest Basketball player Ever!!! And he didnt have Magic as a teammate, or Worthy, or AC Green, Kareem had the West startin 5 playing in LA. Air Jordan The Greatest Basketball Player of alltime. Who cares about “Practice”?

    • Kurt Helin - Jun 29, 2012 at 6:51 PM

      Their peaks did not overlap. We never saw 85 Magic against 92 MJ.

      • bosspower - Aug 10, 2012 at 7:11 PM

        Listen Magic knows Watever Yr U wanna get Vs any Championship Jordan he would lose. That’s y Magic calls JordaBest Ever!!!!

  12. omegaichiban - Jul 4, 2012 at 3:40 PM

    why didn’t Kerr fight back…would have been an excellent follow up question

  13. dickclydesdale - Jul 5, 2012 at 4:53 PM

    Jordan is your typical black thug ni99a acting a fool. He would be in a chain gang in prison if not for the NBA.

  14. 1historian - Nov 30, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    When Jerry Krause came to Chicago as the GM in 1986 Michael Jordan was there and the Bulls were a joke – they could contend but that was only because Jordan was so incredible.

    In 1991 The Bulls won their 1st of their 6 titles. With the e4xception of Michael Jordan

  15. 1historian - Nov 30, 2012 at 12:05 PM

    When Jerry Krause came to Chicago as the GM in 1986 Michael Jordan was there and the Bulls were a joke – they could contend but that was only because Jordan was so incredible.

    In 1991 The Bulls won their 1st of their 6 titles. With the exception of Michael Jordan EVERY SINGLE ONE of the players and coaches – including Phil Jackson – was brought to Chicago by Jerry Krause.

    Between 1991 – the 1st title, and 1998 – the 6th title, there was an 83% turnover in the roster. Granted it doesn’t hurt if your remaining 17% are named Jordan and Pippen, but that is still a pretty impressive accomplishment.

    Organizations win Championships – if you’ve got the greatest player in the world with no supporting cast – you got nothin’. Krause got the RIGHT players and the RIGHT coaches to Chicago.

    • avermaver - Dec 21, 2012 at 3:14 AM

      yeah and then he ran them out of town like an idiot

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