In June 2001, about four months before Michael Jordan made the third comeback of his storied career by suiting up for his first game with the Wizards, someone broke a couple of MJ’s ribs during a pickup game in Chicago. At the time, MJ wouldn’t say who caused him to sustain the injury, but in a Chicago Tribune story that was published about a week after the initial reports, Metta World Peace—who was still going by Ron Artest back then—was ID’d as the culprit. The report that the Tribune put out actually made it sound like some sort of fight had taken place between MJ and World Peace:
It's being said that Jordan was in full trash-talk mode that day. He had been telling Antoine Walker of the Celtics to count on four losses to the Wizards next season, and he was hitting jump shots in the face of Artest and taunting Artest about his time with the Bulls and was getting personal. The story is that Artest stayed back in the lane, and then when Jordan came in the next time, Artest grabbed him and slammed him to the floor. That's supposedly when the ribs were broken.
Artest is also said to have thrown a punch at Jordan afterward. Word is the participants were sworn to secrecy or wouldn't be allowed back in the private gym near Jordan's West Side restaurant. Who knows if it's true, but it certainly sounds more realistic than the story Jordan has been telling.
It’s been almost exactly 15 years now since the incident took place, and MJ and World Peace have both stayed quiet with regards to what actually happened. But during a Facebook Live interview that ESPN’s Molly Qerim did with World Peace during his appearance on Mike & Mike on Tuesday morning, a fan inquired about MJ’s broken ribs on FB:
Qerim then asked World Peace about it, and he spent a few moments telling his side of the story. According to him, there was no fight—just good, hard basketball. Here’s what he remembers:
So I was in a summer gym. R. Kelly would be there sometimes, Jordan, Barkley was there a couple times, and a lot of other NBA players. There were some really good games—tougher than the NBA games, real tough competition. And Jordan was posting me up. So I was trying to deny him, because when Jordan gets the ball, there was nothing you could do. He was gonna score. So I was trying to deny him and he was holding me, so I kind of tried to lift his arm up with my right hand and I accidentally hit him in the ribs with my elbow. And I accidentally broke his ribs.
World Peace also touched on how badly he felt about breaking MJ’s ribs:
After his ribs broke, he had to take off three months. That season, he averaged 25 [points per game] and I always felt like, if that would have never happened, he would have averaged about 35. He was looking so good. He had to take off three months and still averaged 25 points [Ed. note: MJ actually averaged 22.9 PPG that season.]. That hurt me a lot because I’m an MJ fan. I love Jordan. I love his defense more than his offense, and for me to be a part of something like that, that stuck with me for a long time.
Check out the 3:30 mark of the video above to hear World Peace talk about the incident. As he mentioned, MJ did go on to have a great 2001-02 season, but do you think he’s still salty about what took place?
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