It looks like Michael Jordan could’ve returned to the NBA to play for the Washington Wizards earlier than he did, if it wasn’t for the broken ribs incident that took place in 2001.
NBA vet Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest) admitted in an interview with Mike and Mike’s Molly Qerim, that he once broke Jordan’s ribs in a pickup game.
“So I was in a summer gym. R. Kelly would be there sometimes with Jordan, (Charles) Barkley was there sometimes with a lot of other NBA players. It was really good games, tougher than NBA games — rough, tough competition,” said World Peace.
“…Jordan was posting me up. So I was trying to deny him because when Jordan gets the ball, there’s nothing you can do. He’s going to score,” he said. “So I was trying to deny him and then he was like 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 then I accidentally broke his ribs.”
The mentioned pickup game happened before the 2001 season, and the incident reportedly delayed Jordan’s return to the game for three months.
World Peace said Jordan would have averaged 35 that season if it weren’t the injuries.
“That hurt me a lot because I’m an MJ fan, I love Jordan,” he said. “For me to be part of something like that, that (will) stick with me for a long time.”
World Peace addressed the story later on Mike and Mike radio and added that Jordan called him a few days later. World Peace was feeling down about what he did and apologized, but Jordan told him, “Don’t worry about it, it happens.”
It should be noted, there’s another version of how the broken ribs went down. In 2001, the Chicago Tribune published a rumor saying the ribs were broken in a fight between Jordan and World Peace (Artest at the time). World Peace denied the story.
Chicago Tribune reported that “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.”
Michael Jordan played in total 1072 NBA games (1039 started), averaging 30.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg in 38.3 minutes per contest. He was a 14-time NBA All-Star, and a 6-time the NBA champion with the Chicago Bulls.
Jordan led the NBA in scoring in 10 seasons and tied Wilt Chamberlain’s record of seven consecutive scoring titles. He was also a fixture on the NBA All-Defensive First Team, making the roster nine times. Many of Jordan’s contemporaries label Jordan as the greatest basketball player of all time.
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