ESPN’s The Last Dance has not only captured the entire world’s attention but provided the perfect opportunity for former NBA stars to revisit their own battles with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. And while the docuseries captures Jerry Krause’s irrational quest to destroy one of the greatest dynasties in the history of professional sports, there’s one player who was a part of Krause’s attempt to rebuild another. That person is Metta World Peace.
Peace, who recently changed his name yet again to Metta Ford-Artest, chopped it up with The Athletic’s Sam Amick and Joe Vardon on the “Tampering” podcast and gave us all a peek into Krause’s lunacy, as well as some insight into the time he treated Jordan’s ribs like a Kit Kat bar.
In 1999, Ford-Artest was drafted 16th overall by the lowly Chicago Bulls, a year removed from a second three-peat and struggling to recapture the magic of yesteryear. Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson had all inexplicably been told to call Tyrone, leaving the Bulls with Toni Kukoc and an assortment of dilapidated spare parts.
Krause, however, remained resolute.
“For me, it’s like Jerry drafted me after Michael Jordan [played there], so for me, the Bulls were my favorite team,” Ford-Artest explained. “I played with them all the time on the video games, so as a 19-year-old kid, I’m like, ‘Wow,’ right? And then Jerry told me one day—I love Jerry—Jerry is like, ‘Ron, we’re gonna get (championship) No. 7, and you’re gonna be here, and it’s gonna just destroy those other six titles. Jerry would always say that. ‘No. 7 is the most important one…’”
How’d that work out for you, Jerry?
Oh, that’s right. With a clusterfuck named Tim Floyd at the helm, The 1999-00 Bulls would embarrass our ancestors with a mere 17 wins and haven’t come remotely close to winning an NBA title ever since FUBU was still a thing.
“I hate losing, right?” Ford-Artest said. “[But in] Chicago [it was] every day, when I’m losing [and] I’m coming into practice, and I’ve got a chip on my shoulder. I don’t want to talk to nobody. I’m upset. We suck… Every day there was something. I think my first practice, I had a fight with Kukoc [and[ that was before we even started losing. Me and Toni had a nice little scuffle.”
The former NBA All-Star then revealed when reality settled in and Krause realized that the motley crew he had assembled was destined to fail miserably.
“At the time, I was going through a lot,” Ford-Artest began. “I just kept getting in trouble after trouble—a lot of behind the scenes things that happened in Chicago. They didn’t want to trade me. Jerry was like, ‘One more incident and you’re done,’ and I kept getting in trouble. But Jerry really believed in me before I believed in myself, you know? So for me, I love Jerry Krause… That’s one of the biggest honors to get drafted by Jerry Krause.”
Okay, but what about Jordan’s ribs?
Those of us well-versed in NBA lore already know that it was The Jordan Rules author Sam Smith who broke the story in 2001. But in revisiting that infamous moment, Ford-Artest insists it was an accident, dammit.
“[Jordan] would say, ‘Hey, make sure you come back [to play pick-up at the private gym in Chicago].’ And I’m like, ‘Oh wow, Michael Jordan said ‘Come back’ to play because of how hard I played against him. And then you know, [on that day] when he locks you in the post, I tried to deny because the key to Jordan is you can’t let him touch the ball, right? So then as I was denying with the left hand, my right elbow went under his hand that was under his left hand that was grabbing me, so I get his hand out the way, then I hit him with my elbow in his ribs and then the ref called an offensive foul. Jordan had refs at every single run, and the ref called an offensive foul, and I’m like, ‘Yeah!’ And then Jordan went like this (holds his side) and I was like ‘Oh…’
He then goes on to explain that he hid from his coaches and Bulls management and refused to leave his house for two days to avoid the media circus.
“My agent called me at the time, it was Mark Bartelstein,” Ford-Artest said. “And he called me and said, ‘Hey, you all right?’ I said, ‘No, I think I hurt Michael Jordan.’”
So what got him to finally face the music and leave the house?
“Jordan calls me, and Jordan was like, ‘Hey man, it’s ok. Things happen, and don’t worry about it.’ And then I went back to playing,” Ford-Artest recalled. “It was one of the greatest phone calls I got in my life. I spoke to Jordan twice on the phone in my life.”
The other time? That would be in the immediate aftermath of an incident that the NBA would prefer we all forget: 2004’s Malice in the Palace, which was one of the ugliest brawls between players and fans in sports history.
“He was like, ‘Hang in there.’ [It was] amazing,” Ford-Artest said. “If he can help, he’ll help, and just calling—that’s a big help if you’re hearing from Michael Jordan. But at that time, I just wasn’t able to take leadership well. I wasn’t listening to any leaders… There was nothing you could say to get through to me.”
Okay, so maybe Jordan isn’t the complete asshole we all think he is.
The interview in its entirety is a really dope listen. So should the spirit move you to do so, you can check it out here.