It doesn’t matter if you’re playing in a pickup game on the playground or facing off on the floor of an NBA arena, where there’s basketball, trash talk is sure to follow. It’s not meant to be malicious. Well, not most of the time. It’s just become a way for opponents to jab at each other, assert their dominance, or simply get under another player’s skin. Throughout the history of the sport’s highest league, we’ve seen some world-class trash talkers. Unfortunately, when you’re among those who haven’t really mastered the craft, sometimes, you end up waking up the wrong beast.
Prior to the start of the 1997 All-Star Game, members of the Eastern Conference squad were gathered in the locker room. As they prepared for the festivities to begin, that’s when it happened. That’s when Atlanta Hawks center Dikembe Mutombo thought it’d be a good idea to call out Michael Jordan.
You see, according to Mutombo, his Airness had never dunked on him — not once in the six years since the center joined the league. And while this may have been true, this was hardly the time to take a shot at the greatest to ever play the game. Jest or otherwise, given M.J.‘s unrivaled competitive nature, you knew it was only a matter of time before he made the 7-footer pay for this brief moment of disrespect. Who could’ve guessed that his revenge would end up coming later that season — during the 1997 playoffs.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy another edition of “Throwback Throwdowns.”
As fate would have it, the Chicago Bulls and the Atlanta Hawks would square off in the 1997 Eastern Conference semifinals. On May 13, 1997, down three games to one, the Hawks traveled to Chicago for Game 5, looking to stave off elimination. Unfortunately for them, not only did the champs have no intention of letting Atlanta off the hook, but Jordan had his own score to settle.
After securing a rebound off a missed Chicago shot, M.J. found himself with the ball in the left corner. What was to follow can only be described in three words: poetry in motion. Jordan fed center Luc Longley the ball in the post and immediately went backdoor down the baseline. Longley returned the favor with a beautiful bounce pass, and M.J. had no intention of wasting a perfect give and go. This was his moment to climb Mount Mutombo.
While the Hawks center rotated over to protect the rim, he was too late. Jordan was already in flight and fully committed. In one fell swoop, M.J. threw down the slam right in Mutombo’s face, as the crowed went absolutely bananas. To add insult to injured, Jordan decided to wave his finger in the center’s face; which, in case you didn’t know, was what Mutombo did whenever he blocked a shot. Game. Set. Match.
The Bulls would go on to win the contest 107-92, eliminating the Hawks in five games. Mutombo, for his part, would still go down as one of the best shot blockers the game has ever seen. Yet, on this night, Jordan had his number. Just like he said he would. Clearly, Mutombo should’ve left the trash talking to the professionals.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.