When Michael Jordan Took It Personally During a Game of Ping Pong

Published 08/17/2021, 9:35 AM EDT
Michael Jordan (Photo by Jesse Grant/WireImage)


Players like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James might have come closer to what Michael Jordan achieved in the NBA, but there will never be another like him. The once-in-a-lifetime kind of personality that considered no win small. His Airness is the GOAT for all these reasons and beyond. However, losing didn’t look good on the man and that was made very clear after a story about his defeat against Christian Laettner at Ping Pong made headlines.

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Christian Laettner thrashes MJ

Jordan’s habit of not backing down from challenges started even before he started playing basketball professionally. And it was a trait he carried with him throughout his career. So, back when he was playing for the Dream Team in the 1992 Summer Olympics, he had a bout with Christian Laettner.

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While he and his teammates put their sweat and blood into getting a gold medal, they also find time for some other activities outside the court. One of them being, Ping Pong. When they were back at the hotel, they created a bracket along with an elimination system to make the competition interesting. Back then, legendary NBA photographer Nate Butler was there to witness this.

“These guys are all competitive. They see a ping-pong table, the first thing is make the brackets. First thing. Boom. Boom. Boom. For some reason, Christian Laettner was good at ping pong,” Nate recounted.

“So, Laettner and Jordan in the finals. Like, there was some side action going on, we’ll leave it at that. Michael is playing ping pong, sweating, like fourth-quarter-at-the-free-throw-line kind of sweat. For some reason, Laettner beat him.”

Chicago Bulls All-Star forward # 23 Michael Jordan file photos. (Photo by Tom Berg/WireImage)

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Michael Jordan came back for his revenge

Jordan may have been in Barcelona to win a gold medal for Team USA. But he could not digest losing to Christian Laettner and he took his defeat very seriously.

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Butler revealed, “[Jordan] threw the paddle. He didn’t talk for two days to anyone. Come to find out, he had a ping-pong table delivered up to his room. No one knew about it. and he was practicing for the rematch. They had a re-match two days later, three days later. It was (something like) 21-4. He destroyed him.”

Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls during the 1997 McDonald’s Championship. (Photo by Dimitri Iundt/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

Typical Jordan, isn’t it? No one would expect anything else from the Chicago Bulls legend. It was this attitude of his that helped him bag six consecutive NBA championships. A record considered impossible to beat during this day and age. Say what you will, that Ping-Pong match must have been the most intense anybody would have ever seen.

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Yashima Bhatia

1467 articles

Yashima Bhatia is an NBA writer for EssentiallySports who specialises in providing nuanced predictions and updates for matches. She has a Bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication. Yashima's love for playing the game came up at a young age, when the excitement of the games coupled with the intensity of the Playoffs had her hooked.

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