One recurring theme in episode eight of The Last Dance is that Michael Jordan was really good at taking any slight against him — even ones he made up in his head — and turning them into the motivation he needed to destroy opponents. An example of this came prior to the 1996 NBA Finals, which the Chicago Bulls won over the Seattle SuperSonics in six games.
Jordan didn’t really need any extra motivation to win a championship, but a chance encounter with Sonics coach George Karl before Game 1 tipped off certainly helped. As Ahmad Rashad and Jordan recalled, the pair were out to dinner, and Rashad noticed that Karl was on the other side of the same restaurant. When he got up to leave, he decided it was in his best interest to give their table the cold shoulder.
“He walks right past me,” Jordan said. “And I look at Ahmad and I said, ‘Really? Oh so that’s how you’re gonna play it?’”
“He just kinda went by and I went, ‘Uh oh, should’ve never done that,’” Rashad said.
This particularly bugged Jordan, not because Karl was being hyper-competitive, but the two had a relationship even beyond the fact that they were both in the NBA.
“I said it’s a crock of sh*t,” Jordan said. “We went to Carolina, we know Dean Smith, I seen him in the summer, we play golf. You’re gonna do this? Ok, fine. That’s all I needed. That’s all I needed, for him to do that, and it became personal.”
Jordan would go on to average 27.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.7 steals in 42 minutes per game en route to Chicago winning the series and kicking off their second three-peat.