No, LaBradford Smith did not sardonically say, “Nice game, Mike” to Michael Jordan after notching a career-high 37 points against the Bulls on March 19, 1993. Jordan, according to Michael Wilbon in “The Last Dance,” admitted that much, himself — the Smith story was merely a self-created ruse to motivate him to torch the second-year Bullets forward in the two teams’ matchup the very next night.
In fact, Smith apparently had a hunch that a vengeful Jordan would await him by the time both teams completed their overnight trips from Chicago to Washington D.C.
“LaBradford Smith was trying to tell the reporters at postgame to not make a big deal out of it,” said Will Perdue — who, it should be noted, logged a then-career-high 17 points for the Bulls in the March 19 game — on the most recent episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast. “But because it was a career-high, they (the reporters) basically wanted him to say things. And he kinda was hoping that they would kind of brush it aside and be like, ‘Aw, heck, I got lucky.’
“But they wanted to make a big deal about, 'Yo, man, you scored a career high on Michael Jordan.'”
A cursory archive search found no public quotes in any Illinois-based newspaper from Smith after the game in Chicago, which the Bullets lost 104-99. But Jordan’s target had been acquired. That much was understood in the Bulls’ locker room.
“We were talking in the locker room about just, when Michael gets the ball, just get the hell out of the way,” Perdue continued. “Cause he's just gonna go at LaBradford time and time again. And it was kind of like an unwritten rule that everybody knows that Michael has that stat sheet in his back pocket, in his sock. He knows exactly how many points LaBradford scored, and he wants to get that many or more in the first half.
“He didn't make an announcement to me, nor to the team as a whole. He may have voiced a few things to guys he was closer with on the team, but that's the funny thing, it was known by everybody exactly what was going to happen.”
What happened was Jordan dropped 36 points in the first half of the second game (one point shy of his goal of 37), prodding Smith all the way. Jordan finished with 47 on 16-for-27 shooting, Smith with 15 on 5-for-12, and the Bulls won 126-101.
“He took such umbridge at a guy saying ‘Nice game, Mike’ that he torched and humiliated him in front of 20,000 people,” Wilbon said in the documentary, before adding that Jordan admitted to making up the slight.
“I remember we went out for the jump ball, the look on LaBradford Smith's face was just like one of almost utter terror,” Perdue said.
Only Michael Jordan, man.
On the latest Bulls Talk Podcast, Jason Goff, Kendall Gill, K.C. Johnson, David Watson and Perdue recap Episodes 7 and 8 of “The Last Dance,” touching on Jordan’s teammate tyranny, the legacy of James Jordan, Scottie Pippen’s greatness (and the foibles that besmudge it) and much, much more.
Listen here or via the embedded player below:
Bulls Talk Podcast