You know that Michael Jordan returned from his second retirement for a late-career spell with the Wizards from 2001-03 — even if “The Last Dance” didn’t tell you.
But did you know that Jordan spent the summer leading up to his return playing in pickup games with NBA stars on the (relative) low as he plotted a return? And, in one of said games, Jordan sustained multiple broken ribs at the hands of Metta World Peace (then Ron Artest), slightly delaying his impending comeback?
Appearing on the Scoop B Radio Podcast hosted by Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson, World Peace recounted playing in the game in question, and regretfully conceded that he was the culprit of Jordan’s injury — while also noting that he drew a charge on the play that caused it (yes, Jordan enlisted referees). One can only imagine how competitive those runs were.
“It was a mistake. Actually I’m not going to tell you it was a mistake, it was really aggressive basketball,” World Peace told Scoop. “You got to think how strong Mike is and how competitive Mike is and when we were tangling over each other in the post in the summertime, I tried to move his arm out the way and accidently hit him with my elbow…
“I definitely didn’t mean to hit him in the ribs, but I was really aggressive; whatever I had to do to deny Mike. I remember the play clear as day — I actually got the offensive foul called against Mike. I also hit the ball and got an offensive foul on him. He had refs in the summertime. Which is (a) really good play for me because it was a great defensive play. But I hurt his ribs and I was like, really sad for a couple of days. You know, I really didn’t like that.”
This was the summer after World Peace’s second season in the NBA and with the Bulls. He said on the podcast that he remembered the game taking place at Hoops the Gym on the West Side of Chicago.
Reports from the time confirm the principles of World Peace’s story. By that summer, it was well known that Jordan, who then served as the president of basketball operations for the Wizards, wanted to make an NBA return — in fact, he’d reportedly shed 30 pounds in three months of training in an attempt to get back down to his playing weight.
But on June 20, 2001, The Daily Herald reported that Jordan broke two ribs in the aforementioned game, which also featured the likes of Charles Barkley, Antoine Walker, Nazr Mohammed, George McCloud and A.J. Guyton. Jamal Crawford was watching from the sideline.
In announcing the news of Jordan’s injury, Wizards coach Doug Collins projected a six-to-eight week recovery timeline but relayed that Jordan viewed the setback as minor.
How minor? Well, World Peace had apparently requested to guard Jordan, but told the Daily Herald afterwards he wasn’t sure if he was the one that had broken his ribs because Jordan didn’t noticeably react to the blow. Classic.
“I’m not sure what happened,” he told the Herald at the time. “I was just guarding him. I was just trying to get position because he was posting me up. I don’t even recall him stopping for a brief second. Mike probably won’t show any pain."
Now, we can tie a bow on this story for good. Jordan made his second return official by signing with the Wizards on Sep. 25 of that year. World Peace was traded to the Indiana Pacers midway through the 2001-02 season, and the rest, as they say, is history.