Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

The time Bobby Knight made Michael Jordan cry during 1984 Olympics

Patrick Ewing, Vern Fleming, Alvin Robertson, Michael Jordan, Joe Kleine, Jon Koncak, Chris Mullin At The 1984 Summer Olympics

Los Angeles, CA - 1984: (L-R) Patrick Ewing, Vern Fleming, Alvin Robertson, Michael Jordan, Joe Kleine, Jon Koncak, Chris Mullin, Men’s Basketball USA vs. Spain, the Forum, at the 1984 Summer Olympics, August 10, 1984. (Photo by Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)

Walt Disney Television via Getty

Bobby Knight was hard on people. And chairs.

The legendary Indiana coach was as old-school, break-you-down, I-say-jump-you-say-how-high as it gets. He was that way with everyone.

That includes Michael Jordan, who had just been drafted before the 1984 Olympics and turned out to be the star of Team USA that year.

The USA beat West Germany by 11 points in the first round of knockout play in the games, and Knight was not happy with the performance of Jordan or his team. NBC Sports Olympic Talk takes it from there.

Earlier in the Olympics, Knight moved Jordan to tears, ordering him to apologize to his teammates for a six-turnover performance in a win over West Germany.

“You should be embarrassed by the way you played,” he yelled at Jordan, according to “Michael Jordan: The Life,” by Roland Lazenby. Sam Perkins, a teammate at North Carolina and at the Olympics, confirmed the story in 2016.

“He told Michael that’s the worst he ever played,” Perkins said in radio interview. “Now, Michael’s going to deny this, but he cried.”...

“I don’t know if I would have done [the 1984 Olympics] if I knew what Knight was going to be like,” [Jordan] said in March 1991, according to Sam Smith‘s book, “The Jordan Rules.”

Jordan — on a team with future Hall of Famers Chris Mullin and Patrick Ewing — led the team in scoring at 17.1 points per game. As noted in The Last Dance documentary, if the Olympics had been played before the 1984 NBA Draft, Jordan doesn’t fall to the Bulls at No. 3, Jordan was that good.And before the gold medal game against Spain, Jordan left Knight a note.

Knight was preparing the pre-game points to make to the team. He found a note smack in the middle of the locker-room blackboard. It was a yellow piece of paper from a legal pad.

“Coach: Don’t worry. We’ve put up with too much s— to lose now.”

“I still have the paper,” Knight wrote in his book, first published in 2002. “And I don’t have any doubt about its author. By then, I knew what Michael Jordan’s handwriting looked like. I looked at that note, and everybody was watching. Michael had his head down, but he couldn’t resist looking to see what I was going to do. All I said was, ‘Okay, let’s go play.’”

Jordan had 20 points and the USA routed Spain 96-65 to run away with Jordan’s first gold medal. He would be back eight years later, with a few friends in tow like Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley, to claim another.