In the summer before Jordan returned back from retirement for the second time, there was a lot of speculation on whether or not he would still be an effective player at the age of 38. Jordan was in retirement for three years, and so many people — from the media, players, and executives thought that MJ was just going to waste his time. In fact, one superstar back then even told Jordan himself not to return because he'll only get embarrassed on the court, to which MJ had the perfect response.
"The Star and MJ crossed paths ... and The Star started talking smack to MJ, good-natured stuff. You better not come back. This is our league now. We don't want to embarrass you. That kind of stuff. And Jordan was nodding happily, finally saying, "When's our first game against you guys? I'm gonna make it a point to drop 40 on you," Bill Simmons wrote as published in ESPN's archives.
While Simmons didn't specify who the star was, the long-time sports analyst mentioned that this took place in the 2001 Summer League, which was held in Los Angeles. It happened at a time when Jordan was in the house, and as soon as the 6-time champion told the supposed star that he was going to drop 40 on him the next time they met, the latter's coach was furious.
"Of course, as the story goes, the star's coach caught wind of this running exchange and immediately headed over to pull his player away from Jordan. And as they walked away, the coach told the star, "Never talk to him. You hear me? That's the one guy you don't talk smack to!"
Even after three years spent in retirement, coaches feared their players talking smack at MJ because they knew what kind of player he was and what made him the greatest of all time. Simmons said that Jordan was the basketball version of a sleeping tiger because his opponents preferred to leave him alone instead of trash-talking him.
"In a league full of smack-talkers, chest-thumpers, and yappers, amazingly, Jordan remained completely off-limits..," Simmons reiterated.
Jordan's opponents knew that once they trash-talked him — even in the smallest of ways — the tiger would wake up.