If "The Last Dance" made one thing clear, it was Michael Jordan's ability to punish virtually any perceived slight from an opponent. Whether it was Karl Malone, George Karl , or even such as the one he created with Washington Bullets guard LaBradford Smith, Jordan used any motivation he could find as fuel in his quest for championships.
That personality trait didn't go away after retirement, though. When Jordan took over as president of basketball operations for The Washington Wizards, one of his players, Laron Profit, talked trash to him throughout the 2000-01 season. As Richard Hamilton explained on Showtime's "All The Smoke," that eventually led to Jordan trading Profit to the Orlando Magic during the 2001 offseason. Below is the story, as transcribed by SLAM Magazine.
"We used to talk trash to M.J. all the time, but it was only certain things that I would say. And [Profit] would sometimes say a little bit of extra stuff that… I wouldn't go there.
"I remember one time, we were playing in practice, and Prof might've hit a shot on MJ, and he was running down court. 'Yeah, you can't guard me with them old-ass knees.'" […]
"M.J. was heated. He was heated to the point that when I went to my exit meeting, [Jordan] was like, 'Your man, he outta here.'"
Jordan eventually proved Profit wrong on the court. He returned to play two seasons for the Wizards and made the All-Star Game in both. Profit, meanwhile, played only 135 total NBA games, fewer than Jordan did as a Wizard alone, and averaged only 3.3 points. Jordan's old knees were apparently still athletic enough to allow him to outperform Profit deep into his 30's.
The irony in all of this is that Jordan himself. Yet when someone came back at him, his response was to trade him. Jordan, it seems, was capable of dishing it out by not taking it back.