Longtime NBA journeyman John Salley recalled a story from yesteryear, as the former Detroit Pistons center was once punched by Michael Jordan’s loyal henchman and former Chicago Bulls teammate Charles Oakley.
Salley, who won two titles with the Detroit Pistons at the turn of the decade (1989, 1990), joined the Bulls during the 1995-96 season for a mere 17 games. While his 17 games played and averages of 2.1 points and 2.5 rebounds during that stint aren’t much of a story to tell, getting punched by Oakley is.
While at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby, Salley was around comedians Dave Chappelle and Chris Tucker as well as a then-retired Julius Erving, then seeing Jordan and Kobe Bryant:
Transcript via Dan Feldman of NBC Sports:
“Off to the right is Charles Oakley, who, if you don’t know, is Michael’s security guard forever and didn’t like me,” Salley recalled to Dan LeBatard on his ESPN Radio show. “So, I look at Michael, and I said, “Wait, at 27 years old” – whatever, 27 – I put my hand on Michael’s shoulder, and I go, “At 27 years old, young boy would have given you the business.”
And out of the blue, Charles Oakley comes and punches me in the stomach. But I mean the way he wanted to hit Dolan. Not the way he was pushing the security guard. He unleashed on me, Dan. And I saw it at the last second and tightened up a little bit. He knocked all the air out of me.
And Dave Chappelle said, “This is the only time I wish I still had my show. This is a scene.”
And Michael is like, “No, come on Charles. You know Sal is crazy. He’s just joking. He’s just joking.”
He’s like, “I don’t like when he talks that stuff to you.” He’s been wanting to hit me since the 80s. But, man, he hit me with everything he could.
I had a suit on, too. And I wasn’t going to stand back up and fight him. I’m a karate man. I bruise on the inside.
Salley was more known for his jokester nature than his play, but ribbing Jordan earned him a few of Oakley’s knuckles down the solar plexus.
No matter the training, there’s not much Salley could have done after getting the wind knocked out of him. Comparing Jordan to Bryant was enough to get Oakley riled up and give him a good reason to give The Spider a piece of his mind.