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George Karl fires back at Michael Jordan over 1996 NBA Finals encounter

NBA, George Karl, Michael Jordan, Bulls

In Episode 8 of The Last Dance, Michael Jordan and Ahmad Rashad recalled a moment before the 1996 NBA Finals in which Seattle SuperSonics head coach George Karl snubbed Jordan at a restaurant.

“He walks right past me. And I look at Ahmad and I said, ‘Really? Oh so that’s how you’re gonna play it?’” the NBA great and Bulls icon remembered about seeing Karl.

“He just kinda went by and I went, ‘Uh oh, should’ve never done that,’” Rashad added.

“I said it’s a crock of sh*t,” Jordan furthered. “We went to Carolina, we know Dean Smith, I seen him in the summer, we play golf. You’re gonna do this? Ok, fine. That’s all I needed. That’s all I needed, for him to do that, and it became personal.”

After the said episode, Karl explained his actions to Frank Isola on SiriusXM NBA Radio.

“We take it to the team that we don’t want any socializing with Michael Jordan … So after that speech, I run into Michael … if I go see Michael, I’m breaking the code with my team. If I don’t go see Michael, I’m he’s probably gonna use it. And I stiffed him,” the ex-NBA coach explained

Karl didn’t regret his actions, and he admitted that he “didn’t know it would be that much of a big deal.”

Given Jordan’s competitive nature and the way he reacted after the controversial Detroit Pistons walk-off, it’s not surprising that he took the snubbing personally. Nonetheless, it’s also hard to blame Karl given that his team was the underdog in the 1996 NBA inals.

Back then, Jordan’s Bulls were heavy favorites over Karl’s Sonics squad led by Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. And, as everyone knows, Karl’s stiffing didn’t help his team’s chances.

The Bulls took a 3-0 series lead and capped off their historic 72-win season in six games. MJ won his fourth Finals MVP, though it was the least sensational Finals of his career (27.3 PPG on 41.5 percent shooting).