When a 37-year-old Michael Jordan retired for the second time after winning his sixth NBA title, the spot as the number one option for the Chicago Bulls in the 1997-1998 season was wide open. While they did still have guys like Toni Kukoc and Ron Harper, rookie Corey Benjamin was looking to become the heir to Jordan.
Benjamin was taken in the first round of the 1998 NBA draft out of Oregon State with the 28th pick. Some draft experts even called him the second coming of Jordan.
Whenever Harper or Dickey Simpkins would call Jordan after practice, Benjamin would try his best to get his voice heard. But he wasn't doing it so that he'd get his childhood idol to acknowledge him. Whenever he and Jordan got a chance to chat, he'd talk so much trash and tell him he could beat him 1 on 1. The back-and-forth between the two lasted for a month until Jordan decided to see Benjamin up close when the Bulls had a road game against the Atlanta Hawks.
True to his word, Jordan showed up. While Benjamin was with Harper and Randy Brown in the trainer's room, Jordan suddenly appeared. And the first thing he did was walk up to Benjamin and ask him: “What did you say?!” Benjamin didn't shy away from Jordan though. He doubled down on his statement and told him “I think I can get that.” “I’ll be at your practice in a few days, and we’ll see if you can get that,” Jordan replied.
Jordan shows up to practice to humble Benjamin.
On a random morning after practice, Michael Jordan shows up on a random Wednesday wearing a black sweatsuit at the Berto Center and says, “I’m about to give you your chance.” As per the Chicago Tribune, Jordan made his first five shots easily and talked trash after every single bucket. Benjamin made it interesting though scoring nine points. On the game-winning shot Jordan made to seal the victory (11-9), Jordan yelled “Sit down and don’t call me out of retirement again.”
The day Jordan visited the Bulls after practice was the lone bright spot on what turned out to be a disappointing season. The Bulls had the second-worst record in the league with a record of 13-37 in the shortened lockout season. For Benjamin, he finished his rookie season playing 31 games averaging 3.1 PPG and 1.3 RPG. He'd go to play three more seasons in the NBA and played overseas until 2007.