Will Perdue: Michael Jordan Punched Me In The Face

One day at practice, Perdue knocked Jordan to the floor; Jordan didn't like that – and responded accordingly

Zach Gelb
May 05, 2020 - 10:02 am
Michael Jordan

USA Today Images

Categories: 

Given how competitive Michael Jordan was at, well, pretty much everything, it’s no surprise that he treated practices like games. In fact, as detailed in The Last Dance, teammates were not immune to his wrath.

Will Perdue knows this firsthand. One day at practice stands out in particular.

“We were going at it one day at practice, and I was setting some hard screens on him – because we were emulating what [our next] opponent was going to do,” Perdue explained on The Zach Gelb Show. “They were going to try to run him off a bunch of screens, physically abuse him like the Pistons did, like the Knicks did, try to wear him down. The thought was he would be less competitive or have less energy or desire to attack the basket in the fourth quarter. So I made sure that, as the saying goes, I was laying some wood on him, occasionally knocking him down.”

Jordan didn’t like that.

“He got mad and told me if I did it again, he was going to punch me,” Perdue recalled. “I was like, ‘Well, all right.’ And our coach immediately yelled, ‘Run it again!’ So I was like, ‘Listen, if he’s going to punch me, I’m going to make sure I get my money’s worth.’ I did. And then he popped up and swung at me. I was able to duck just enough where he kind of clipped me across the temple instead of getting a square shot.”

Perdue’s initial response? Swing back.

“Well, I was kind of stunned at first,” he said, “and then once I realized what happened, I went to go at him – and then [power forward] Eddie Nealy was behind me and he grabbed me and he just said, ‘That’s probably not a good idea.’ That’s the other thing. We basically separated. There were no apologies issued. We were just like, ‘Hey, no big deal.’ I didn’t sit here and say, ‘Hey, I got to get this guy back.’ Practice continued. We didn’t have a meeting afterward to clear the air. We just knew it was just part of the competition of practicing, of going against each other.”

Jordan swung at various teammates over the years, including Steve Kerr.

“We used to have altercations like that all the time,” Perdue said. “The reason why I say altercations is because NBA players don’t fight. The only time we technically ever throw punches is when it’s one-and-done like that instance – or we wait for somebody to get in between us and then we reach around and try to get in a cheap shot. But basketball players are not fighters. . . . We had had some other altercations, but it’s mostly shoving, pushing matches. But we always knew that when you stepped on the floor, [it was time] to compete. That’s what he did.”

In hindsight, Jordan’s intensity isn’t surprising. Heck, it wasn’t even surprising in real time.

“This is the guy that would get so heated when the second unit would occasionally beat the first unit that he would yell that the coaches were cheating him because they weren’t giving him the calls and he’d leave,” Perdue said. He’d leave practice. Walk out.”

While trash talk is not uncommon in practice, Jordan wasn’t in the business of making idle threats. If a warning went unheeded, there would be consequences.

“Players always say a lot of stuff during practice – I’m going to kick your ass – but stuff like that never materializes,” Perdue said. “It was a little surprising, but like I said, I really didn’t give it a second thought. I didn’t sit in the parking lot and wait for him to come out after practice.”