Former Bull Will Perdue talks Michael Jordan and sucker punches
Episodes 7 and 8 of “The Last Dance’’ have been teased already to feature the time MJ sucker-punched Steve Kerr in practice, but years earlier, it was former center Will Perdue who felt the wrath of His Airness in a practice incident.
Former Bulls big man Will Perdue doesn’t need to watch snippets and teasers of Michael Jordan throwing a punch at a teammate.
He lived it.
In hyping the seventh and eighth episodes of “The Last Dance’’ for this Sunday, ESPN announced that Jordan’s punching of former teammate Steve Kerr in the face will be featured.
But years before the outside-shooting specialist tasted Jordan’s knuckles in practice, Perdue feasted on them in similar fashion.
As Perdue tells it, he was just following orders from former assistant/defensive coach Johnny Bach and coach Phil Jackson.
Bach wanted to test Jordan in a practice, so he asked Perdue to “lay some wood on him’’ in a drill to see if they could get Jordan to react to consistent screens for the shooter he was being asked to defend.
Perdue said some of the screens were clean and some were right out of the Bill Laimbeer book of heavy contact.
Jordan warned Perdue that if he made excessive contact with him once more, there would be consequences, but the 7-1 center wasn’t about to back down to the alpha male in the practice gym. Perdue nailed Jordan again and stood over him a bit after he fell to the floor. As promised, when Jordan got to his feet, he punched Perdue in the face.
Perdue, who does pregame and postgame analysis for the Bulls’ studio show, admitted that teammates jumped in before it could escalate, but Jordan “got me pretty good.’’
But he doesn’t perceive it as the dark side of playing with Jordan.
“This is a conversation I’ve had with [former Bulls] B.J. [Armstrong], Bill Cartwright, Horace [Grant] where we’re all old enough now where we can look back that maybe my actions weren’t right, but at the time, everything that was going on, how competitive we were, yeah, I made some mistakes,’’ Perdue told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Perdue took it a step further and said that’s what has really impressed him about the first six episodes of the documentary. Jordan had a say in how he would be portrayed on the show before it aired and has allowed his true self to be revealed.
The good, the bad and the ugly.
“In my opinion, this has been very accurate of Michael,’’ Perdue said. “I always tell people, if you really want to know who Michael is, go back and look at his Hall of Fame speech.’’
Rather than take the humble route, Jordan called out all the doubters in his career and made sure they knew they were wrong in the speech. It was borderline vicious.
“Some people were like, ‘What a [jerk], what an a—hole, he’s not humble,’ ’’ Perdue said. “No, you don’t get it. That’s actually Michael Jordan thanking people for doubting him. That’s how he’s always been. I stand by my quote at the end of Episode 4. We saw Michael bawling [after winning it all in ’91] in the locker room, and my quote was, ‘That’s not an emotion we saw from him.’ Yeah, he would laugh a lot . . . at your expense. He would joke a lot with guys. But most of the emotion we saw from him was anger, frustration and disappointment because of the inability to get over the hump.’’