It did not take much to get Michael Jordan worked up and into attack mode on the basketball court. An opponent speaking to him in a certain tone would be perceived as a slight and used for motivation.
Michael Wilbon formerly of the Washington Post, chronicled a great example of Jordan taking the smallest thing as mockery and subsequently unleashing basketball fury on an opponent.
"To this day, my favorite one is the LaBradford Smith saga. The story goes that back when Smith was playing for the Bullets, he scored 37 against Jordan and the Bulls one night in Chicago. Jordan put out the word that Smith had mocked him by saying, “Nice game, Mike.” Jordan said he wanted all 37 back in the first half the next night in Capital Centre, and he got 36 of them. By halftime."
Michael Jordan would even concoct challenges when there were none available, in order to stay motivated to the highest level. He did whatever it took, to obtain a mental edge.
Michael even challenged himself during the 1992 Olympics, where the undefeated “Dream Team” won their games by an Olympic record of 43.8 points per game. That record still stands today and may not be broken anytime soon with the global nature of the game, leading to improved national teams around the world.
Melissa Isaacson of ESPN Chicago gives us details of a challenge that Jordan manufactured, when playing golf with assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo during the gold medal run. Isaacson’s 2009 ESPN article chronicled the challenge and quoted Jordan’s formed head coach turned color commentator Doug Collins, telling the story.
"“Looking for a way to get himself fired up,” said Collins, “he said to P.J., ‘I’ll bet you when I’m in the game tonight, my man doesn’t touch the ball.’ “I’m broadcasting the game and watching Michael and he’s like a rabid dog chasing a kid. The U.S. is up like 40 points and I’m watching Michael and he is not going to let his man touch the ball. He was walking next to the guy toward the huddle at the timeout and he just pointed at P.J.”"