Michael Jordan faced off against big rivals during his 15-year NBA career, starring in some memorable duels with some guards that tried to make life a lot harder for him. Isiah Thomas and Gary Payton are the first people that you think of when talking about the hardest rivals His Airness clashed with, but during his last two seasons in the league, MJ went against another one that always wanted to stop him.
Utah Jazz's Bryon Russell tried his best to stop the Chicago Bulls legend, sometimes having more success than others. Still, in the most important duel between these two, MJ hit an iconic shot to beat Russell and his Jazz in the NBA Finals. There was no lost love between them, and they always made that clear.
Things haven't changed since the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals, and over a decade after that moment, with both players out of the league, Russell issued a challenge to His Airness to play a one-on-one duel.
During his Hall of Fame speech in 2009, MJ took a jab at his former rival, remembering his competitive days and saying that if he ever saw Russell rocking shorts, he'll try to beat him (21:00 mark):
“From this day forward, if I ever see [Bryon] in shorts, I’m coming at him.”
Of course, Russell wouldn't take those comments kindly and fired back at MJ, challenging him to a one-on-one duel, making it clear he's always ready to go at it against anybody.
“I’ll play his ass right now,” Russell said via Yahoo Sports in 2009. “This is a call-out for him to come play me. He can come out here in his private jet and come play. He’s got millions of dollars. He can pay for the jet. He can meet me at the Recreation Center in Calabasas. We can have Mark Jackson do the commentating. We can have Mitch Richmond do the officiating. We can put it on TV and see if Michael’s still got it. I keep my basketball shorts on.”
Russell would reveal in 2013 that he tried to set up a televised one-on-one game with Jordan, but No. 23 never agreed to that idea. Bryon added that MJ didn't give a good reason for that, just didn't want to do it, and that was it.
The former Jazz player also showed up to a hoax organized by the team's G League affiliated, going against a Jordan lookalike. The problem was that many fans believed he was facing the original Jordan, creating many issues for the Utah Flash financially speaking.
These two have some serious history, but it doesn't seem like MJ is too bothered to play Russell again after beating him in the Finals.