Michael Jordan wasn't afraid of trash-talking anybody regardless of the size of the opponent or their talents on the court. His Airness never backed down and when he felt he had surpassed you, Jordan let you know. That was the case with the two biggest figures in the NBA during the 80s, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
The Los Angeles Lakers legend told the story of how he knew it was Michael's time when the Chicago Bulls idol trash-talked the two veterans, telling them there was new management in the NBA, saying it was time for them to call it a career. Back in 2020, Johnson joined ESPN's First Take, where he told this story about Jordan taking over the NBA and letting Magic and Bird that their moment was already gone.
"The scrimmage was the greatest basketball that we all had ever played in because the fact that every player on the team was a Hall of Famer, an All-Star in their own right. And also we had big egos, so we were playing for our ego. We were playing to let guys know that, 'hey, I'm the best at what I do and I'm gonna go head-to-head against you.' So, it was amazing to see Charles Barkley go at his friend Karl Malone and Karl Malone go at Charles. Patrick Ewing against David Robinson. I mean, on and on and on. It made it so amazing and Chuck Daly was the perfect coach for it.
"It was really fun. We got out on them by 10, 12 points, you know. And so, you know, I had to make Michael go to the 'Air Jordan' level. So I said, 'Okay, I'm gonna go here and talk a little trash to him and see what's going to happen' right? And this is when the torch got passed. So I said, 'Look, MJ, if you don't turn into Air Jordan we're gonna blow you guys out.' I've never seen a man take something so personal and then go out there and just take that scrimmage over. It was amazing to see him come out and just dominate and I'm talking about dominate the best in the game. And that's when we know that the torch was being passed from myself and Larry onto Michael.
"But I'm gonna tell you the moment that really got us. So, we got back to the hotel, right. And so, the NBA had built a nice lounge for the players. And so, Michael's up there and he's smoking on his cigar. Larry and I just sitting there, having a Coke or whatever. And he says, guys, and he put his hand on my shoulder, put his hand on Larry's shoulder. And said, 'Guys, there's a new sheriff in town.' And so we was like, 'oh man, what can we say?' We said, 'You know what? You're right, it's your league now.'"
Jordan had won his second title in 1992, where he joined the Dream Team that represented Team USA in the 1992 Olympics. MJ and his teammates played the so-called greatest game ever and torched Johnson and his team. The rest is history. He stated the NBA was his league now and there was nothing Johnson and Bird could do to stop that. They were constantly teasing each other, with Magic saying if you were to close to Jordan, that would be a foul.
Mike went to win four more championships, becoming the greatest player of all time in the eyes of many, leaving a huge mark on the game. During that tournament, MJ revealed he studied his teammates, who would later try to dethrone him in the NBA, making it clear he wasn't there just to beat other countries but to get ready for the next seasons.