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Fact-checking Michael Jordan

The best part of Michael Jordan's oddly vindictive but revealing induction speech at the Basketball Hall of Fame was his story about Utah Jazz guard Bryon Russell:

"I was in Chicago in 1994 and at this time I had no thoughts of coming back and playing the game of basketball," Jordan said. "Bryon Russell came over to me and said, 'Why'd you quit? You know I could guard you.’ When I did come back in 1995 and we played Utah in '96, I'm at the center circle and Bryon Russell is standing next to me. I said, 'You remember the [remarks] you made in 1994 about, 'I think I can guard you, I can shut you down, I would love to play against you? Well, you're about to get your chance.'"

When I heard this, I had two immediate--and related--thoughts: "bullshit" and "LaBradford Smith." Here's a 1998 Michael Wilbon column about Jordan that explains my reaction:

He created challenges where other players saw nothing. 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.

Now, here's where the good stuff starts. Jordan, with that signature wink, finally admitted last year he'd made up the whole thing. What's even more amazing is that the Bullets players were so in awe of him, Smith never denied the story and his teammates believed Jordan. In fact, Bullets who didn't even play with Smith had passed on the story and believed it. Even more amazing: Jordan used a fictional story to fire himself up, meaning more than likely, he had to believe the story.

But it turns out that Russell says Jordan's story about him is true:

Russell said Jordan’s story was accurate and that he was honored, not offended, by his words.

“It was during my rookie year,” Russell said. “He turned to Karl [Malone] and said, ‘Hey Karl, is that your rookie?’ I really did say that to him. Karl was laughing and [Jordan] was laughing, too. …I guess I motivated him to come back. There had to be other reasons. You know he likes all challenges.

Russell has also challenged Jordan to a pick-up game.