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LeBron James at 15, breaking Michael Jordan’s ribs – Metta World Peace recalls offseason matches

May 14 2018 5:09 PM

Offseason matches with Metta World Peace sound incredible.

During the early stages of the former forward's career – when he was still known as Ron Artest Jr – he prepared for a new campaign with a host of other stars in Chicago.

Among those he came up against were LeBron James, while he was still in high school, and six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan.

In an extract from his new book 'No Malice: My Life in Basketball or: How a Kid from Queensbridge Survived the Streets, the Brawls, and Himself to Become an NBA Champion' released to Omnisport, he details encounters with two of the game's biggest names.

World Peace wrote: "In the offseason, a bunch of us used to play in Chicago at Hoops the Gym. I always liked to play ball, and I didn't care where or when. I knew a bunch of pros used to go over there so when I got the opportunity to play with them, of course I went. Michael Finley, Jerry Stackhouse, Ray Allen, Tim Hardaway, Juwan Howard, and Antoine Walker would be there. Charles Barkley showed up a couple times. A 15-year-old LeBron James would play with us, and he was killing it. Even as a teenager playing against pros, he could hold his own.

"But the guy who organised those games and was there every day was Michael Jordan. He had just announced his return from his second retirement and would be playing for the Washington Wizards the following season, but during the summer he was out in Chicago and working hard. Jordan was really something else. He had always been super competitive, but from what I saw of him that summer I thought he might even get MVP the following year.

"Whenever I matched up against him, I tried to never let him breathe. I made sure to be all over him. He liked that and he always wanted me to come to the gym. We were talking after a pickup game once and he told me, 'I wish I could have played against you when I was younger.' I took that as a big compliment. Of course, he'd still score because he was so damn good. Jordan played hard all the time and those games were some of the toughest games I played in. Those games made me so much better.

"That's why I was so upset when I learned that I had broken Michael's ribs.

"I always played hard but I never meant to injure him. I saw one report that claimed I bodyslammed him to the ground, but it didn't happen like that. Not at all. It happened during a pickup game in the summer of 2001. Jordan was posting me up on the right block. He was so strong that it was hard to get in front of him. It seemed like he scored every time he got the ball, so the best way to stop him was to prevent him from getting the ball in the first place. That's what I was trying to do, but he had his left arm holding me back. We were battling. I used my right arm to try and get his left arm out of the way, but my elbow hit him in the ribs. I could tell something happened because of the way he grunted. He was holding his ribs on his way down the court. It looked like he was going to take himself out of the game, but he stayed in and then drained a 15-foot jumper off the dribble to win the game. Then he walked off the court.

"I went home that day and thought everything was cool. Then I got a call and learned that I had broken Michael Jordan's ribs. I didn't leave the house for two days. I couldn't believe it. Jordan had just come out of retirement and was playing so well, and now I was going to get blamed for possibly ending his career for good. All kinds of thoughts went through my head.

"On that third day, Jordan called me himself. I wasn't expecting that at all. I didn't recognise the number when I answered the phone. 'Can I speak to Ron?' came the voice on the other side. Who's this?' 'It's M.J.' 'I'm so sorry about what happened.' 'Don't worry about it.' 'My bad, I was just playing hard.' 'I know. Things happen. Forget about it.' And that was it. Hearing from Jordan made me feel a little better about the whole thing. I finally left my house and went to the gym that day to work out.

"The rib injury knocked Jordan out for three months. When he came back, he went on to average 22.9 points per game that season. To average 22.9 points coming off broken ribs at his age was unbelievable. What could he have done if he was healthy the whole year? I felt like such an a******, because if he didn't get hurt he might have averaged 30 or 35."

 

This excerpt from No Malice: My Life in Basketball or: How a Kid from Queensbridge Survived the Streets, the Brawls, and Himself to Become an NBA Champion, by Metta World Peace, is presented with permission from Triumph Books. For more information or to order a copy please visit www.triumphbooks.com/nomalice.

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