Russell: Jordan 'afraid' to play him
Bryon Russell has challenged Michael Jordan to a game of one-on-one
Russell claims the six-time NBA champion agreed to play but is now balking
Jordan called out Russell, a former teammate and rival, during his HOF speech
Bryon Russell wasn't joking when he challenged Michael Jordan to a game of one-on-one after being called out in Jordan's Hall of Fame induction speech. But Russell is beginning to think that Jordan was kidding when he agreed to play.
In an interview with SI.com on Friday, Russell said he spoke to Jordan a few days after the speech in September and outlined a scenario in which the two would face off for charity. Russell said Jordan agreed pending review of an official proposal. According to Russell, he had the plan drawn up a month later but Jordan hasn't returned his calls.
"I got everything together that he wanted and now I'm just waiting on his response," said Russell, Jordan's teammate with the Wizards during the 2002-03 season. "I don't know if he's scared or what."
The proposed pay-per-view matchup would take place in Las Vegas in late June or July. While the game would benefit charity, Russell, 38, indicated that he's lined up sponsors and investors who could give Jordan, 46, a multimillion-dollar payday.
"If he looked at this, I guarantee you he wouldn't turn this down," said Russell, who retired in 2006. "Let's just say it's what he asked for and more. It's going to be like a fight night but bigger. Can you imagine Vegas if this happened? Michael Jordan coming out of retirement to play one more time against Bryon Russell in a one-one-one, winner-take-all game -- it would be huge."
During his Hall of Fame speech, Jordan recalled how Russell teased him when the two saw each other in 1994. Russell was a rookie with the Jazz and Jordan had retired to play minor league baseball.
"[A]t 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 did 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 [comments] 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.' "
In the 1998 NBA Finals, Jordan hit the defining shot of his career over Russell, a championship-clinching jumper that gave him six titles with the Bulls.
"From this day forward," Jordan said in his speech, "if I ever see him in shorts, I'm coming at him."
Russell, however, has his doubts.
"I think he's afraid to play me," Russell said. "I know he has an image, but I don't think this game would hurt it. Who can hurt Mike's image? I don't think I can. I was happy when I called him out of retirement and he came back, and I want to see him do it again. I hope he takes me seriously because I'm taking him seriously. I know I'm not going to lose. I would whup his ass."
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