January 18, 1998
"Charles is not Charles with his mouth shut. That's like me playing.with hair." -- Jordan.
Rockets were playing without the injured Hakeem and Drexler. Pippen was playing only his 5th game after returning from his long injury. The stage was set for two old friends and they didn't disappoint.
They were both 35 years old but their competitive fire was still young. Besides the great performances, there was lots of thrash talking, fun and mutual respect for one another. The only thing missing were the cracked asphalt and chain nets.
Post game notes & quotes:
CHICAGO -- They yapped, jawed and traded barbs. They crashed to the floor together after one under-the-basket collision. And after a timeout, they exchanged a lighthearted head butt.
It wasn't the playground, just two highly paid NBA stars and two good friends, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley, going at one another on national TV on a Sunday afternoon at Chicago. Maybe for one of the last times.
"There was a lot of trash talking today, most done by me and Charles. It just adds to the game," Jordan said after scoring 45 points and leading the Chicago Bulls past Barkley and the Houston Rockets, 106-100.
"Charles is not Charles with his mouth shut," Jordan said. "That's like me playing with hair."
"You may see us jawing at each other every now and then. I think the fans get an understanding of the competitiveness between us and it's not done in a nasty way. It's done with a lot of smiling," Jordan added.
"We're trying to jockey for the referees' preference."
Barkley, like Jordan, did more than run his mouth. He scored 35 points - 19 over his average - and had 14 rebounds but still the Rockets lost for the 10th time in 14 games.
"It was old-time trash-talking," Barkley said. "These kids today think trash-talking means getting real personal and challenging your manhood. They're missing the point. It's just about trying to get to the other guy a little bit, having fun.
"This was like it used to be when (Larry) Bird and Magic (Johnson) went at it. Or when Isiah (Thomas) was doing his thing with the Pistons.
"I went by him once and told him, `You're an old man.' He's two days older than me.
"He told me, `You got no chance today, and you never will.' It was all stuff like that."
"We are tight, very tight. That was just us playing around," Barkley added. "Michael is like a brother to me. We have a great relationship, but we also love competing like cats and dogs when we play each other. He wants it badly, I want it badly. He likes to beat me, I like to beat him. I hate (bleeping) losing, I can tell you that. But our friendship is bigger than basketball and any one game, believe me. "
"Me and Michael will carry on as friends forever. He's done so much for me, and I feel I've done some things to help him along the way. After we're done playing this game, we'll be golfing until the day we die."
"Every time we have the opportunity to compete, we realize it may be the last," said Jordan.
"We're friends, but I don't feel sorry for him. One of us has to lose and I'd rather it be him."
It's the law of the playground. No breaks, no sympathy. Especially for your brother.
The Rockets played without injured stars Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler and then lost guard Mario Elie with 6:54 left in the first half when he strained his left shoulder after colliding under the basket with Scottie Pippen.
But every time it looked like the Bulls would run away, Houston fought back with determined play from Barkley, who made 11-of-14 field goal attempts.
Barkley's intensity and aggressiveness made Dennis Rodman (no points, five rebounds in 35 minutes) ineffective, turning the NBA's leading rebounder into a pussycat with leopard-spotted hair.
"Charles doesn't take any of the mess that Dennis may try to do to other players to get into their minds," Jordan said.
"Actually, I think Charles tries to beat him to the punch early. In Phoenix (two years ago), he threw an elbow at Dennis and more or less held him at bay the rest of the game. Today, he threw Dennis down early. (Barkley) got a foul, but I think it set the precedent to Dennis that he's not going to manhandle (Barkley)."
Four points by Othella Harrington and Emanual Davis's three-pointer highlighted an 11-2 fourth-quarter run that got the Rockets within 90-87.
Jordan then hit a pair of three-pointers and Scott Burrell added another as Chicago went up 10 with just more than four minutes remaining.
Jordan's 45 points marked his seventh game of at least 40 points this season.