Christian Laettner Beat Michael Jordan at Ping Pong in 1992 and Lived to Regret It


Legendary NBA photographer Nat Butler was on SLAM’s Respect the Game podcast on Thursday, and it’s a great listen if you like basketball or photography. But the highlight is a story Butler told from his time covering the Dream Team at the 1992 Olympics, and it involves Christian Laettner defeating Michael Jordan at ping pong.

You can probably guess how that eventually turned out for Laettner, but we’ll let Butler take it away. The only thing you need to know is that Team USA was trying to keep the Dream Team from going out too much in Barcelona, so they brought in some games, including a ping pong table.

"These guys are all competitive. They see a ping pong table, the first thing is make the brackets. First thing. Boom. Boom. Boom. For some reason, Christian Laettner was good at ping pong. So, Laettner and Jordan in the finals. Like, there was some side action going on, we’ll leave it at that. Michael is playing ping pong, sweating, like fourth-quarter-at-the-free-throw-line kind of sweat. For some reason, Laettner beat him. He threw the paddle. He didn’t talk for two days to anyone. Come to find out, he had a ping-pong table delivered up to his room. No one knew about it. and he was practicing for the re-match. They had a re-match two days later, three days later. It was (something like) 21-4. He destroyed him."

We may never run out of anecdotes about Michael Jordan’s competitiveness. Let’s hope not, anyway.

Butler says the Dream Team’s card games were the stuff of legend, too.