Steve Kerr Opens Up on Why He Punched Michael Jordan and How it Improved Their Relationship in 'The Last Dance'

Michael Jordan's ultra competitive nature was laid bare throughout the first six episodes of The Last Dance, ESPN's 10-part documentary chronicling his final season with the Chicago Bulls. Berating teammates whom he perceived to be falling short of the incredibly high standards he set was par for the course for Jordan, as former Bulls players have testified during the docu-series.

At times, however, Jordan's ferocious will to win and competitiveness could drive him to cross the line. In Episode 8 of The Last Dance on Sunday, Jordan recalled an incident which unfolded during the training camp ahead of the 1995-96 season, when he traded blows with Bulls guard Steve Kerr.

A particular intense scrimmage took a turn for the worse when the current Golden State Warriors head coach took exception to Jordan's verbal lashing.

"I have a lot of patience as a human being, but I tend to snap at some point 'cause I'm extremely competitive too, just not really good enough to back it up usually, but if I'm going, I'm going to fight," Kerr recalled in the documentary.

"I knew that if we were in an actual fight he could actually probably kill me if he wanted to [...] It was more just I'm going to stand up for myself."

Despite being only 6ft 1, Kerr threw the first punch and hit Jordan in the body, before MJ retaliated and landed a few punches of his own, leaving Kerr with a black eye before teammates managed to separate the duo.

In The Last Dance, however, Jordan revealed he immediately realized his confrontation with Kerr had crossed the line.

"I'm in the shower and I'm saying 'Look, I just beat up the littlest guy on the f*****g court,' and I felt about this small," he recalled.

"So when I get in the car, and I call back to the United Center [the Bulls arena] I said 'Please give me Steve Kerr's number.'

"I call Steve and I apologize and I said 'Look man, it had nothing to do with you. I feel bad.'"

Far from having a destabilizing effect, however, the fracas between Kerr and Jordan only served to strengthen their relationship.

"He [Kerr] earned my respect because he wasn't willing to back down to be a pawn in this whole process," Jordan explained.

Kerr echoed the sentiment, suggesting receiving a phone call from Jordan apologizing for the incident spoke volumes for his teammate.

"We talked it out and it was probably, in a weird way, the best thing that I ever did, was stand up for myself with him because he tested everybody he played with, and I stood up to him," he explained.

"From that point on, our relationship dramatically improved and our trust in each other, everything, it was like 'All right, we got that out of the way, we're going to war together'."

So improved was the relationship between Jordan and Kerr that the former fed the latter in the dying seconds of Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals, with Kerr draining the game-winning three pointer.

Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors
Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors, on the sidelines against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on March 3 in Denver, Colorado. Matthew Stockman/Getty