Rodman and the Detroit Pistons dominated the Bulls in the playoffs, defeating Chicago in three consecutive seasons between 1988 and 1990 en route to three straight NBA Finals appearances and a pair of championships. But Jordan and the Bulls emphatically turned the tide during the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals, sweeping the “Bad Boys” and vanquishing old demons in the process.
Before the series even ended, Jordan made statements about a Bulls victory being good for the NBA while decrying the Pistons’ physical style. Rodman suggested MJ stop complaining and use his gratuitous financial wealth to do something about it.
Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, and the Bulls ripped the “Bad Boy” Pistons during the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals
Michael Jordan and the Bulls thought of themselves as the conquering heroes as they steamrolled over Dennis Rodman and the Pistons in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals.
Jordan and head coach Phil Jackson were vocal about the Pistons essentially being bad for the NBA and suggested fans disagreed with Detroit’s physical and intimidating style. While His Airness said he had respect for the reigning champions, he stated (h/t former Chicago Tribune writer Sam Smith) that the “Bad Boys” had set a poor example for the rest of the league.
The Bulls star and his head coach repeatedly suggested the Bulls offered a “clean” version of basketball. Indeed, Chicago’s brand differed quite a bit from Detroit’s.
The Pistons weren’t afraid to establish a psychological advantage by knocking opponents to the ground. Rodman certainly played a role in enhancing the “Bad Boy” image as a versatile forward who did not let his athleticism overpower his willingness to sacrifice his body and challenge Detroit’s adversaries.
Like some of his fellow teammates, Rodman grew increasingly tired of the perceived whining and disrespect coming from Jordan and the Bulls. He suggested that if MJ cared so deeply about the Pistons’ style impacting the NBA’s image, he should do something about it.
Dennis Rodman said Michael Jordan should buy the Pistons and said the Bulls hadn’t accomplished “anything”
Rodman had a simple retort for Michael Jordan: If the “Bad Boys” are so bad for the rest of the NBA, then he should buy the team and change the culture.
The former Pistons stars admonished the Bulls for failing to give Detroit its just due as back-to-back champions and said Chicago complained endlessly throughout the series. He boldly said (h/t the Chicago Tribune) Jordan should act instead of making grandiose statements in the media.
At this point, Jordan had already established himself as the face of the NBA, though he’d yet to attain the ultimate team goal. His endorsements with Nike, Gatorade, and others made him a cultural force. He probably did have pockets deep enough to make a bid for the Pistons if he truly wanted, though it was likely more of a tongue-in-cheek comment on Rodman’s part.
The Worm wasn’t done ripping into the Bulls, either. He said Chicago hadn’t proved “anything” and the Bulls needed to win “five or six championships” before being considered a “great” team. That’s an interesting statement, seeing as the Pistons only had two Larry O’Brien Trophies.
Regardless, Rodman’s words proved eerily prophetic, at least as far as the Bulls were concerned. Dennis the Menace ultimately played a pivotal role in solidifying a dynasty in the Windy City.
Rodman helped MJ and the Bulls to a three-peat
Even though he terrorized the Bulls for years as a “Bad Boy,” Rodman eventually found a home in Chicago.
Former Bulls general manager Jerry Krause decided Rodman, who at this point had gone through tumultuous stints in San Antonio, was the final piece Chicago needed to get back to the top. Krause capitalized on Rodzilla being ostracized by the Spurs, trading backup center Will Perdue to San Antonio in exchange for the polarizing forward.
The rest is history. Rodman gave the Bulls an essential defensive presence at the power forward spot. He played with boundless energy and gave Chicago a constant edge on the glass, extending his rebounding title reign to seven consecutive seasons in his three-year stint with the Bulls.
With Rodman anchoring the frontcourt, Michael Jordan and the Bulls three-peated from 1996 to 1998. His Airness added to his reputation as arguably the greatest player in NBA history, while Rodman’s eccentric personality and individual style added to the idea that the Bulls changed American culture.
The Worm went from Jordan tormenter and critic to one of MJ’s most invaluable teammates. Meanwhile, Mike would indeed purchase ownership stakes in NBA teams, including his current status as governor of the Charlotte Hornets.
Is Rodman some kind of soothsayer? Well, not exactly. Still, it’s interesting to examine his past statement about Jordan and the Bulls considering the events that have transpired since.