With 7.9 seconds left in regulation during Game 4 of the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals between the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons, the Pistons walked off the court and didn’t shake hands with Michael Jordan and Co. Bill Laimbeer told his teammates they weren’t going to congratulate the Bulls and John Salley knew it wouldn’t end well.
Salley was friends with Jordan and a few other players on the Bulls. So when he heard what his Pistons teammates were planning to do, he asked Chuck Daly to put him back into the game.
John Salley on Pistons walking off the court: I went back into the game
During an interview with VLAD TV in 2019, Salley revealed that he asked Daly to put him back into the game once he heard Laimbeer talk to Isiah Thomas about walking off the court. The power forward was hesitant to participate since he was buddies with Jordan.
“I lean over to Chuck,” Salley said. “I get up. I said, ‘Chuck, let me get back in the game.’ He goes, ‘Come on Salley, you can’t get any more stats than you have.’ I said, ‘No, there’s some sh*t going down I don’t want to be a part of. You need to put me back in the game.’ This is how I am. I will kill you from start to the double zeros. Then I have to go back and become human. A lot of people can’t transfer that. I do. I understand it’s a game.”
Salley was on the court when Laimbeer led his teammates to the locker room. The Pistons walked right past Jordan and the Bulls, and the national media destroyed Detroit for displaying poor sportsmanship.
Because the Bulls and Pistons had such a heated rivalry, Chicago’s acquisition of Dennis Rodman in 1995 was a polarizing move since the Worm physically tried to hurt Jordan and Scottie Pippen. However, Rodman got along just fine with MJ and Pip, as did Salley, who many forget joined the Bulls in March 1996.
Michael Jordan won a championship with three members of the Bad Boys
Jordan guided the 1995-96 Bulls to 72 wins in the regular season while playing with three members of the Bad Boys. Rodman, Salley, and James Edwards were on the early Pistons teams that beat up His Airness and eliminated him three times in the playoffs. However, Jordan made it work with each guy in 1995-96.
The Bulls defeated the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1996 Finals for their fourth championship. Jordan went on to win three rings with Rodman. Meanwhile, Salley and Edwards only played one season in Chicago.
It’s fascinating that Jordan was able to share a locker room with three players who fouled him dirty when they were on the Pistons. Rodman and Salley were featured in The Last Dance, as was Thomas. Jordan called Rodman one of the smartest players he ever played with and Thomas an a**hole.
The Bulls may have ended the Pistons’ dynasty by sweeping them in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals. However, they still had a losing record against them in the postseason.
Michael Jordan lost to Pistons three times in the playoffs
Jordan faced the Pistons four times in the playoffs during his career. He only beat Detroit once in a seven-game series.
The Bulls lost the 1988 Eastern Conference semifinals, the 1989 Eastern Conference Finals, and the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals to the Pistons. Jordan struggled with Detroit’s physicality until he added muscle to his frame in the summer of 1990. His improved strength helped him absorb more contact and finish in heavy traffic.
Jordan had a 33-31 record versus the Pistons in the regular season. He averaged 29.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.3 assists while shooting 46.7% from the field. The Bulls may have needed the Pistons to beat them up for three years straight in the playoffs to become mentally and physically tougher. Although the losses hurt, the feeling Jordan and his teammates felt in 1991 was undoubtedly magical.