Scottie Pippen was the only player next to Michael Jordan for all six of his championships with the Chicago Bulls. MJ played with several different players during the ’90s, and it took a lot to earn his trust.
Since Jordan was such a demanding player, many of his teammates felt they had to win a title with him first to get on his good side. Steve Kerr, who won three rings with His Airness, talked about that feeling when Jordan returned to the Bulls in 1995 following his baseball stint.
Steve Kerr: You had to win a championship with Michael Jordan to get his seal of approval
When Jordan returned to the Bulls near the end of the 1994-95 season, Pippen and Will Perdue were the only two guys left from the first three-peat. As a result, Kerr and some of the new guys felt pressure to win a championship since they knew that was the best way to earn Superman’s trust.
“There was always that lingering thing with Michael, where unless you won a championship with him, you weren’t part of the club,” Kerr said, via Chicago sports historian Jack M Silverstein. “We needed to win that title first before we all felt like we had his seal of approval.”
The Bulls didn’t win the 1995 title after Jordan came back. They lost to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the only postseason series Jordan lost from 1991 to 1998. Guys were on edge during the 1995-96 training camp since they knew the five-time MVP would be angry and attack them in practice.
The ultimate trust from Jordan comes in the playoffs if you play well, and his new teammates certainly did that after the setback against Orlando.
Michael Jordan and his new supporting cast won three rings
Jordan knew what he would get from Pippen when the bright lights shined since the swingman was his partner in crime during the first three-peat. The new guys like Kerr, Luc Longley, and Toni Kukoc were the players he didn’t know what to expect since he never went to battle with them.
After the Bulls lost to the Magic, Jordan got back into basketball shape during the summer of 1995 and came back with a vengeance. He not only won the 1995-96 MVP Award, but he also helped his new teammates expand their games and gain the confidence they needed to play alongside him.
Once Jordan’s new teammates got on the same page with him, the Bulls took off. They won 72 games in 1995-96 and captured three consecutive rings in 1996, 1997, and 1998. It wasn’t always pretty with Jordan and his new supporting cast. After all, he did punch Kerr in the face at the Berto Center during training camp. However, over time, Black Jesus learned to trust his new teammates, and that chemistry allowed the Bulls to three-peat.
Not all of Jordan’s teammates liked him, though, since he was aggressive and demanding. In fact, Longley admitted in his documentary that he found Jordan to be unnecessarily harsh.
Luc Longley: I didn’t love MJ
In his documentary, Longley said he didn’t enjoy being around Jordan despite the Bulls having success.
“I didn’t love MJ,” Longley said. “I thought MJ was difficult and unnecessarily harsh on his teammates and probably on himself, and I think, you know, I just didn’t enjoy being around him that much, and that was cool. It was cool with MJ, and it was cool with me. At the end of the day, we found a way to respect each other on the court and to co-exist, and that was cool.”
Jordan was hard on his teammates. However, his regimented mentality and leadership style is one of the main reasons the Bulls won six rings. He had to be the “bad guy” sometimes to get the best out of his teammates, and his aggressiveness clearly worked.