As Bulls fans learned in the late ’80s and throughout the ’90s, Jordan was a fierce competitor out for blood every time he stepped on the basketball floor. He was so focused on winning and dominating that he didn’t care who was standing in his way, even if it was a player whom he considered a brother.
Michael Jordan: “On the court, there’s no friendship”
Following his fifth title in 1997, when he led the Bulls to a six-game series win over the Utah Jazz, Jordan sat down with SLAM Magazine for an extensive interview. During the discussion, the six-time champion talked about how he was good friends with Craig Ehlo despite the Washington State product being on the wrong end of his famous game-winning shot against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1989 playoffs.
“Yeah, we talk,” Jordan said. “We take pictures with his kids. We’re pretty good friends, but we’re fierce competitors. I like Craig. I always have. But on the court, there’s no friendship; I’m still trying to win.”
Off the court, Jordan was friendly with other NBA players. He even developed close bonds with stars such as Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, and Patrick Ewing. However, once the games started, the five-time MVP turned into a cold-blooded assassin who wasn’t afraid to mix it up with players who were his pals.
Michael Jordan posterized Patrick Ewing in 1991 playoffs and talked trash to him in 1992 playoffs
In the 1991 playoffs, the Bulls and New York Knicks met in the first round. During Game 3 at Madison Square Garden, Jordan posterized Ewing in what is widely viewed as one of the greatest poster dunks of all time.
In 1997, Jordan said that his poster dunk on Ewing was the best facial of his career.
“Patrick [Ewing]—on the baseline,” Jordan said. “Because I remember when…I started back out to the middle, and then I spun back, came baseline…”
Jordan not only dunked on Ewing in 1991, but he also talked major trash to him in the 1992 playoffs when the Bulls and Knicks played in the second round. After converting a tough layup while getting fouled hard by Ewing and Xavier McDaniel, Jordan yelled at the Knicks stars and gloated about finishing the play. His Airness didn’t care that Ewing was one of his closest friends. All he was focused on was winning the game and snatching the Knicks’ soul.
6-0. That was Jordan’s record in the NBA Finals. To win those championships, he had to eliminate several players he called dear friends, and he even got into a little bit of an argument with one of his golf buddies.
MJ prevented multiple friends from winning
Ewing, Barkley, Karl Malone, and John Stockton are four Hall of Famers who never won championships because of Jordan. The Bulls never lost to Ewing in the playoffs while MJ was on the team, and they defeated Barkley in the 1993 Finals and Malone and Stockton in the 1997 and 1998 Finals.
Danny Ainge, who routinely played golf with Jordan, was on the 1993 Phoenix Suns team that lost to the Bulls in the Finals. During the series, Mike and Ainge got into a back and forth at the Chicago Stadium and almost got into a scuffle, proving once again that Jordan could be friends with someone and still go at them on the basketball court.
It was almost as if Jordan was two different people during his NBA career. Off the court, he was cordial and a regular husband, father, friend, and son. However, on the court, he was a slayer.