Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls had one of the greatest dynasties of all time. Chicago didn’t just have one of the most dominant scorers to ever play in Jordan, but it also had another solid scorer in Scottie Pippen, as well as other stars who played significant roles in their success.
However, the Bulls didn’t just excel on the offensive end during their years of dominance; they were also a great defensive team. In fact, one of their former opponents recently said they were so good on that end of the court that they could get away with something other teams couldn’t.
Michael Jordan and the Bulls were excellent defensively
Sure, many people know Jordan for how great of a scorer he was throughout his career. He averaged 30.1 points per game overall, the highest career average in NBA history. However, he was also great on defense.
Jordan was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1987-88 and led the league in steals per game in three different seasons in his career. His 2,514 career steals are also third all-time.
Jordan’s dominance on that end of the court ultimately influenced the rest of his Bulls teammates. Chicago ranked in the top four in points allowed per game in five of its six championship-winning seasons, and it wasn’t just because of Jordan. Guys like Pippen and Dennis Rodman were also great defenders and helped the Bulls do something many teams couldn’t.
Tim Legler revealed how special Michael Jordan and the Bulls were defensively
Tim Legler played in the NBA for a decade and was in the Eastern Conference from 1995-96 through 1998-99. The Bulls dominated the Eastern Conference during those years and won three straight NBA championships from 1995-96 through 1997-98, so Legler essentially had a front-row seat to the Bulls’ greatness.
When recently appearing on the Dan Patrick Show, Legler revealed just how special the Bulls were on defense.
“They were the only team I ever played against in the NBA that pressed after free throws and got away with it,” Legler said on the May 19 episode. “When you got Rodman, Pippen, Jordan, Ron Harper, picking you up in the backcourt in a 1-2-1-1 trap, with that kind of length. It was amazing to see point guards sort of just run up the floor and wave at you like, ‘Yeah, get it, Legs, you got it. Bring it up.’ Because that first press in the deep corner, and you turn, and you got Rodman running at you, and Scottie Pippen, and it was like an eclipse.”
Seeing those guys running at you as you’re attempting to bring the ball up had to be terrifying.
“That’s the greatest defensive team, for certainly, I ever played against, but I think that’s the best defensive team I’ve ever seen to this day were those mid-90s Bulls teams,” Legler said.
Which Bulls star was the best defender?
So, of the elite defenders on that team, which one was the best? Despite Jordan and Rodman both winning Defensive Player of the Year awards, Legler thinks someone else deserves that title.
“I think Scottie Pippen’s the best defensive player maybe outside of Bill Russell, and, again, a guy I didn’t see play but obviously [they had] different roles; Scottie Pippen’s the best defender I’ve ever seen because he was not only the best individual defender, he was the best team-help-defender as well,” Legler said. “The ground he covered, his IQ, his communication, his instincts, combined with 6-8, fingertips touching both sidelines — kind of a nightmare. … He was special, one of a kind, in the way that he covered ground out there.”
Pippen may have never won Defensive Player of the Year, but he was still excellent on that end of the court. He earned All-Defensive Team honors 10 times and led the league in steals per game in 1994-95. Pippen is also seventh in NBA history in total career steals with 2,307.
Whether it was Jordan, Pippen, Rodman, or someone else, that team was a nightmare for opposing offenses to face. Their intensity on defense made them one of the greatest teams in the history of sports.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference