Before Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen won three titles with Dennis Rodman on the Chicago Bulls, they had an intense rivalry with him. Rodman began his career with the Detroit Pistons and was on the “Bad Boy” teams that gave Jordan and Pippen problems.
The Bulls and Pistons faced each other in the playoffs four straight years in 1988, 1989, 1990, and 1991. Rodman and Co. beat Jordan and Pippen the first three years and won two titles as well. However, the Bulls finally got past the Pistons in 1991 en route to their first championship.
Chicago swept Detroit in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals. In the four-game series, Jordan and Pippen destroyed the Pistons, which is why MJ and his teammates weren’t surprised Rodman intentionally pushed Pippen to the ground and tried to hurt him in Game 4.
Michael Jordan and Bulls weren’t shocked by Dennis Rodman’s push on Scottie Pippen
The Bulls were blowing out the Pistons in Game 4. Detroit had zero answers for Chicago, so the team went to its roots and tried to make the game dirty.
Pippen drove to the basket and was fouled hard by Rodman, who intentionally pushed the Bulls star to the ground. The Worm could have seriously hurt Pippen, and his actions didn’t shock anyone in Chicago.
“You know something’s coming,” Bulls big man Bill Cartwright said in The Last Dance. “This team is desperate. They’ve done everything they can. Now, they’re really desperate.”
Before 1991, Pippen would have likely gotten up and tried to fight Rodman. However, the Bulls were a mentally tougher team, and Jordan was proud of the way Pippen handled himself.
Michael Jordan loved the way Scottie Pippen reacted to Dennis Rodman’s hard foul
Jordan and Pippen were the leaders of the Bulls. For Chicago to be successful, they had to show mental and physical toughness so that their teammates followed suit. That’s why Jordan was pleased with how Pippen reacted to Rodman’s cheap foul.
“When Pippen didn’t respond to that abuse, there was nothing they could do to beat us then,” Jordan said in The Last Dance.
Pistons forward John Salley said in The Last Dance that he knew Game 4 was over after Pippen didn’t retaliate following Rodman’s foul. The Bulls defeated Detroit by a final score of 115-94 to advance to the NBA Finals. Jordan finished with 29 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists, while Pippen put up 23 points, six rebounds, and 10 assists.
Jordan and Pippen didn’t like Rodman during his time with the Pistons. However, they grew to love him starting in 1995 when the two-time Defensive Player of the Year came to Chicago.
Bulls won three straight rings with Rodzilla
Chicago acquired Rodman from the San Antonio Spurs before the 1995-96 season. It was a polarizing move since Rodzilla was at the center of the most hated team in the history of the Bulls.
However, the trade turned out to be excellent. Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman guided the Bulls to three straight championships in 1996, 1997, and 1998. The Hall of Famers learned how to co-exist on the court and became one of the top Big 3s in NBA history.
It’s still fascinating to think about Jordan and Pippen being teammates with Rodman. Michael and Scottie deserve credit for putting their history with Dennis to the side and accepting the rebounding machine.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.