Michael Jordan and Luc Longley won three championships together on the Chicago Bulls in 1996, 1997, and 1998. Despite the center not being in the Hall of Fame or featured in the popular Last Dance docuseries, Longley played a significant role in the Bulls’ second three-peat.
As he was with all of his teammates, Jordan was hard on Longley. The superstar shooting guard pushed players to be the best version of themselves, and he wasn’t afraid to be aggressive about it.
If you played well, Jordan would praise and gain more trust in you. However, His Airness learned that praising Longley during the middle of a game wasn’t the smartest thing to do.
Michael Jordan complimented Luc Longley during middle of game and it backfired on him
Part 1 of Longley’s documentary premiered on August 1. During it, Jordan told the story about how he once complimented Longley during the middle of the game, and it backfired on him and the Bulls.
“He may not like this story,” Jordan said. “In ’98, we’re playing the Utah Jazz. The first quarter ends, Luc has 12 points, four blocks, and four rebounds. And I go to Luc, and I say, ‘That’s how you fu–ing play, man. You do that, we dominate.’ We’re up by 16. At the end of the game, Luc had 12 points, four rebounds, and four blocks. We were winning by 16, we lose by 15. And I just looked at Luc, and I said, ‘You know what, Luc, that is the last time imma give you a compliment in the middle of the game.'”
Jordan would get frustrated at Longley several times, and the big man would get down on himself for letting down a teammate. While the Australian native is thankful to MJ for showing him how to be a better basketball player, he admitted in his documentary that he didn’t enjoy being around the five-time MVP.
Luc Longley: I didn’t love Michael Jordan
At the end of part 1 of his documentary, Longley said he didn’t love Jordan and thought the six-time champion was too harsh on his teammates.
“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.”
Was Jordan hard on his teammates? Absolutely. However, his sole focus was to win, and he knew he had to push his teammates for the Bulls to win multiple championships.
Jordan’s mentality was to win at any cost. If his teammates didn’t want to live that regimented mentality, the UNC product would ridicule them until they got on the same level as him. Bulls player may not have loved Jordan, but the results prove that his tough love worked.
Bulls went 6-0 in the Finals and never played in a Game 7
Behind Jordan, not only did the Bulls go 6-0 in the Finals, but they also never had to play in a Game 7. Chicago defeated the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Seattle SuperSonics, and Utah Jazz (twice) for its six championships in the ’90s.
Jordan averaged 33.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists in 35 games in the Finals in his career. Meanwhile, Longley put up 7.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 18 Finals games. He was the Bulls’ big stabilizer in the middle and played solid on both ends of the floor.
Longley finished his NBA career with averages of 7.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.5 assists. While he played for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Suns, and New York Knicks, he will likely always be remembered for his time with Jordan and the Bulls.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.