The physical transformation of Michael Jordan was arguably the turning point of the Hall of Famer’s illustrious career. MJ’s mid-career commitment to strength training made the five-time MVP stronger and more equipped to battle with physical teams in the postseason. Suddenly, Jordan went from being a lean scorer to a muscular machine on the path toward six titles with the Chicago Bulls.
Jordan’s transformation is partially attributed to the work of renowned trainer Tim Grover. Grover spoke about his first meeting with Jordan, and how soon after, he wasn’t just there to give the GOAT orders.
Michael Jordan hired Tim Grover to help him bulk up
By Jordan’s third season with Chicago, he was averaging well over 30 points per game en route to 10 scoring titles. But the postseason success wasn’t there, particularly against the Detroit Pistons.
The “Bad Boy” Pistons were the most physical, in-your-face team in the NBA, and they took great pride in taking it to the young, lanky guard. Detroit eliminated MJ’s Bulls in 1988, ’89, and ’90, the final two coming in the Eastern Conference Finals.
In order to beat the bigger, stronger Pistons, Jordan had to get bigger and stronger himself. The desire to change his training regimen led to an interview with Grover at Jordan’s house in 1989.
“We talked for about 45 minutes,” Grover told The Athletic. “I said, ‘What are your goals, what are your plans, what do you want to get out of this?’ He told me and I said, ‘OK, these are the things that would be necessary to get done.’ And then, obviously, he was curious about how it would affect his game, his jump shot, and his ability to move and everything.”
Jordan liked what he heard enough to hire Grover for 30 days. But those 30 days wound up becoming 15 years as the two formed an excellent partnership.
Jordan told Grover to work out with him
Anyone who works out with a personal trainer knows how it goes. For the most part, you’re the one doing all of the work while the trainer offers any necessary feedback. Occasionally, they’ll briefly demonstrate the workout before you take on set after set by yourself.
That wasn’t the case with Grover, however. Jordan made sure of that (h/t: The Athletic).
“After about a week of [Jordan] working out, I came in for the next workout and he goes, this isn’t the word that he used, which I am not going to use right now, but he said, ‘Hey, if I gotta go through this, you gotta go through this.’”Tim Glover
Jordan valued and respected Grover throughout their 15 years together. Michael even went as far as to not allow his trainer to work with anyone else for the first three years of their partnership.
Michael Jordan won six titles thanks in part to Grover
After a couple of years under Grover’s tutelage, Jordan managed to shake the Bad Boy Pistons. The Bulls swept Detroit in 1991, giving Chicago its first NBA Finals appearance in franchise history. They would go on to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers, another dynasty of the previous decade, giving Jordan his elusive title and Finals MVP award.
Jordan entered the NBA in 1984 at 195 lbs. After training with Grover, he bulked up to 215, where he would stay for the majority of Chicago’s championship window. With Jordan, as well as physical sidekicks like Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, the Bulls won six titles in eight years. MJ would be the x-factor in all of them, as his size and strength allowed him to defeat bigger stars like Charles Barkley, Shawn Kemp, and Karl Malone.
Grover, who would later train Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade, played a big role in Jordan taking the next step. But the world-renowned trainer realizes he can ultimately do so much to help a player achieve greatness.
“I would tell Michael, ‘I’m going to create more power, more strength, and more force for you,” Grover said. “Now it’s your job to learn how to control it and what you do with it.’ That’s not my expertise.”
It’s safe to say Jordan knew what to do with his newfound power and strength.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.