Michael Jordan Denied Taunting the Lakers in the 1991 NBA Finals After Byron Scott Accused Him of Showboating: ‘I Never Said 1 Thing to the Bench’

Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan wasn’t above mind games or poking fun at his opponents to gain a psychological edge. However, he took exception to being called a showboater.

After losing Game 1 of the 1991 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, Jordan and the Bulls recovered in stunning fashion with a blowout victory in Game 2. Former Lakers swingman Byron Scott claimed His Airness directed verbal taunts at LA’s bench during the contest, which drew Jordan’s ire after the game.

Michael Jordan led the Bulls to a statement win in Game 2 of the 1991 NBA Finals

The Bulls appeared to be headed for a disappointing Finals result after losing Game 1 at the old Chicago Stadium, but Michael Jordan simply wouldn’t let his team lose back-to-back games on its home floor.

Jordan had one of the most remarkable performances of his career. He scored 33 points on 15-of-18 shooting from the field, adding 13 assists and seven rebounds. His Airness made 13 consecutive field goals for the Bulls, with the team making 17 of their first 20 attempts in the third quarter.

Chicago proved unstoppable, and the rout was officially on. The Bulls cruised to a 21-point victory thanks to the 38-26 run in that prolific third quarter. Jordan himself punctuated the contest with a miraculous layup in which he switched hands in mid-air. It ultimately became known as “The Move.”

Game 2 was pure elation for the Bulls and their fans. But Lakers veteran Byron Scott thought MJ was classless in his triumph.

Byron Scott said Jordan taunted the Lakers bench

The Lakers probably shouldn’t have said much after getting their backsides handed to them in Game 2. But Byron Scott decided to add his two cents, anyway.

Scott claimed Jordan taunted LA’s bench, saying it was ridiculous for him to do so that early in the series. He also suggested only MJ could get away with something like that.

“It angers us to see someone of his caliber act that way,” Scott said, via the Baltimore Sun. “But I’ve seen him do it before, so I’m not surprised.”

Meanwhile, Jordan vehemently denied anything along the lines of taunting. He said he expressed his emotions on the floor but never meant to disrespect or show up his opponent.

“I never said one thing to the bench. I made some big plays on that end at crucial times in the game and I showed my emotions for those situations as something to keep me motivated, but I didn’t angle it at them or try to disrespect them.”

–Michael Jordan (1991), via the Baltimore Sun

The most interesting part about Scott’s comments is that his teammates said they were unaware of MJ doing anything to infringe upon the sportsmanship of the contest. Plus, it always seemed questionable that Jordan would do such a thing given the respect he had for Magic Johnson.

Still, Scott continued to suggest the Lakers were all up in arms. He said, “It’s got [the Lakers] all upset” and “we’ll be ready at home” as the series shifted to LA.

Instead, Michael Jordan and the Bulls elevated their play in the old Forum.

Scott missed a do-or-die Game 5 as the Bulls defeated the Lakers

L-R: Bulls great Michael Jordan during the 1991 NBA Playoffs and Byron Scott during a Lakers game in 1996
Michael Jordan (L) and Byron Scott (R) | Left to Right: B Miller/Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images and Todd Warshaw/Allsport

The Lakers did come ready to play in Game 3. So, too, did the Bulls.

Both teams battled back-and-forth for four quarters, but Jordan’s runner at the end of the fourth quarter sent the game into overtime, where Chicago seized the advantage. Scott went 0-of-8 from the field in the contest. The Bulls then blew the Lakers out of the water again in Game 4, winning by 15 and taking a commanding 3-1 series lead.

With both Scott and James Worthy on the bench in Game 5, the Lakers were up against it. Indeed, Jordan found John Paxson for numerous critical jumpers in the final period as the Bulls captured the first title in franchise history.

Although Scott hoped his squad would draw energy from Jordan’s alleged taunts, he had to face the stark reality that he was on a veteran Lakers team on its way down from the apex of the late-1980s. The inverse was true for Jordan and the Bulls as they established one of the greatest dynasties in sports.

It’s almost irrelevant whether Jordan did direct some taunts at LA’s bench. He was completing his ascent to the top of the NBA, and nobody could prevent him from achieving immortality.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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