Hall of Famer Alonzo Mourning was one of the toughest players in the league during his playing career. He never shied away from getting into fights with opposing centers, and his rugged style of play helped him win two Defensive Player of the Year Awards. However, despite Mourning being a superstar, Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan still found a way to destroy the seven-time All-Star while talking about Dennis Rodman.
In April 1998, Jordan was interviewed by Rick Telander of ESPN. During the conversation, the Bulls star threw shad toward Mourning while discussing Rodman, one of the players he used to get into scuffles with during the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons days.
Michael Jordan: Dennis Rodman gets into Alonzo Mourning‘s head
During Rodman’s three seasons with the Bulls, he got into several scuffles with Mourning whenever the Bulls and Miami Heat played each other. Jordan, who dealt with Rodman’s mind games and antics when the Worm was on the Pistons, said Mourning was “weak in the mind” for falling for the traps.
“Of course, our guy Dennis Rodman can be irritating,” Jordan said. “But he used to guard me when he was with Detroit, and I didn’t let him get to me. I didn’t get irritated by any of the Pistons, because that was their tactic, to get into your head. Dennis gets into Alonzo Mourning’s head now. Alonzo’s weak in the mind. He has to know how to be tough and overlook those types of things. Alonzo’s an intimidator, but sometimes the intimidator can be intimidated. The bully can be bullied.”
The Bulls and Heat met in the 1996 and 1997 playoffs. Not only did Jordan and Rodman get the best of Mourning both years, but Rodzilla’s defense and ability to be a pest also bothered Zo quite a bit.
Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman eliminated Alonzo Mourning in back-to-back playoffs
The Bulls swept the Heat in the first round of the 1996 playoffs. Jordan averaged 30.0 points while shooting an efficient 51.6% from the field, while Rodman put up 3.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game.
Although Mourning averaged 18.0 points and 6.0 rebounds, his field goal percentage dropped from 52.3% to 48.6% from the regular season, thanks in large part to Rodman, one of the best defenders in league history. Mourning also had a team-high 16 turnovers in only three games.
The Bulls and Heat met again in the 1997 playoffs, this time in the Eastern Conference Finals. Just like in 1996, Miami had zero answers for Jordan, who averaged 30.2 points, although it’s worth mentioning he only shot 38.7% overall. As for Rodman, the All-NBA defender put up 6.0 points and 12.4 rebounds per game and played stellar defense on Mourning once more.
The Heat didn’t get swept by the Bulls this time, but Mourning still wasn’t able to control himself versus Rodman. The Georgetown product got multiple technical fouls and committed 27 turnovers in five games. Rodman had a way of getting under Mourning’s skin, and Jordan certainly had fun watching it unfold.
As he did to so many all-time greats, Jordan prevented Mourning from winning a championship during his prime years. However, after recovering from a kidney disease that forced him to miss the entire 2002-03 season, Mourning returned to the Heat in 2005 following a brief stint with the New Jersey Nets and watched Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal help him achieve his goal.
The Heat won the 2006 title
During the 2005-06 season, Mourning appeared in 65 games for the Heat, serving as O’Neal’s backup. He averaged 7.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks in 20.0 minutes per game. Behind Wade and Shaq, the Heat won 52 games in the regular season and then defeated the Bulls, Nets, and Pistons in the Eastern Conference playoffs to reach the NBA Finals.
Miami faced the Dallas Mavericks in the 2006 Finals. Wade averaged 34.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists to lead the Heat to a 4-2 series win, giving Mourning the championship he so desperately chased for years. The two-time blocks champion joined Jordan and Rodman in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014, which was undoubtedly a great honor for Mourning.
Although Jordan and Rodman got the upper hand against Mourning and had a fierce rivalry with him, they had to be happy to see the big man win a title and make the Hall of Fame, given all the things he had to go through while recovering from his kidney disease.