If they didn’t know by watching him in the ’90s, the sports world learned by following The Last Dance docuseries that Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan is an intense competitor. His Airness did whatever it took to win and hated losing so much that many people around him thought he had a competition problem.
Several of Jordan’s teammates likely thought he was difficult and unnecessarily harsh. However, the best player MJ drafted as majority governor of the Charlotte Hornets understands why he acted the way he did on the Bulls.
Kemba Walker on Michael Jordan: His leadership I thought was second to none
Jordan bought the Hornets in 2010, becoming the first ex-player to become a majority governor of an NBA team. He drafted Kemba Walker out of UConn with the ninth pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and watched the point guard turn into one of the top floor generals in the league.
Walker, who is now on the New York Knicks, told Steve Serby of the New York Post that although he understands why some people may think that Jordan was “a little crazy” during his Bulls years, he believes his former boss had to be that way in order to become arguably the GOAT.
“You hear about his competitive nature. When you see him on The Last Dance, you’re like, man, this guy … I think people might have thought he was a little crazy (chuckle), because of how competitive he is. Gotta be,” Walker said. “If you want to win as many championships, and accomplish what this man has accomplished, that’s the way you have to be. His leadership I thought was second to none.”
Off the floor, Jordan was cordial with his teammates. However, when it was time to play, the five-time MVP had certain expectations, and he didn’t care about being a nice guy.
Michael Jordan couldn’t be nice with the kind of mentality he had
Jordan punched Steve Kerr and Will Perdue. He also refused to pass the ball to certain players if he didn’t think they were ready for the momentum. These are examples of Black Jesus not being a nice guy and crossing the line as a teammate.
However, as he explained in The Last Dance, winning and leadership had a price, and Jordan wasn’t afraid to go to deep lengths to push his teammates to be great.
“I pulled people along when they didn’t wanna be pulled,” Jordan said. “I challenged people when they didn’t wanna be challenged, and I earned that right became my teammates came after me. They didn’t endure all the things that I endured. Once you join the team, you live at a certain standard that I play the game, and I wasn’t gonna take anything less. Now, if that means I had to go in and get in your ass a little bit, then I did that.”
Jordan was a demanding teammate, and Perdue called him a “jerk” in The Last Dance. However, based on the results, Superman’s leadership style paid off for the Bulls.
MJ: I wanted to win, but I wanted them (teammates) to win and be a part of that as well
Jordan’s carnivorous leadership style worked for the Bulls, who won six titles in the ’90s, three-peated twice, and never lost in the Finals. The 14-time All-Star clearly wanted to win for himself, but he also wanted his teammates to be a part of the ride as well, which is why he pushed them to be the best versions of themselves.
The Bulls won championships in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, and 1998. Jordan won all six Finals MVPs, but it’s worth mentioning that he never got out of the first round of the playoffs or won a title without Scottie Pippen.
Players lead their respective teams differently. Some guys, like Walker, are quieter and lead by example. While that style can work, Jordan’s method delivered the Bulls six championships in an eight-year span. Some of his teammates may not have liked him, but Jordan did what he had to do to win and never hesitated to confront them.
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