Michael Jordan: I knew players feared and respected me
After winning his fifth championship in 1997 over the Utah Jazz, Jordan was asked by SLAM Magazine if he was more feared or respected by his opponents. The 10-time scoring champion responded by saying, “both.”
“Both. Because along with fear comes respect,” Jordan said. “You can tell just by the way they play and the way they approach the game. A lot of times, I can see it in their eyes.”
Players had valid reasons to be scared of Jordan, the NBA’s all-time leader in points per game and player efficiency rating. Superman was an assassin on the court and did whatever it took to win.
Jordan’s opponents weren’t the only guys scared of him, though. In fact, according to Jud Buechler, some Bulls players feared His Airness.
Bulls players were frightened by Michael Jordan too
In Episode 7 of ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries, Buechler — who won three championships with Jordan — said many Bulls players were frightened by Black Jesus since he was such a demanding teammate and routinely yelled at guys for making mistakes.
“People were afraid of him,” Buechler said. “We were his teammates, and we were afraid of him. There was just fear. The fear factor of MJ was so, so thick.”
Jordan punched Will Perdue and Steve Kerr during his time with the Bulls. He took practice very seriously and challenged his teammates when they weren’t playing well. Perdue said in The Last Dance that Jordan was a jerk and crossed the line many times. However, over time, the big man understood what the UNC product was trying to accomplish.
“He crossed the line numerous times,” Perdue said. “But as time goes on and you think back about what he was actually trying to accomplish, you’re like, ‘Yeah, he was a hell of a teammate.'”
Jordan pushed his teammates to be better because he wanted to win. While his leadership style was sometimes too aggressive, the results prove that he was the perfect leader for the Bulls. Chicago won six championships in the ’90s and never lost in the Finals.
Jordan was such an intimidating force that some players were mentally beaten before the game even started. But don’t take our word for it. Listen to what former NBA forward Kendall Gill had to say about the matter.
Kendall Gill: You got a lot of NBA players that were beat before they even got to the United Center or Chicago Stadium
In a wide-ranging interview with Chicago sports historian Jack M Silverstein, Gill — a Chicago native — said there were several NBA players who were nervous about playing the Bulls in the Windy City because of Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
“You got a lot of NBA players that were beat before they even got to the United Center or Chicago Stadium because they were playing against Michael and Scottie,” Gill said.
Jordan and Pippen appeared in 691 regular-season games together. The Bulls were 514-177 when the Hall of Famers were in the lineup. They were nearly unbeatable, both in the regular season and playoffs.
A six-time champion, six-time Finals MVP, and five-time regular-season MVP, Jordan achieved everything an NBA player dreams of. He also left a lasting mark on his opponents and teammates in the fear department.