Jordan went all out in practices so that the real games would be easy for him. Scottie Pippen also practiced every bit as hard as His Airness did, which made the Berto Center a bloodbath during the Bulls’ dynasty.
Michael Jordan made practices ‘absolutely amazing’
Matt Steigenga, who won the 1997 championship with the Bulls, told Chicago sports historian Jack M Silverstein in 2020 that Bulls practices were intense because of Jordan and Pippen.
“Here are two of the greatest players of all time, and in my opinion, Michael is the greatest of all time,” Steigenga said. “So when they got it going, it was absolutely amazing. Practices sometimes were harder than the games. You really see the physicality come out in practice because you can get away with it. So there were a lot of bloodbaths in practice from everybody, especially Michael. To see a guy like that at that level going so hard, it was an amazing experience. And Scottie’s not as demonstrative as Michael, but such a talent, and he practiced every bit as hard as Michael did.”
Jordan told SLAM Magazine in 1997 that it was tough for him to find teammates who took practice as seriously as he did, which is why he appreciated Pippen and had tremendous success with the do-it-all small forward.
Michael Jordan: Scottie Pippen and I got on people in practice
Jordan had no problem yelling at teammates and pushing them to play harder if he felt they weren’t giving it their all. Pippen was the same way, and Black Jesus was proud to have a teammate with the same mentality as him.
“It’s hard to find people who look at practice the way I look at practice so that when the game comes, it’s easier than the practice,” Jordan said. “Or be as competitive in the practice as you would be competitive in the game. I don’t mind voicing that opinion now; I used to just lead by example, and now I voice it. And I’ve got help with Scottie. Scottie’s the same way. So I mean, we both get on you.”
Jordan’s theory was that if his teammates couldn’t handle pressure from him, they wouldn’t be able to handle the burden of the playoffs. The five-time regular-season MVP talked trash in practice and went after guys because he knew he had to prepare them for the postseason.
While Jordan may have crossed the line a few times, his tactics clearly worked.
MJ’s way worked
Jordan was the tough guy in practice because he was pushing his teammates to be better and wanted to win. His methods, while they weren’t popular, worked.
The Bulls never missed the playoffs during the Jordan era and won six championships. Each and every day, the six-time Finals MVP pushed his teammates to get to the level he was on, and it started in practice. If you didn’t play hard in practice, Jordan made sure your time with him would be brutal.
Despite being the best player in the NBA, Jordan played every game like it was his last one. As a result, he demanded his teammates do the same since they came after him.