James Edwards was a member of the Detroit Pistons frontcourt who made a point of making Michael Jordan‘s life a personal hell. So forgive MJ for engaging in his usual mental warfare when the two became Chicago Bulls teammates in 1995.
Edwards never embraced the “Jordan Rules” quite like Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, and some of his other former Pistons comrades. But that hardly stopped Jordan from letting the former Bad Boy who held dominion over NBA.
Michael Jordan and James Edwards played on opposite sides of the Bulls-Pistons rivalry but later became teammates
James Edwards came to the Motor City in 1988, when the rivalry between the Pistons and Bulls was in its infancy. He quickly made his mark in a frontcourt that terrorized Michael Jordan.
Edwards came off the bench during the 1988-89 campaign, giving Detroit some added scoring in the second unit and a contrasting style to the physical play of Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn. Those Pistons defeated MJ and the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals en route to the first championship in franchise history.
Mahorn’s departure led to Edwards being inserted into the starting lineup the following season. He averaged 14.5 points, with many of those buckets coming by way of his patented fadeaway jumper. The veteran center won his second championship as the Pistons again beat the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals, this time in seven games.
However, it wasn’t long before Michael Jordan and the Bulls took over the NBA. They beat Detroit in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals en route to their first title, kicking off a dynastic run in the 90s.
Interestingly, Edwards was not among the Pistons players who infamously chose to walk off the floor in the closing seconds of Game 4 of the series with Chicago. He never trumpeted the “Bad Boy” image and Bulls-loathing mindset that his teammates carried.
A veteran Edwards had seemingly done enough to distance himself from the ghosts of Pistons past when he signed with the Bulls and became Jordan’s teammate ahead of the 1995-96 season. Still, Mike figured he’d offer the aging center a friendly reminder of his superiority, particularly regarding Edwards’ famed jumper.
Jordan said he was the only player capable of blocking Edwards’ fadeaway
Different players have different signature moves. Tim Hardaway had the quick, one-two crossover. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had the skyhook. James Edwards’ signature was the fadeaway.
Edwards, a 7-footer, had plenty of size. But he struggled to match opposing centers for muscle on the low block when he first came into the NBA. Alas, he resorted to shooting jumpers and drawing bigs away from the basket.
Most in the league agreed it was nigh impossible even to get a good contest of Edwards’ fadeaway. Of course, Michael Jordan was the exception.
Keep in mind, James Edwards was 40 years old and in the final season of his career when he joined the Bulls. That didn’t stop Michael Jordan from talking smack.
Maybe MJ owes some of his own success with the fadeaway to Edwards. It became a staple of Money’s second stint with the Bulls, when he was a bit less explosive and dynamic than he had been in his prime.
MJ and Buddha won a championship together in 1996
Michael Jordan and the Bulls helped make James Edwards’ final NBA season a memorable one.
Chicago won a then-record 72 games during the season. In his first full season back from retirement, Jordan was named the MVP, immediately reclaiming his status as the best player in the league. The Bulls lost just one game on the path to the NBA Finals before defeating the Seattle SuperSonics in six games to win the fourth championship in franchise history.
Edwards played a minimal role on that squad. He only made 28 appearances during the regular season and logged and all of four minutes in the playoffs. Still, he told the Chicago Tribune in 1998 that he “loved” the experience, even it meant getting an earful from Jordan.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.