Michael Jordan was a ruthless and demanding teammate during his time with the Chicago Bulls. If he saw someone not working as hard as they could or striving for perfection, he would ridicule them until they got on the same level as him.
Bulls icon Scottie Pippen saw Jordan act as the bad guy every day during the dynasty years. Although it was exhausting for many of the players on the team to deal with Jordan’s yelling and harshness, Pippen has no doubt in his mind that the Bulls needed that.
Scottie Pippen: The Bulls needed Michael Jordan to be successful, no doubt in my mind
Luc Longley won three titles with Jordan and Pippen in 1996, 1997, and 1998. He got his first taste of MJ in 1995 when His Airness returned to the Bulls near the end of the 1994-95 season after playing baseball.
When Jordan came back, he was anxious to understand his new teammates since Pippen and Will Perdue were the only guys left from the first three-peat team. The 10-time scoring champion was always a taxing teammate, but he became even more aggressive in 1995.
Jordan rode Longley a lot. He pushed and scrutinized the center almost every practice and game to get the best out of him. Like many Bulls players, Longley didn’t enjoy Jordan’s verbal taunts and hostile nature, but the Bulls won because they did it MJ’s way, something Pippen acknowledged in Longley’s documentary.
“Luc and other players, they felt like they were talking on eggshells. (But) the Bulls needed Michael Jordan to be successful,” Pippen said in One Giant Leap. “No doubt in my mind.”
Jordan may have been a merciless teammate, but in the end, all he was trying to do was push his guys to be the best versions of themselves because he wanted to win. And guess what? It worked.
Bulls won six rings in Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen era
Winning one NBA championship is hard. Winning six in eight years and going 6-0 in the Finals was unthinkable before Jordan and Pippen did it with the Bulls in the ’90s. Having two of the best players in the world played a significant role in Chicago’s success, but Jordan’s expectations for himself and his teammates were vital as well.
Jordan learned early on in his career that both winning and leadership had a price. He wasn’t afraid to challenge people because he earned that right through his stellar play on the court and hard work in the weight room. Once players joined the Bulls, they had to live at a certain standard that Jordan played the game, and he wasn’t going to take anything less.
One of the most famous scenes from The Last Dance docuseries is Jordan getting emotional talking about his mindset. The six-time champion said he never asked his teammates to do something that he didn’t do. Jordan understood that people might have viewed him as a tyrant, but he didn’t care since his way of playing the game netted him six titles.
“Look, I don’t have to do this,” Jordan said. “I’m only doing it because it is who I am. That’s how I played the game. That was my mentality. If you don’t wanna play that way, don’t play that way.”
Not only did the Bulls go 6-0 behind Jordan and Pippen, but they also defeated at least one Hall of Famer along the way.
Chicago defeated several all-time greats in the Finals
Jordan and Pippen led the Bulls to championships over the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Seattle SuperSonics, and Utah Jazz. Each team Chicago beat had a Hall of Famer on it, headlined by Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, Gary Payton, Karl Malone, and John Stockton.
Jordan certainly crossed the lines many times with his teammates. Perdue called him a jerk in The Last Dance. However, the results showed that Jordan’s tactics worked. After all, the Bulls went undefeated in the Finals and never played in a Game 7.