Michael Jordan had some legendary battles with Detroit Pistons star Joe Dumars during his two stints with the Chicago Bulls. The two guards matched up against each other on offense and defense, and it was always a war between them.
As we learned in ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries, Jordan hated everyone who played for the “Bad Boys.” However, in NBA Entertainment’s Michael Jordan’s Playground — which came out in 1990 — His Airness paid homage to Dumars.
Michael Jordan on Joe Dumars: “No one plays me tougher than Joe”
Jordan had many rivals during the ’90s. However, Dumars was the toughest player he matched up with since the six-time All-Star was an elite defender and played for the Pistons, who invented the “Jordan Rules.”
“My toughest battles are with Joe Dumars,” Jordan said. “No one plays me tougher than Joe, but when you’re playing against the Pistons, that’s only the beginning. With them, you’re never going against just one guy.”
Jordan and Dumars faced each other 48 times in the regular season. Although Black Jesus had a winning record against Broadway Joe in the regular season, the Pistons beat the Bulls when it mattered most.
Michael Jordan was 27-21 versus Joe Dumars in the regular season but lost to Pistons three times in the playoffs
Jordan had a 27-21 record against Dumars in the regular season. The 10-time scoring champion averaged 31.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 5.6 assists while shooting 47.3% from the field. Meanwhile, Dumars put up 15.4 points and 3.9 assists per game.
The Bulls and Pistons met in the playoffs in 1988, 1989, 1990, and 1991. Detroit won the first three series and took home two championships during that span. Dumars was named the 1989 Finals MVP after averaging 27.3 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 6.0 assists against the Los Angeles Lakers.
In the summer of 1990, Jordan added muscle to his frame with the help of Tim Grover so he could beat the Pistons. In the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals, Chicago swept Detroit, with Jordan averaging 29.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 7.0 assists. Dumars and Co. acted like sore losers and walked off the court before Game 4 ended. It’s worth mentioning that Bill Laimbeer initiated the walk-off.
After he finally got past the Pistons, only one thing was left for Jordan and the Bulls to accomplish.
Bulls faced Lakers in ’91 Finals
The Bulls and Lakers squared off in the 1991 Finals. Jordan would need to defeat Magic Johnson to win his first championship, and knowing the type of competitor Superman was, he probably loved that.
The Lakers won Game 1 in Chicago by two points. However, the Bulls won Games 2, 3, 4, and 5 to clinch their first title in franchise history. Jordan averaged 31.2 points in the five-game series. He won his first of six Finals MVPs and was emotional in the postgame locker room with his father by his side.
Dumars and the Pistons were a thorn in Jordan’s side for a number of years. However, they made him mentally and physically stronger and pushed him to become the legend he was.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference