Michael Jordan is considered the greatest NBA player of all time. Something many fans don’t know, however, is that Jordan’s Chicago Bulls struggled mightily in the playoffs against the Pistons. For three years from 1987-90, the Pistons used a strategy known as the Jordan Rules to neutralize him.
Finally, MJ broke through in the 1991 season, thanks in large part to his formation of the so-called “Breakfast Club.” Let’s look at this secret club, as well as the role it played in Jordan’s rise to basketball greatness.
The Pistons’ roadblock
By the time the 1987 season rolled around, Jordan was already one of the best NBA players. The prior year, he’d narrowly lost the MVP race to Magic Johnson, despite being the only player besides Wilt Chamberlain to put up 3,000 points in a single season.
The 1987-88 season saw Jordan keep up his torrid scoring, while also taking home the MVP hardware. Yet the 50-32 Bulls fell in the second round of the playoffs to the Bad Boy Pistons.
Detroit had negated the NBA star using their “Jordan Rules,” according to The Ringer. These practices involved playing a highly physical form of defense against Jordan, in addition to throwing double- and triple-teams his way. The Bulls lost to the Pistons in five games that season.
The next year, the Bulls and Pistons met in the Eastern Conference Finals. Using the same scheme, the Pistons overcame the Bulls in six games. In the 1989-90 season, the two teams clashed again in the conference finals. This time, the Bulls pushed the series to seven games, only to fall again.
Jordan’s breakfast club
Jordan responded to those three years of crushing defeats by forming what he called the Breakfast Club. While its name makes it sound like a relaxed affair, reports Sports Illustrated, the secret club consisted of a grueling early-morning training regime.
The focus was firmly on strength and endurance training — skills Jordan felt were vital to overcoming the Pistons’ physical style of play. As its name suggest, Breakfast Club also included a dietary component.
Jordan’s personal chef would prepare nutrient-rich meals to promote recovery and muscle gain. This emphasis on impactful dietary choices is commonplace around the NBA today. Yet at the time, it was a revolutionary approach to promoting holistic well-being.
The Chicago Bulls get involved
In the beginning, the Breakfast Club was Jordan’s private routine. Yet teammates began to express curiosity about his pre-practice routine. Soon Jordan was inviting them to join him for the pre-dawn workouts. The core Breakfast Club was composed of Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Ron Harper, and Randy Brown.
The group often met as early as 5 a.m., getting in serious reps before chowing down on a breakfast of eggs, banana pancakes, oatmeal, grits, and fresh fruit. While the workouts no doubt helped all of them improve their conditioning, Jordan was adamant that it was about promoting a mindset of toughness and preparedness, too.
The Breakfast Club also helped to increase camaraderie, building the bonds that propelled the Bulls toward six championships. As for the Bulls and Pistons’ rivalry, Chicago returned to sweep the Pistons in the 1990-91 Eastern Conference Finals. Ultimately, the Breakfast Club was a key part of how Jordan’s Bulls molded themselves into champions.