Phil Jackson opens up about how Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen felt when they had to go up against the Detroit Pistons in the Playoffs.
Seems as though each and every NBA great has to go through a rite of passage when it comes to wanting to take that extra step to reach the promised land.
Magic Johnson and Larry Bird had to go through one another, the late ‘80s Detroit Pistons had to battle it out with Bird’s Celtics, and Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls were put through the ringer against those same Pistons.
Dubbed, the ‘Bad Boy Pistons’, Isiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer and the crew, earned their nickname by being perhaps some of the most physical players in the history of the league. Michael Jordan and the Bulls became familiarized with their tactics soon enough as they faced off against each other in 3 consecutive seasons in the ECF.
Detroit would win the 1989 and 1990 ECF against the Bulls in classic Pistons fashion (a good ol’ fashion beatdown), but the tide would shift when the Bulls shifted gears and pummeled Detroit in 1991 in 4 games. Despite Jordan, Pippen, and the Bulls besting the aging ‘Bad Boys’, Phil Jackson knew how much willpower it took to defeat them.
Phil Jackson outlines how Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan handled the Pistons, mentally
In a recent interview with Coby Karl, the Zen Master talked about how draining a 7-game series against the Pistons was back in the day. He mainly focused on ho intimidating it was to face off against a team with the reputation that they held at the time.
“Every time we got into the Playoffs with the Detroit Pistons; it was about their intimidation. They would intimidate the team so they would retaliate. And retaliation never worked. Scottie Pippen got a concussion, some got in foul trouble, others got thrown out, all these things.”
Phil Jackson explains why the Bulls could not beat the Pistons. (via Fadeaway World) https://t.co/kDPPsbsIGn
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) April 5, 2021
Jackson is of course referencing the moment when the Pistons knew their reign over the Eastern Conference was up, in game 4 of the 1991 ECF. On the verge of being swept, Dennis Rodman shoved Pippen hard, which ended up with him receiving 6 stitches. They would later reconcile 4 years later when Rodman made his way to the Bulls.
Michael Jordan never feared the Pistons, according to Phil Jackson
Jackson did outline the fact that though the Pistons would beat up on Jordan, not once did he back down from giving it his all.
“Michael was never fearful, but he was getting knocked down by two or three guys, it was just part of their defense. We have to be thankful that we have this opponent that’s going to challenge us in a way that we have to overcome our fears and our reluctance to give in to this battle and accept it.”
The turning point would come when the Bulls did not give into the Pistons’ mind games in the 1991 ECF. Even after having gone through immense physical stress to beat the Pistons, they did not show any form of retaliation to this physicality. Even after Pippen went down in Game 4, the Bulls knew they had it in the bag. They swept the Pistons, and went on to dominate the rest of the ‘90s.