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When Michael Jordan Adopted Unique Methods to Keep Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman in Line

Trikansh Kher

When Michael Jordan Adopted Unique Methods to Keep Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman in Line

Michael Jordan’s return to the Bulls in 1995, sparked the beginning of another three-peat for the Chicago-based franchise. But the second time around, Bulls head coach Phil Jackson wanted to do things differently, choosing to make the team into one cohesive unit. For that to happen, Jordan, as the leader of the team, had to step up and lead by example. While Jordan was a phenomenal player, he had a hard time connecting with his teammates, often getting into arguments.

With the help of coach George Mumford, Jordan realized that he couldn’t treat all his teammates the same, and to get through to them, he had to understand them on a deeper level. Jordan, while hesitant to incorporate his new learnings, had no option but to test it out. Recalling his strategy in handling his teammates, Jackson wrote the following in his 2013 book, ‘Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success’

“Working with Mumford, Michael adopted a new way of leading based on what worked best with each player. With some players, he decided, he would get physical, either by demonstrating what needed to be done with his body..” 

Jackson further explained that Jordan had to take different approaches with his two-star teammates, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. Recalling his approach with Pippen, Coach Jackson wrote, ” … in Scottie’s case, simply by being present. ‘Scottie was one of those guys for whom I had to be there every single day,’ says Michael. ‘If I took a day off, he would take a day off. But if I was there every single day, he would follow.'”

Jordan’s approach for the ‘Worm’ would be completely different, “With other players—Dennis in particular—Michael would go emotional. ‘You couldn’t yell at Dennis,’ he says. ‘You had to find a way to get into his world for a few quick seconds so that he could understand what you were saying.’ “

In the end, MJ’s efforts would pay their dividends, as the Bulls went on to win three Championships in a row from 1995 to 1998. Without Mumford, there was a high chance that Jordan and his teammates would have had a severe falling out, with many on the squad dispising No 23 for his egotistical ways. 

The time when Scottie Pippen became ‘Batman’ 

Scottie Pippen is known as the best ‘Robin’ (to the Batman Michael Jordan) to ever play in the NBA, a testament to his greatness, but also true about his standing in the Bulls teams over the years. Pippen always played second-fiddle to Jordan, something that limited Scottie’s potential on the floor. But when Jordan retired in 1993, the keys to the Bulls franchise were handed over to Pippen, who showed everyone that he too, could lead a squad to the playoffs. 

Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

He ended up doing wonders in the absence of Jordan. He not only finished third place in MVP voting that year, but also managed to secure a playoff berth with a record of 55-27. Pippen’s performance was so impressive that even Michael Jordan praised the power-forward during a 1996 interview with ‘Spokesman-Review’,

“He’s got to be one of the best players in the game, if not the best. He’s learned how to challenge himself every night. When one phase of his game is not clicking, he’s contributed in other areas. That’s a sign of greatness.”

Jordan’s time off from the Bulls proved useful to the franchise, as Pippen evolved from being Jordan’s side-kick into a bona-fide superstar in just two seasons. When Jordan joined back in 1995, the team hit the ground running. The Bulls not only managed to secure a league-best 72-10 record the following season but also set an NBA record that lasted more than two decades before the Golden State Warriors broke it in 2016.

Post Edited By:Hitesh Nigam

About the author

Trikansh Kher

Trikansh Kher

Trikansh Kher is a writer at The Sports Rush. A lawyer by education, Trikansh has always been around sports. As a young track athlete Trikansh was introduced to basketball through 'street ball' mixtapes. He was hooked and it has been 'ball is life' ever since. Trikansh is a designer by profession, but couldn't keep away from basketball. A regular on the blacktop, his love for the game goes further than just hooping. If Trikansh isn't going through box scores for last night's game, you can find him in his studio working on his designs or playing squash at the local club.

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