A SUPER TEAM...A SUPERSTAR...A SUPER EGO
The most gifted athlete ever to play the game, Michael Jordan rose to heights no basketball player had ever reached before. What drove Michael Jordan? The pursuit of team success...or of his own personal glory? The pursuit of excellence...or of his next multimillion-dollar endorsement? The flight of the man they call Air Jordan had been rocked by controversy. In The Jordan Rules, which chronicles the Chicago Bulls' first championship season, Sam Smith takes the #1 Bull by the horns to reveal the team behind the man...and the man behind the Madison Avenue smile. Here is the inside game, both on and off the court, including:
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Sam Smith was a reporter for the Chicago Tribune during the Chicago Bulls' 1991 championship season. He is a Brooklyn, New York, native with degrees in accounting from Pace University and in journalism from Ball State University. He has worked for Arthur Young and Co., the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, and States News Service in Washington, D.C. This is his first book.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter One: Spring 1990
Michael Jordan surveyed his crew and got that sinking feeling.
It was just before 11:00 A.M. on May 24, 1990, two days after the Bulls had fallen behind the Detroit Pistons two games to none in the Eastern Conference finals. The city of was awash in spring -- all two hours of it, as the old-time residents like to say -- but Jordan wasn't feeling very sunny. He didn't even feel like playing golf, which friends would say meant he was near death.
The Bulls had gathered for practice at the Deerfield Multiplex, a tony health club about thirty-five miles north of Chicago, to try to get themselves back into the series. Jordan's back hurt, as did his hip, shoulder, wrist, and thigh, thanks to a two-on-one body slam in Game 1 courtesy of Dennis Rodman and John Salley. But his back didn't hurt nearly as much as his pride or his competitiveness, for the Bulls were being soundly whipped by the Pistons, and Jordan was growing desperately angry and frustrated.
"I looked over and saw Horace [Grant] and Scottie [Pippen] screwing around, joking and messing up," Jordan told an acquaintance later. "They've got the talent, but they don't take it seriously. And the rookies were together, as usual. They've got no idea what it's all about. The white guys [John Paxson and Ed Nealy], they work hard, but they don't have the talent. And the rest of them? Who knows what to expect? They're not good for much of anything."
It was a burden Michael Jordan felt he had to bear. The weight of the entire team was on his tired shoulders.
The Pistons had taken the first two games by 86-77 and 102-93, and Detroit's defense had put the Bulls' fast break in neutral: The Bulls had failed to shoot better than 41 percent in either game. Jordan himself had averaged only 27 points, stubbornly going 17 for 43. No team defensed Jordan better than the Pistons, yet he refused to admit that they gave him a hard time, so he played into their hands by attacking the basket right where their collapsing defensive schemes were expecting him. The coaches would look on in exasperation as Jordan drove toward the basket -- "the citadel," assistant coach John Bach liked to call it -- like a lone infantryman attacking a fortified bunker. Too often there was no escape.
Although Detroit's so-called Jordan rules of defense were effective, the Bulls coaches also believed the Pistons had succeeded in pulling a great psychological scam on the referees. It had been a two-part plan. The first step was a series of selectively edited tapes, sent to the league a few years earlier, which purported to show bad fouls being called on defenders despite little contact with Jordan. The Pistons said they weren't even being allowed to defense him. "Ever since then, the foul calls started decreasing," Jordan noted, "and not only those against Detroit."
Step two was the public campaign. The Pistons advertised their "Jordan rules" as some secret defense that only they could deploy to stop Jordan. These secrets were merely a series of funneling defenses that channeled Jordan toward the crowded middle, but Detroit players and coaches talked about them as if they had been devised by the Pentagon. "You hear about them often enough -- and the referees bear it, too -- and you start to think they have something different," said Bach. "It has an effect and suddenly people think they aren't fouling Michael even when they are."
It only added to Jordan's frustration with Detroit.
At halftime of Game 2, with the Bulls trailing 53-38, Jordan walked into the quiet locker room, kicked over a chair, and yelled, "We're playing like a bunch of pussies!" Afterward, he refused to speak to reporters, boarded the bus, and sat in stony silence all the way home. He continued his silence -- other than a few sharp postgame statements -- for the next week. He would not comment on his teammates. "I'll let them stand up and take responsibility for themselves," he told a friend.
Jordan had really believed that the Bulls could defeat Detroit this time. Of course, there was no evidence to suggest it could happen, since the Pistons had knocked the Bulls out of the playoffs the previous two seasons and had taken fourteen of the last seventeen regular-season games between them. But hadn't there been similar odds in 1989 when the Bulls had faced Cleveland in the playoffs? The Cavaliers had won fifty-seven games that season to the Bulls' forty-seven, and they were 6-0 against the Bulls, even winning the last game of the regular season despite resting their starters while the Bulls played theirs. The Bulls' chances were as bleak as Chicago in February.
Jordan promised that the Bulls would win the Cleveland series anyway.
Playing point guard, Jordan averaged 39.8 points, 8.2 assists, and 5.8 rebounds in the five games. And with time expiring in Game 5, he hit a hanging jumper to give the Bulls a 1-point victory. The moment became known in Chicago sports history as "the shot," ranking with Jordan's other "shot" in the 1982 NCAA tournament, a twenty-foot jumper that gave North Carolina a last-second victory over Georgetown. It also sent the Cavaliers plummeting; over the next two seasons, they would not defeat the Bulls once.
The playoffs had become Jordan's stage. He was Bob Hope and Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger and Frank Sinatra. His play transcended the game. It was a sweet melody received with a grand ovation. Others jumped as high and almost everyone slammed the ball, but Jordan did it with a style and a smile and a flash and a wink, and he did it best in the postseason.
"There's always been the feeling on this team," Bach had said after that Cavaliers series, "that if we got to the Finals, Michael would figure out some way to win it. He's the greatest competitor I've ever seen and then he goes to still another level in the big games."
It was true: Jordan's playoff performances had been Shakespearean sonnets, beautiful and timeless. And like Shakespeare, he was the best even though everyone said so. In just his second season in the league, after missing sixty-four games with a broken foot, Jordan demanded to return to the court despite warnings by doctors that he might exacerbate the injury to his foot. The Bulls, and even Jordan's advisers, said he should sit out the rest of the season. Jordan angrily accused the team of not wanting to make the playoffs so it could get a better draft pick. He was reluctantly allowed to return with only fifteen games remaining in the regular schedule. The Bulls made the playoffs, and in Game 2 against the Boston Celtics (who would go on to win the NBA title) Jordan scored 63 points. Larry Bird put it this way: "It must be God disguised as Michael Jordan."
In the 1988 playoffs against the Cavaliers, Jordan opened the series with 50- and 55-point games, the first time anyone had ever scored back-to-back 50s in the playoffs, to lead the team to victory and establish an all-time five-game-playoff-series scoring record of 45.2 points per game. Jordan had become perhaps the greatest scorer in the game's history. He would never equal Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game or his hundred-plus 50-point games, but by the end of 1990-91 season, Jordan had become the all-time NBA scoring average leader in the regular season, the playoffs, and the All-Star game. And he'd won his fifth straight scoring title, putting him behind only Chamberlain's seven.
And now, facing the Pistons in 1990, he was coming off a series against the 76ers in the second round of the playoffs that was unbelievable even by his own amazing standards. The Bulls won in five games as Jordan averaged 43 points, 7.4 assists, and 6.6 rebounds. He shot nearly 55 percent in 42.5 minutes per game. He drove and he dunked. He posted up and buried jumpers. He blocked shots and defended everyone from Charles Barkley to Johnny Dawkins.
"I never played four consecutive games like I did against Philly," he said of the first four, in which he led the team in scoring in thirteen of sixteen quarters.
And then the Bulls, storming and snorting, headed for Detroit to take on the Pistons. The two teams hailed from hard-edged, blue-collar towns, Chicago with its broad shoulders and meat-packing history, Detroit with its recession-prone auto industry. For some reason, though, Detroit's sports teams seemed to have a perpetual edge over Chicago's. In 1984 the Cubs finally won a piece of a baseball tide, but it was the Detroit Tigers who won the World Series, just as they had in 1945, the year of the Cubs' last World Series appearance. Many times Gordie Howe's Detroit Red Wings had come into the Stadium and ruined the dreams of Bobby Hull's Black Hawks. And now there were the Pistons. Detroit had made a habit of beating Chicago. It was a habit Michael Jordan was determined to break.
But no matter how hard he tried against the Pistons, he couldn't beat these guys. In earlier seasons, Jordan had some of his biggest scoring games against the Pistons: a 61-point mosaic in an overtime win in March 1987, an Easter Sunday mural on national TV in 1988 in which he'd scored 59 points. And Jordan was an artist, the ninety-four-by-fifty-foot basketball court being the canvas for his originals, signed with a flashing smile, a hanging tongue, and a powerful, twisting slam. Pistons coach Chuck Daly, a man who appreciated the arts, was not particularly enamored of Jordan's work, and after the 1988 game the Pistons instituted "the Jordan rules" and the campaign to allow what the Bulls believed was legalized assault on Michael Jordan.
The Pistons had two of the league's best man-to-man defenders, Joe Dumars and Dennis Rodman, to carry out those assignments. Jordan grudgingly respected Dumars, with whom he'd become somewhat friendly at the 1990 All-Star game; Dumars was quiet and resolute, a gentlemanly professional. But Jordan didn't care much for Rodman's play. "He's a flopper," Jordan would say disdainfully. "He just falls down and tries to get the calls. That's not good defense." Rodman once "flopped" so effectively back in the 1988-89 season that Jordan drew six fouls in the fourth quarter to foul out in the last minute of a close loss to the Pistons.
But Jordan's frustration against the Pistons was much larger than his dislike for Rodman, his team's lack of success against Detroit, or even his failure to score effectively since that Easter Sunday game. Detroit simply beat up Jordan, battering him through picks and screens whenever he tried to move. For Jordan, it was like trying to navigate a minefield of bullies. First he'd take a forearm shiver from Dumars when he tried to get past, then perhaps a bump from Bill Laimbeer and a bang from Rodman or Isiah Thomas. The Bulls were so concerned about some of these tactics a few years ago that they focused a camera on Laimbeer throughout the playoffs to see what he was doing and found that he was grabbing players at their pressure points to deaden their arms. They complained to the league but got no action. And while Thomas is not considered a good defender because he doesn't like to play a helping game, whenever the Bulls play Detroit he is quick to double-team Jordan. He knows Jordan despises him and doesn't care much for Jordan being the hero in Chicago, Isiah's hometown.
Jordan's resentment toward the angelic-looking Thomas is deep. Much of it stems from an alleged freeze-out of Jordan in the 1985 All-Star game, when Thomas and other players apparently conspired to keep Jordan from getting the ball -- and their paths have continued to cross along with their swords. During the 1989-90 season, Johnson suggested a one-on-one match between himself Jordan. Jordan wasn't too interested, but Johnson was looking at a big pay-per-view payoff and had already worked out a deal with a cable TV company. When word surfaced though, the NBA voiced its disapproval, and Thomas, head of the Players' Association, said it was not in the best interests of the players to have such unsanctioned off-season games. Suddenly Jordan was very interested. He said he always thought the Players' Association "was supposed to be for the players." And anyway, Jordan said, Thomas was just jealous. "He wasn't asked," snarled Jordan. "And do you want to know why? It's because if he were in it no one would be interested enough to watch."
But the Pistons get their shots back at Jordan. They love to taunt Jordan during games about his selfish play, his baldness (that's a specialty of John Salley), and how he enjoys being a loser. Salley, a bad stand-up comic who has earned a stage because he is seven feet tall and looks like Arsenio Hall, is a particularly bitter antagonist.
"There's not one guy who sets the tone on our team," Salley liked to tell reporters during the 1990 playoffs. "That's what makes us a team. If one guy did everything, we wouldn't be a team. We'd be the Chicago Bulls."
And this, too, from Salley: "We don't care who scores the points as long as we win. It would be hard for Michael Jordan to play on this team because he's got to score all the points. I don't think he'd fit in here."
Jordan burned over comments like that, but he seemed helpless to pay back the Pistons. Jordan was perhaps the league's best when angered, dunking over seven-footers after they'd blocked his shot, scoring wildly against boastful rookies, and surging to great heights when opponents scored on him regularly or tried to show him up, But Jordan couldn't make it happen against the Pistons, and his teammates were unable to ease the burden he felt.
In Game 1, John Paxson and Craig Hodges missed all 8 of their field-goal attempts and Scottie Pippen was thwarted by Rodman. "I seem to spend too much time worrying about how he's going to play me," Pippen would say later. Among Detroit starters, only Joe Dumars would score in double 27 points, but it would be enough.
In Game 2, Jordan limped on his injured hip and leg, and the Bulls fell. Pippen and Horace Grant scored 17 each, but it was hardly enough to make up for the ailing Jordan, who scored only 20. Dumars scored 31.
And so Jordan left the game without speaking to anyone, leaving the media scrambling for reasons and teammates searching for answers. It was not a happy group that headed back to Chicago for Game 3. Jordan believed his team had let him down when he was hurt. The team believed he'd let them down by failing to face the media after such a critical loss. Sure, several noted, he was there long into the night after he scored 50 points, but where was he when he scored only 20? And his man, Dumars, burned him in two straight games, and had clearly been the difference in Detroit's taking a 2-0 lead. The players agreed: We hear it from him when we don't play well, but when he doesn't play well it's still our fault?
Center Dave Corzine, a former Bull, had once explained it well: "It's hard playing on a team with Michael because you're always the reason the team lost." It certainly couldn't be Jordan's fault, everyone usually agreed; he was the best, wasn't he? There was not much anyone on the team could say publicly.
But Jordan would be ready for Game 3 back in the Stadium. He was angry and chastened, a little contrite perhaps, but also demanding payment for assorted sins.
Phil Jackson did the talking for the next few days following Tuesday's Game 2. Jordan, usually playful during practice, wasn't saying much. After practice Wednesday, with the media waiting and watching, most of the pl...
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Descrizione libro Simon & Schuster, 1992. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. Codice libro della libreria DADAX0671744917
Descrizione libro Simon & Schuster, 1992. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. book. Codice libro della libreria 0671744917
Descrizione libro Simon & Schuster, 1992. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. Codice libro della libreria P110671744917