Please select your default edition
Your default site has been set for 7 days

Was Michael Jordan too hard on Chicago Bulls team-mates?

Watch a new edition of Heatcheck on Sky Sports Arena on Wednesday at 8pm

Wednesday 20 May 2020 10:34, UK

Michael Jordan congratulates teammate Steve Kerr after Kerr's last-second basket against the Utah Jazz in game six of the 1997 NBA Finals 5:16
Heatcheck's Ovie Soko and Mo Mooncey consider if Michael Jordan as too hard on his Chicago Bulls team-mates

Was Michael Jordan too hard on his team-mates? Heatcheck’s Ovie Soko and Mo Mooncey discuss Jordan's treatment of his fellow Bulls depicted in The Last Dance.

NBA Heatcheck

NBA Retro Games: WC Playoffs Game 2: San Antonio Spurs v Denver Nuggets 1985

Throughout The Last Dance, a 10-part documentary available on Netflix via Sky Q, Jordan was portrayed as a highly-demanding leader on court and in practice, using his physical skills to dominate his team-mates and his often-withering criticism of them to voice the need for them to improve.

In episode seven of the series, back-up Bulls center Jud Buechler revealed "we were scared of him". Current Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who won three NBA championship with the Bulls Jordan, recounted the story of a fight he had with Jordan in practice.

Michael Jordan shows his fatigue and frustration during Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals 0:48
Former Chicago Bulls player Jud Buechler says the fear factor Michael Jordan held over his team-mates was immense

An emotional Jordan, asked to reflect on his style of leadership, was almost moved to tears when he said "Winning has a price. Leadership has a price. So I pulled people along when they didn't want to be pulled. I challenged people when they didn't want to be challenged. I earned that right.

"Once you joined the team you lived at a certain standard that I played the game, I wasn't going to take anything less. I never asked my team-mates to do anything I wouldn't do. When people see this, they will say 'he wasn't really a nice guy, he may have been a tyrant'. That's you, because you never won anything.

Jordan's Last Dance on Sky Q

Jordan's Last Dance on Sky Q

Watch The Last Dance, a 10-part documentary on the 1997-98 Bulls, on Netflix via your Sky Q box

NBA Retro on Sky Sports

NBA Retro on Sky Sports

Watch classic NBA games on Sky Sports Arena at 9pm every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.

"I wanted to win but I wanted [my team-mates] to be a part of that as well. It is who I am. That is how I played the game. That was my mentality. If you don't want to play that way, don't play that way."

Was Jordan's leadership essential to the Bulls' run of six NBA titles in eight seasons or was he too hard on his less-talented team-mates?

More on this story

Michael Jordan and Steve Kerr celebrates the Bulls' victory in the NBA Finals 1:00
Michael Jordan and Steve Kerr tell the story of their infamous fight at a Bulls practice

"The majority of people are not able to win at the level that Michael Jordan won," said Soko. "It is very tough for us to sit here and say someone who was able to consistently achieve greatness was wrong to expect greatness out of everyone around him.

"Would Jordan have achieved the things he achieved if he wasn't as hard on his team-mates? We don't know but we do know the formula he did use worked every single time he showed up in the NBA Finals. I find it hard to question his method of winning. It was 100 per cent flawless."

Follow Sky Sports NBA on Twitter

Follow Sky Sports NBA on Twitter

See the NBA's best plays and stay up to date with the latest news

"Every great player has their own leadership style", said Mooncey. "The leadership style of Michael Jordan is very different to [that of former San Antonio Spurs franchise star] Tim Duncan, for example. You have to go with what works for you and your personality.

"What people are perceiving as [Jordan being] harsh towards with team-mates, it is not coming from the place of being a horrible person. It is coming from a place of wanting them to improve as well. He set the standard of greatness and expected his team-mates to elevate their games.

Dennis Rodman of the Chicago Bulls talks to teammates Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen 3:35
The Heatcheck crew say the 95-96 Chicago Bulls team are the greatest ever to play in the NBA

"You have got to remember they were playing in the 1990s where the game was a lot tougher. There were certain guys on that team that needed to become tougher. If he didn't prepare them in practice, they would not be ready to go up against the Pistons and the Knicks.

"People criticise Jordan for not going up against (Dennis) Rodman and (Charles) Oakley in practice but those guys didn't need toughening up. Look at a guy like Scott Burrell in episode eight of The Last Dance, Jordan took him under his wing to help him improve. It might not have looked that way to the viewer with Michael ripping him and making jokes, but that was his way of showing, 'I want you to be better, and I'm going to teach you how to be better'."

Join our NBA group on Facebook

Join our NBA group on Facebook

Sign up and join the NBA conversation in our Facebook group

While it was impossible for Jordan's team-mates to match his physical abilities, Soko believes his mental approach is something each of his team-mates could emulate.

"When you are talking about professional athletes, physically everyone is gifted in different ways and bring different things to the table but, mentally, that is something everyone has the ability to work on. Everyone can improve their mental approach. There is no room for slip-ups in that area," he said.

Michael Jordan shoots a free throw for the Bulls during the 1997-98 season 5:16
Relive Michael Jordan's best plays from his final regular season with the Chicago Bulls

"Physically, you can only be pushed to a certain limit. Mentally, I feel like we all have the capacity to improve every day. Ultimately, that is what Jordan was trying to pull out of different guys. He was trying to challenge guys mentally. To win championships, when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of a tough battle, mental toughness [makes the difference].

"We saw that in The Last Dance when the Bulls faced the 'Bad Boy' Detroit Pistons. There was a point where the Bulls started complaining to the referees. That was the point the Pistons knew they had them. Once you break someone mentally, they are beaten."

Get NBA news on your phone

Get NBA news on your phone

Want the latest NBA news, features and highlights on your phone? Find out more

Want to watch even more of the NBA but don't have Sky Sports? Get the Sky Sports Action and Arena pack, click here