|“The other rule was, any time he went by you, you had to nail him. If he was coming off a screen, nail him. We didn’t want to be dirty—I know some people thought we were—but we had to make contact and be very physical.” -Pistons Coach Chuck Daly|
The NBA in the late 1980’s and well into the 1990’s, was shaped by bitter and physical rivalries. Most notably throughout the ’80’s was the Lakers and Celtics. But in the late 80’s and into the 90’s as Jordan, Pippen and the Bulls began to emerge as the soon to be beasts of the East, there were plenty of teams that did not like them. One of them was the Knicks, but most notably it was the “Bad Boy Pistons.”
The name should say it all. Headed by the man who perfected being the most annoying player to ever play the game Isiah Thomas, he, Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman and Bill Laimbeer became MJ’s biggest speed bump in the road to his everlasting glory. They were fierce, physical, over-the-top and punishing, not only to Jordan but the rest of the league. So many teams were so worried about how physical they were going to be that it distracted them from the fact that Thomas and Dumars were able to score at will. Rodman (who eventually would become a Bull) was at the prime of his career, leading the league in rebounds game in and game out. He has produced more 20-plus rebounding games in his career than there will be in the league this year. But the players weren’t the reason why the Bad Boys were so dominating for a half a decade, it was the master behind the scenes, Coach Chuck Daly. Still the only man to this day to effectively slow down a man impossible to slow down on the basketball court, Daly created the “Jordan Rules” for whenever they played the superstar. And for the most part they worked pretty well. For the most part.
The funniest thing about the Jordan Rules is that there really weren’t any to begin with. The Pistons employed the same defensive scheme as they would against Larry Bird or Magic during that time. But when Chuck Daly throughout the phrase to the press, everyone hoped on to it and made it bigger than it actually should have been. But of course it got into the younger, less experienced Bulls heads and for three straight years, left Chicago with no answer. In ’88 Detroit was too much for the young Bulls and took them out four games to one. Even though earlier that year Jordan lit Daly’s squad up on National TV for 59, in the playoffs it was a different story. In the 1989-1990 season, with the arrival of the Zen Master in Phil Jackson, he implemented the triangle offense that gave the Bulls more of a diversified look on offense. Yet the Bad Boys were at their peak that year posting a 63-19 record. The Bulls pushed them to 6 games this time, and Jordan was having more success. The next year the Bulls were even better under Phil, this time Chicago looked poised to beat the Pistons. The Bad Boys were not containing MJ too well at this point who averaged 36.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists (We fact-check at Goatsports) in an amazing 7 game series that ended up seeing the Pistons taking the series, and the title for a second straight year.
In 1991, behind the MVP in Jordan and a greater concentration on an all-around defensive effort, the Bulls carried a 61-21 record into the playoffs. Where once again, they met the Boys from Auburn Hills, but this time MJ was simply too much. With MJ averaging once again similar numbers to the year before and the development of Pipp becoming an All-Star and soon to be superstar, The Chicago Bulls, after 3 years of suffering from Detroit’s physical and psychological advantage, finally beat the Pistons in 4 straight for the sweep. With 7.9 seconds left in the 4th game and Bulls about to advance, Everyone but Joe Dumars and John Salley left the court instead of shaking hands with the Bulls. To this day, Isiah Thomas will not speak about Michael Jordan. I guess only a man like Michael can make someone that mad.