From Bear Down and Get Some Runs:
Learning the Hard Way
My parents became friends in 1972. For eight years they lived on the East Coast, dating on and off until they decided to get married in 1980. I was born a year later while we were living in Brooklyn, MJ two years after that in Connecticut, and in 1984 we moved back home to Chicago in an Evanston apartment as my folks had always planned.
As a three-year-old with Chicago fandom rich in the blood, I really could not have asked for a better time to move back. While doomed as apocalyptic by the great Orwell, 1984 was the beginning of a golden era in Chicago sports. The Cubs won the division that summer, going to the postseason for the first time since 1945. The Bears, buoyed by an incredible 1983 draft, dominated in the fall and went back to the NFC Title game, and though they lost to the Niners the seeds were planted for their incredible 1985 run.
But the city’s most significant move came in the middle of the year, when the Bulls used the number 3 pick in the draft to select Michael Jordan, a junior guard from North Carolina. This was the landscape of Chicago sports when I was growing up, and from 1984-1998, I saw some pretty incredible feats:
1. I saw three Cubs teams go to the playoffs, (I’ve since seen a fourth), and despite the fact that they are thirty years older than me, my parents have also seen the same four Cubs teams go to the playoffs. I also saw three MVPs (Sandberg ’84, Dawson ’87, Sosa ’98), two Cy Young winners (Sutcliffe ’84, Maddux ’92), and two rookies of the year (Walton ’89, Wood ’98).
2. I saw Northwestern’s moribund football program have arguably the greatest “Cinderella season” in any sport at any level with their 10-1 1995 season that ended with a Big Ten title and a trip to the Rose Bowl.
3. I saw the GREATEST TEAM EVER, the 1985 Chicago Bears, dominate their sport and their city like no team in any sport anywhere ever has.
4. Most of all, I got to watch arguably the greatest basketball player of all-time lead my Chicago Bulls to six titles in eight years during the 1990s.
Throw in the White Sox 1993 division title and the Blackhawks 1992 trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, and it’s beyond obvious that I have been blessed with great teams to watch and great players to cheer for, clubs that brought pride and respect to my home town. I really, truly believe that if you watch your teams for long enough and stay loyal to them, you will know the joys of victory. But it is not the postseason berths and championships and MVPs that define my childhood fandom. Those are simply the high points, the rewards that eventually come when you faithfully root for your teams regardless of rank or record.
What stands out most is the losing.
I didn’t know it at the time, but the Bulls of the ’90s were a blessing bestowed upon this city by the sports gods themselves. Like most great teams in our history, the non-Bulls squads listed above did not sustain. Even the ’85 Bears could not escape the city’s bad karma, mocking Chicagoans with dreams of a dynasty before becoming the greatest one-and-done in the history. The Bulls were different. For ten years, no matter what else was happening on the Chicago sports scene, we were able to carry with us the knowledge that we rooted for the best basketball team in the world.
But to fully appreciate the Bulls of the ’90s, you had to have made it through the ’80s. Jordan quickly turned the Bulls into a playoff team, but turning them into a championship contender was much more difficult, because in order to win a title we had to defeat the Eastern Conference’s roughest, toughest, and best team: the Detroit Pistons.
Led by Chicago-native Isiah Thomas, the “Bad Boys” bullied their way to three NBA Finals appearances and back-to-back titles from 1988-1990. The Bulls were a young team then: Pippen and Grant were rookies during the ’88 playoffs, while Jordan was a fourth-year guard who “will never lead a team to a title.” Detroit, on the other hand, had been battling their way up the ladder for five years. Along with Isiah, one of the game’s all-time greatest point guards, the Pistons had a Hall of Fame coach in Chuck Daly, two other future Hall of Famers in Joe Dumars and Adrian Dantley, one should-be Hall of Famer in Dennis Rodman, and a bunch of great role players in Bill Laimbeer, John Salley, Vinnie Johnson, James Edwards, and Rick Mahorn. They held their own in epic postseason battles with Bird’s Celtics and Magic’s Lakers, and while Jordan was named the NBA’s MVP in 1988, the Pistons clearly had his and the Bulls’ number.
Three straight years the Bulls battled the Pistons in the playoffs, and three straight years we left bruised and beaten. In 1990, it was a second straight Eastern Conference Final. We took them all the way to a seventh game. But Game 7 turned into another awful Chicago sports meltdown as Scottie Pippen suffered from his imfamous migraine, and the Bulls watched the Finals from home.
Even as a youth, I knew what was happening. I felt the pain of those three seasons, the growing pains that come with watching a young team make mistakes, and the pain of watching that team get beat up year after year by the same group of guys. The Pistons were men. The Bulls were children. The Pistons were evil but strong. The Bulls were good but weak. Exaserbating the bitterness and making it all more overwhelming was our childhood friendship with Aaron Wightman, Pistons fan. (His family was from Michigan.) And even though he was an incredibly nice kid who never once rubbed it in our noses, we all knew he had something over us. My friends and I would come together to watch the Bulls and Pistons battle, and at the end of it all Aaron was smiling while we were silent. The rivalry dominated my childhood. Nothing else was close. Aaron wasn’t a bragger, but with us, he did not have to be. It was understood that no matter what happened with the Bears and Lions, Blackhawks and Red Wings, or Cubs, White Sox, and Tigers, and no matter what happened when we played our own games at the school yard or in our backyards, nothing else mattered but this: Aaron rooted for the Pistons, we rooted for the Bulls, the Pistons dominated the Bulls, and there was nothing we could do about it.
It got to a point where it wasn’t even about basketball anymore. The Bulls-Pistons rivalry obtained legendary status in all of our imaginations. In my mind, Bill Laimbeer was not a basketball player. He didn’t even seem human. He was a supervillain, the Devil himself, a life force of pure evil sent to this planet to destroy our heroes, the Chicago Bulls. There were two supervillains in my childhood (and I say this with zero hyperbole): one was Saddam Hussein, and the other was Bill Laimbeer.
(And frankly, I was much more terrified of Laimbeer. Two reasons. A. We had an entire army dedicated to stopping Saddam. Who was going to stop Laimbeer? Dave Corzine? Brad Sellers? A pre-goggles Horace Grant? And B. Saddam lived way off in Iraq. When you’re nine, who the hell knows where Iraq is? On the other hand, as far as I knew, Laimbeer could make the drive west on 94 at any moment and, in about four hours, be here in person to terrorize us.)
The Bulls were Batman and Superman, but unlike Lex Luthor or the Joker, Laimbeer and the Pistons held the upperhand against the forces of good. To put it another way: imagine if Rocky had fought Apollo in all five movies and lost every time. Slowly, the emotional triumph and moral victory of the first film would be sucked out of the series until all that was left was the Italian Stallion bloodied in his corner, alone, crying, and coming back for more. He may have Adrian’s love, he may have Mickey’s guidance, but he’ll never beat Apollo, his most hated enemy.
That’s how it was in Chicago during those years: regardless of what our other teams were doing, we knew we would never be nuhtin’ until we beat Detroit. I vividly remember the ’89 Cubs. They were fun. But they lost in the NLCS, flamed out in 1990, and by the time the Cubs went back to the playoffs in ’98 it was a totally different club. When people reminisce about the ’89 Cubs, they don’t talk much about losing to the Giants or the fact that they were a one-year wonder. They just remember the fun they had during one summer of baseball. The Bulls of the late ’80s? Not fun. Painful. Grueling. Those games took hold of our psyches…we HAVE to beat Detroit this year, we just HAVE to. I can’t take another year of this. The Pistons weren’t a team—they were a metaphor for all the pain the city had ever endured. We weren’t just playing a game of basketball; we were battling against all of life’s hardships. Every time the Pistons knocked Jordan or Pippen to the floor, every time they glared menacingly after a hard foul, every time they walked off the court victorious as we nursed our injuries and shook our heads, it felt like the whole city had taken an actual, physical beating, like we tried our best and our best wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t just one basketball team beating another; it was a vicious and calculated attack on our way of life.
After all, we are Chicago, the city that works, the city that (despite what our politics might tell you about us) believes success must be earned the right way. Meanwhile, there were the Pistons, so blurring the line between tough and dirty that the terms became impossible to distinguish. They pushed and pushed the limits, pulling back at the game’s most crucial juncture just as we lost our cool, like an older brother who knows exactly when Mom and Dad will be looking and mocks his younger brother up to that point, letting the younger brother hit back in his parents’ sight and then going to watch TV while his brother is berated. When we lost to Detroit, it wasn’t because they were more talented than we were. We could have accepted that. We lost to Detroit because they were tougher than we were, because they were smarter and more experienced. Mostly, though, we were frustrated because they bent the rules and got away with it.
Then came the 1990-91 season. It was Jordan’s seventh year with the team, Paxson’s sixth, the fourth for Pippen and Grant. Doug Collins had been fired after the ’89 playoffs and replaced with assistant coach Phil Jackson, but even under Jackson the result was the same: a loss in the Conference Finals to Detroit. Both the team and the fans knew what was at stake in the fall of 1990: the Bulls were at a breaking point. The team’s identity would be defined by their success or failure against Detroit, and another loss to the Pistons at the end of 1991 would be their fourth in a row.
How long could we do this? How long could we reach the same point, challenged by the same team, and fail? We are optimists in this city—you have to be, if you plan on having any sort of longevity as a fan—but we carry a heavy heart. I was only in third grade at the time, an age when Anything Is Possible because you’ve got All The Time In The World, and even I felt it strongly: if we couldn’t do it this year, we couldn’t do it at all.
The Bulls must have had the same sense of urgency. With a conference-high 61 wins, we finally had home-court advantage. We swept the Knicks in round one, beat the 76ers in five games in round two, and for the third straight year our reward for advancing to the conference finals was a date with Detroit.
With home court and the maturation of Jordan’s “supporting cast,” we were finally the favorites. Still, I have to admit, I was nervous. By 1991 I had experienced much hardship with this Bulls team. I also knew Chicago’s history. I knew about the ’69 Cubs and the Black Sox scandal and I had watched as the Bears of the ’80s fell to pieces. But then the series started, and everything changed. The Pistons tried all of their regular tricks, but nothing worked. They knocked us down, we got back up. In the past, their physical play wore us out, and every time we hit the ground we got weaker. This time, it was the opposite. They wore themselves out, because every time we hit the ground we grew stronger, and every time we came back at them they panicked.
You could feel the trends changing…as a fan, you could really feel it. We were confident going into the series, yet in the back of our minds we were still thinking: “Please don’t let them burn us again.” But they didn’t. The Bulls stayed tough, and after winning Games 1 and 2 at home, the series moved to Detroit, and that’s when we felt like it would happen. The momentum grew in school and in the city, our confidence building both in our teams and in ourselves. It really felt like we, not just as sports fans but as Chicagoans, were growing stronger, and when we beat Detroit in Game 3 at the Palace, we knew the series was ours. Like the older brother who suddenly realizes his younger brother has surpassed him and his tricks are no longer effective, the Pistons came apart like children, and the Bulls came together as all great teams do.
Every Bulls fan has a favorite game or moment, the one that stands out from all the others. Title clinching games, Pax’s three against Phoenix, Michael’s last shot against Utah, battling it out with the Knicks. These are all great. But for me—along with the Charles Smith game—the MJ and Pippen show doesn’t get any sweeter than Game 4 at the Palace, Memorial Day 1991. By the time that game rolled around, we knew it would be a sweep. It wasn’t just that we were going to finally beat Detroit—we were going to break them down and beat them up in a way they never imagined. At that point, letting them win even one game would have been a let-down.
We knew we were going to the Finals…there wasn’t a question about that. But our goal was never to go to the Finals. Nobody talked at school about who we wanted to play in the Finals or how bad we wanted to get there. We talked about Detroit. That was it. We were just as single-minded and focused as the team was. Our goal was to beat the Pistons, to make up for three years of pain and suffering at their hands. We had to show them how far we had come, so there was no doubt in their minds which team was better. They had to learn not just that we were more talented, but stronger, mentally and physically. They had to learn that they could not push us around any more, that no matter what they did or what they tried, they were not going to beat us because we would not let them.
I’ve never felt as connected to a community due to a sports team as I felt at the end of that game. I wasn’t just watching in front of my TV with my family and friends. I was watching with every other Bulls fan alive. As we watched Isiah and his teammates walk off the court with time remaining, I knew I was thinking and feeling exactly what every other Bulls fan was thinking and feeling: “WE did it. We finally did it.” When Detroit walked off the court early, it wasn’t simply a show of bad sportsmanship, nor was it—as they claim—a chance for them to go off as champions with their own fans applauding. It was simply the natural reaction of a team that was totally and utterly defeated. They couldn’t even bare to watch, because deep down they knew their time had passed. They could feel it. They saw then that what had separated our two teams in years past was not skill, but toughness, intelligence, experience, desire. Now that we could withstand and fight through whatever physical challenges they may have presented, we were on even ground, and once that happened they were no match.
I remember looking over at Aaron—we always watched these games together—and the look on his face exposed the sentiment of the Pistons and all of their fans: we will never beat the Bulls again.
Determined to win: The Tale of the 1993 Bulls
Moving On: The Tale of Scottie Pippen’s 1994 Bulls
May 4, 2005: The Jannero Pargo game
April 30, 2009: The Joakim Noah steal game
And, because you deserve it… (fast forward to 7:30 for the start)
“As they looked across at the Pistons, the Bulls knew that their moment of truth was at hand. They were about to confront not only Detroit, but also The Ghost of Pistons Past.”
22 Replies to “Learning the Hard Way: Jordan’s Bulls vs. the Bad Boy Pistons”
Reading this has made me feel better in the middle of the night after being upset yet again by a situation you’re familiar with. Thanks for calming me, reassuring me that all’s well. Lambeer and Hussein, priceless. It couldn’t be better than this. Has Mr. B. seen this column?
Hey — just have to say that this “Bulls versus Bad Boys” piece on your blog is priceless!
Had been reminiscing because of MJ’s induction into the NBA Hall of Fame, and totally forgot how fun it was to live through that period and go to those Finals games……….as a Detroit Pistons fan! : )
The photos and vids are great – I just linked to this page from my fb account…too good not to share! : )
(another good chuckle find was the old MJ and Larry Bird McDonald’s commercial : )
Amy-Thanks for the shout and the fb drop. Soooooo great to hear that Detroit fans are digging it as well. That’s awesome. Hit me up for updates: http://www.facebook.com/readjack
All best for a fun and productive week ahead.
I was a Pistons fan during that time and I can tell you that your capture of what this rivalry was about is totally accurate concerning Pistons fans vs.Bulls fans. The truth is to Pistons fans this was more about the league vs. the Pistons than the Bulls vs. the Pistons. The reason why every Pistons player walked off the court in ’91 and the reason why every Pistons fan understood why they walked off the court is simple: We knew and understood the league wanted and fixed it for Jordan to win and we hated what the NBA had become and what they represented. Bulls’ fans and the league looked at the Pistons as the “Bad Guys” but to Pistons fans it was the NBA and in particular Jordan’s complaints and Jordan’s special treatment by refs, the press, and the league that was evil.
Here are some interesting facts about 1990 and 1991. After game 7 in 1990 where the Bulls lost 93-74, the Bulls, Phil Jackson, and especially Jordan complained at how physical the Pistons were as a basketball team. The NBA stepped in by first instituting the “flagrant foul” rule. This was the first time this rule had ever been instituted in the NBA. What the flagrant foul rule did was give teams two shots and the ball if they felt a player fouled another player hard or excessive. This left it up to refs to make sure that the players were more pampered when getting fouled as they journeyed towards the rim. What this rule did was soften up the NBA game. If you look at it, Chicago had more of a finesse style-of-play while Detroit was more physical. When the NBA instituted this “flagrant foul rule” it made the game geared more towards Chicago’s style-of-play while it took away from Detroit’s style-of-play. Whenever you institute a rule that takes away from one team and adds to another team, then that’s cheating. By the way, the guy who was in charge for instituting that rule was Rod Thorne — who drafted Jordan in 1984.
Plus, for the 1990-91 season who missed 34 games with surgery to repair tendons on his wrist? Isiah Thomas. Have Jordan to miss 34 games during that time? Chicago would be a 7th or 8th seed or not even make the post season, or get bounced in the first round. Home court advantage or not, had Isiah been healthy, the Pistons would’ve won that series. A tale tale sign that the fix was in is the differences in the foul calls for the first 3 games. Also, listen to the commentary in game 4 and in the comments Jordan made. This 1991 series wasn’t about fair competition but about ending this physical style-of-play the Detroit Pistons had throughout the NBA.
You may say, “Well you are being a sore loser like all Pistons fans.” Well just look at the facts. Ask yourself this. Why didn’t they have to institute a flagrant foul rule when Magic or Bird played against the Pistons? Why Jordan? Why now change the rules because Jordan (the number one marketing tool for the league) is losing to Isiah Thomas every year? Oh yeah, did I mention that Isiah was the President of the Players Association and fought to make sure players received a greater percentage of TV revenue and fought to make sure agents get paid less money? I’m sure the league was happy that Jordan was getting beaten by the guy (Isiah) who was also beating Stern and the owners at the negotiating table? Now you start to see why he missed 34 games with surgery to his wrist.
You mean to tell me that the Pistons, who dominated the Bulls 3 straight years in the regular season and playoffs, is then going to get swept in the playoffs but the Bulls the following year? Please.
THIS IS WHY THE PISTONS WALKED OFF OF THE COURT IN 1991. Every Pistons fan knows it and it has nothing to do with bitterness of losing, it has to do with the politics of professional sports and the changing of the rules simply to market stars. Why do you think the game is so soft today? You can thank Jordan for this effeminate and weak basketball we are witnessing before us this day in 2009-10. The game has changed for the worst as a whole when Jordan took over; now everyone thinks basketball began and ended with Mike.
One of the best replies I have ever read on a message board, and I agree 100%. Love the article (very funny), but hate what David Stern and Rod Thorn did to the game of basketball. The “Flagrant Foul” rule was so blatant a case of the league trying to win the championship for Jordan that even Vince McMahon would scoff at the tactic.
Pistons time was probably up–lots of infighting on that 1991 team, an injured Isiah (who would never be the same player again), a Joe Dumars who–I think–may have played all but 43 second of the entire second half of the season with Isiah out, a team still reeling a year later from the loss of Mahorn in an expansion draft while inexplicably protecting William Bedford (?!?), etc, etc. But Jordan’s refusal to give the Pistons any credit, along with the league actually changing the rule book to favor one team, was the cause of the bitterness and the walk-off. As a fan, I know I haven’t given a darn about pro basketball since that series.
Btw–if you ever want a better perspective on just who the bad guys were in this series, read “The Jordan Rules” by Sam Smith (Bulls insider) and “The Franchise” by Cameron Stauth (Piston insider). Pippen and Jordan come across as completely and utterly classless, whereas the Pistons behind the scenes just may surprise you. Again–great column–thanks for the trip down memory lane!
These are terrific responses. Thanks guys! Yapah, Chuck — I hear you. At the time, as a 10-year-old, I did not know anything about flagrant foul rules or how they were applied or altered. I just had this terror vibe going with the Pistons.
In fact, I imagine that if you explained the flagrant rule to me in 1990 and asked if I wanted it for the protection of the Bulls, I would have probably jumped at it like a starving man for a sandwich.
Chuck, I haven’t read The Franchise, but The Jordan Rules is amazing. I interviewed Sam Smith about it a few years ago (http://www.chicagonow.com/eye-on-chi/2012/01/people-with-passion-sam-smith-part-ii/) — classic.
Gotta add “Playing For Keeps” by David Halberstam to your list. Also has some good stuff about the Pistons, most notably a section on Isiah.
MY QUESTION TO YOU TWO:
I know Pistons fans feel like the league actively worked against their success, namely with the flagrant rule, but do Pistons fans on a whole believe that the ’91 Pistons were better than the ’91 Bulls? How many more rings Pistons fans believe the team had in them?
I’ve heard different things regarding the “walk-off”. Isiah said in an interview that they were doing what the Celtics had done to them in 88′ when Detroit beat them. Indeed, some of the Celtics left with time still on the clock.
Tommy Heinsohn (this was when the NBA was on CBS) said it may have been for safety reasons because fans were about to storm the court. Maybe he had a point or perhaps he was just defending his team (fans storming the court wasn’t anything new, look at Boston in 81 against Philly and the 84 Finals for example)…Kevin McHale was gracious and wished good luck to Isiah, and shook hands with him, Laimbeer, and vinnie.
Laimbeer said once that they were upset that some of the Bulls took personal shots at the Piston players, beyond simply them as players but went personal. I think it was the Jordan Rules, maybe another book, but Pippen supposedly was making snide comments to Rodman about Rodman’s marriage falling apart.
So maybe this is what Laimbeer was referring to when he was talking about the Bulls getting personal instead of keeping it simply on the basketball level.
Much like McHale making a point to show sportsmanship and congratulate the Pistons in 88, Dumars was not part of the walk-off. He walked right up to jordan and shook his hand.
You are DEAD ON with this reply… nothing else needs to be said
Yeah, Rod Thorn changed the rules, but it wasn’t because Jordan requested it!! There’s nothing reported about Jordan, Phil Jackson, or any Bulls player meeting with Rod Thorn to get him to change the rules. Its all assumption because Pistons fans think that because Thorn drafted Jordan. So, that’s a big fat lie!! Therefore, there was no complaining from the Bulls about the Pistons’ dirty play.
Zeke’s wrist injury in ’91 (BS: Pistons won 2 matchups in regular season. So they had confidence going into the series w/ Bulls)
Zeke missing 34 games that year is a lie. That’s almost half the season. They won 50. If Zeke really missed 34 games, then they wouldn’t have won 50 games that year, in addition to winning 2 games head to head against the Bulls. They were confident going into the ECF. Plus, the 1st 3 games the scores were a margin of 3 possessions or less. The only blowout was the closeout Game 4 sweep. So, Zeke injury was no factor.
Bulls did not complained to league is another big fat lie. They never did that.
Bulls never took personal shots at Pistons. That never happened either.
Pistons were NOT old. The ’98 Bulls were oldest team in NBA and still won Title. They were older than the ’91 Pistons with most of the team being over 30. MJ was 35 & Pip & Rodman were 34. Bonus: Rodman COULDN’T have been old in ’91 since he was 34 in ’98. Throw that lie in the ocean!!
Rule CHG is another lie because if they complaint to CHG rules then MJ wouldn’t have lifted weights to bulk up to take physical abuse from bad boys
MJ is right. Zeke has changed his answer over time. In ’92, Zeke said he walked off because they were mad. Years later, his reason changed to the undeserving champions lie. Then Later, he chgd it to “thats how things were back then.” That was clearly a lie because MJ shook their hand everytime they eliminated him in playoffs. More recently, his reason changed to MJ crying to Rod Thorn to CHG the rules & mocked MJ crying while saying it!! So, MJ is right. Time and reaction from the public has changed Zeke’s answer to the same question over the decades.
Bill laimbeer lied!! MJ did NOT call them bad ppl. Youre right. MJ didnt know about their family and personal life because he NEVER called them bad ppl. MJ did NOT whine. He just telling lies. He just like Zeke. He telling 2 DIFFERENT false answers to the SAME question. (refer to Ahmad Rashad interview in ’92 & compare it to ESPN interview in ’20)
Conclusion, none of the things you said is true. The Bulls were sick and tired of losing to the Pistons and made the perfect adjustments to counter the Jordan Rules and their dirty play. Bad boys knew how to beat up people but couldn’t take a beating themselves. They were cowards. They are the biggest sore losers in sports history!!!
And that’s why Laimbeer is blackballed from coaching in the NBA. He’s the dirtiest player in NBA history. He’s gotten into the most fights than any other player. Pistons paid the most in fines for fights. Therefore, Laimbeer has to settle for coaching the WNBA making way less money. He’s the dirtiest player in NBA history.
You described exactly how I felt during the Bull- Piston rivalry. The Pistons turned Michael Jordan into the merciless assasin he became, but oh, what I psychological hurdle the Pistons were. Year by year, thegap would close, but the demoralizing result remained the same. I remember crying after the 1990 loss, then turning to my wife at the time and saying to her “THE BULLS WILL WIN IT ALL NEXT YEAR…” I felt it way back then.
Right now, I’m in the process of writing my third book, this one details the 2009 Yankee Championship season. I’m writing about how the Red Sox overcome their psychological hurdle against us in 2004 and relating it to the Dallas Cowboys of the early 70’s, the Lakers finally beating the Celtics in the 1980’s, and this one. Your beautiful picture of the Bulls story was just what I needed to read. God Bless You.
How did I never see this? Thanks William! Any update on the book?
1. Since you were born in 1981, you were at the 4th grade in 1990-’91 and not at the 3rd.
2. Who is Clarice?
3. It was “The Last Shove” against Utah in the 1998 Finals, not “The Last Shot”. Russell couldn’t breathe on ‘His Majesty’ (flagrant exhaling) while MJ could friggin’ shove Russell (or anybody) to the seats in order to hit the jumper, and the defender would be lucky if the ref wouldn’t whistle the foul on him. Meanwhile, a few seconds earlier he had stolen the ball from the Mailman (the rightful MVP of that season – but Stern couldn’t have given it to anybody else than ‘His Retiring Airness’ of course) by sweeping all hands. It was pointless for the Jazz to even complain afterwards, that playstyle was part of the Bulls’ dynasty and all 28 teams had absorbed it for granted since long ago.