You can’t talk ’90s NBA basketball without mentioning the physicality of the game. What is the greatest criticism of the league today, was the NBA’s biggest forte three decades ago, and one play in particular paints the perfect picture of why.
Back in the ’91 ECF, the Bad Boy Pistons were facing the Chicago Bulls in one of their many battles. With Chicago being up 3-0 in the series, the Pistons were frustrated, as it became apparent they were in for a sweep. The one who couldn’t handle his frustrations was Dennis Rodman, as it culminated with a flagrant foul on his future teammate in Scottie Pippen.
Pippen got a beautiful backdoor pass, as he got a step on Rodman who was guarding him. But he wouldn’t let him get the easy bucket as he bodied him with the help of Bill Laimbeer. In the continuation of the play, Rodman made sure to push him as he Pippen nearly flew in the stands. Pip was pretty shocked, as he slowly got up with the help of his teammates, as the refs handed Rodman a flagrant foul.
The Bulls completed a sweep, and weeks later, became the NBA champions, in what is today perceived as the beginning of the iconic Bulls dynasty. The one that Rodman helped build, as he joined the Bulls years later. But before they could dominate the NBA, Dennis had to patch things up with the guy he laid out in ’91. That’s when Phil Jackson intervened.
While at the dinner in Jerry Krause’s house, Phil came over to Rodman and asked him for a favor. ‘Can you go over there and say you’re sorry to Scottie,’ Phil said. ‘You know, just go over there and soften him up a little bit, you know because of what happened in ’91. You pushed him in the stands.‘ So Rodman got up and said sorry to Pip, and Scottie said ‘Don’t worry about it, man. We just want to win.’
So the relationship between the two was fixed. The relationship that got off to a rocky start, with its hatred culminating with a flagrant foul during the ’91 ECF. But they were able to patch things up. And after that, Pip had Rodman on his side. Playing basketball in the ’90s, that might’ve been the best thing that could’ve happened to you.