Most people expected MJ to have a smooth transition into the NBA, but a few of them anticipated that he would become a top 10 player in the league as early as his rookie season. Michael immediately imposed a different mentality and established leadership within the Bulls locker room, trying to step away from the losing culture that had been developing for years. So despite being around veterans, Jordan didn’t look to them for advice.
Do you really want to know what I learned? Not to be like them. I learned how to be a leader in all respects — just trying to lead the team out of losing all of the time. The attitude was pretty acceptable here, of losing, so I was trying to break the mold.Michael Jordan
Jordan was known for being a fierce teammate who expected 100 percent from his teammates. Tony Kukoc often said that the Bulls’ practices were much more challenging than the actual games because Jordan was all over everybody if they didn’t play hard. And Michael took pride in that, especially since it took years for him to reach that level. That’s why those early years were crucial.
People say I was a demanding teammate, but really that was leadership. I was the only guy left from 1984. I was there when there were 6,000 people in the stands. So I took pride in making sure every guy understood what it took to get us to this point, and by no means am I going to allow you to come in and change what we’d begun- the transformation of a city that’s never had a championship. I used my aggressive language, my aggressive behavior, to make you conform. Some people looked at this in a whole different frame of mind.Michael Jordan
Jordan often got criticized by the media for the way he put pressure on his teammates. Obviously, that raised a lot of attention, and at first, Jordan was offended by those comments. Years later, he stopped caring. All he cared about was winning, and he knew once that trophy is in their hands, his teammates will understand his approach.
At first, I was offended. Then I realized people don’t understand our journey. I bet if you ask anyone now on those teams, they have a greater appreciation for what we achieved as opposed to the method we went by to achieve what we achieved.
All the Bulls from the ’90s will tell you the same thing — end justified the means. That’s the only validation No. 23 needed.