One of the things that made Jordan one of the greatest basketball players is his ability and willingness to play defense on a very high level. Jerry West often said that Jordan was even more gifted as a defensive stopper than a pure scorer, which is an excellent example of how good he was on both ends of the floor.
Playing defense is not only about playing with tenacity and playing hard, but it also is closely connected to picking up tendencies other players have to figure them out. You need to have a high basketball IQ to play solid defense as well, and this is something Jordan possessed. In an interview, he broke down the approach he has when playing against some of the best shooting guards from his era. Jordan also explains how understanding their tendencies is the key to success.
“When I’m playing against scorers, players like Reggie Miller, Clyde Drexler, and Joe Dumars, I’m envisioning their tendencies before the game. Should I attack him offensively early so that he’s on the defensive for the rest of the game? There are different ways I have to approach players like that because I have to stop them as well as score on them. Sometimes, doing one can impact the other.”
Jordan also gives a more detailed approach to players such as Reggie Miller, Clyde Drexler, and Joe Dumars. Because of the fact he faced them numerous times in his career, he knows what their habits are on offense and what kind of strategy he needs to implement to shut them down.
“I’ve played Clyde so much that I know he’s dangerous if he can’t score early. But he’s not dangerous when he comes out shooting and scoring. Isn’t that wild? If he hits his first five shots, it’s not as much of a problem for me because he’ll shoot himself out of the game. Now, if Joe Dumars hits his first five shots, then I’m in big trouble. He knows how to feed off the kind of confidence you get from a good start. Clyde, on the other hand, sometimes seems like he gets overconfident, and he might start taking all kinds of shots. But Dumars, he’s going to sit back and let the game come to him because he’s in a rhythm and he’s going to make you work. Miller is the same way because he feeds off that energy. If he makes his first five shots, he starts to talk trash, and he’s into the game. He gets more intense, more focused. Those are three different people and three different ways I have to play them.”