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“They tried everything to rattle our confidence” — when Michael Jordan smelled blood against the Detroit "Bad Boy" Pistons

Michael Jordan knew that the best way to finally get past the Detroit Pistons is to beat them at their own game.
Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan is defended by Detroit Pistons center James Edwards

Michael Jordan 

Before Michael Jordan won 6 NBA championships and solidified his status as the greatest basketball player of all time, he had to get over the hump, and his first mortal enemies, the Detroit "Bad Boy" Pistons. The Bad Boy Pistons, who won back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990, made life hell for Jordan and the Bulls, who couldn't get past Detroit for 3 straight years.

The year that all turned around

But then came 1990, when an improved Jordan and Scottie Pippen took a leap. Thanks to their harrowing experience against the Pistons, the Bulls turned out to be stronger and learned how to handle the Bad Boys' tricks and antics. According to Jordan, the first time the Bulls realized they could finally get past the Pistons was when they defeated them on their homecourt in 1990 before the All-Star break.

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"We beat them in Detroit. We hadn't beaten them in Detroit for about ten games, and once we did, it gave us confidence. We needed to know that we could beat them on their court. In the conference championship series the year before, we had defended our home court well. But we went up there and got stomped in Game 7," Jordan said in a 1-on-1 interview with Playboy Magazine.

When Jordan saw fear in his opponent's eyes

The turning point of the one-sided rivalry was when MJ and his teammates saw fear in the eyes of the Bad Boy Pistons. Gone were the times when Isiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman, and the crew could intimidate them because, from that point, the Bulls were the ones that became the bullies. Jordan admitted that sweeping the Detroit Bad Boy Pistons was the perfect way to exact revenge and nab the team's first championship.

"The first game was a key because you knew they were going to throw s**t at us. Pippen knew what Dennis Rodman was going to do. He couldn't let him get into his head. Just play, turn your face and keep going. We won both games in Chicago, so we went up to Detroit and said, Let's sweep them," Jordan said. "Yeah. They couldn't rattle us. They tried everything to rattle our confidence."

Ultimately, the Bulls got past their rivals by beating them at their own game. It helped that the Pistons also lost their edge and were getting older, which paved the way for Jordan and the Bulls to take over the 90s and embark on one of the greatest dynasties in sports history. 

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