It took a while before the Bulls‘ collective success caught up with Michael Jordan’s individual greatness. But according to Mark Jackson, that is also something MJ should get credit for — especially the rise of Scottie Pippen.
Scottie Pippen is an all-time great; top 50 player, will be a Top 75 player, is in the discussion when you talk about the greatest small forwards that ever played this game and deserves a lot of credit. Early on, though, he wasn’t that Scottie Pippen.Mark Jackson, Club Shay Shay
When he finally became “that Scottie Pippen,” Michael’s numbers started to translate to wins, culminating in their first NBA championship in 1991. Until then, the Bulls would either lose in the first round or lose to the Detroit Pistons.
It took a great collection of talent around No.23 to get the Bulls over the hump. But according to Jackson, Michael was the one who accelerated the growth of everyone else around him. And while he greatly benefited from it, so did those who shared the locker room with him.
That’s what the legendary point guard wants us to remember — the overall talent is what made the Bulls great, but His Airness has always been a difference-maker. And that’s something Jackson experienced firsthand, even before one of the greatest NBA dynasties was born.
Michael Jordan single-handedly won series. I remember my last year with the Knicks; we were beating them up. We had physical guys at every single position, and we were on a mission to physically beat them up. But the feeling of having No.23 on your team did something to them. He single-handedly won the series.Mark Jackson, Club Shay Shay
The series Jackson is referring to is the 1992 Eastern Conference Semifinals when Michael led his team to a seven-game series win over the Knicks. He put up 31.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 4.3 APG on 47.7% from the floor, with a standout performance in Game 7 when he dropped 42 points in a 110-81 victory in Chicago.
We went over the scouting report, we said how we were going to defend him, we said how we were going to send him in a different direction — it didn’t matter. He had an answer for every single thing we put in front of him, and physically, he was more than willing to go through whatever he had to go through to win.Mark Jackson, Club Shay Shay
That’s why Jackson said MJ was his toughest matchup in the NBA. And that’s why, despite the undeniable talent of the rest of the Bulls, he still emphasizes one thing: No.23 has always been the star of the show in Chicago.
Sure, his success depended on everyone else around him — no NBA superstar can do it alone come the postseason. But every once in a while, Michael would activate a takeover mode, reminding everyone of his greatness. And that’s what the 1992 playoff series against the Knicks was all about.