Michael Jordan is the unquestionable GOAT for most NBA fans today. But during the first half of his career, there were several criticisms leveled against Jordon. He was an unmatched performer in the league but was unable to win a championship at that point of time. His early exits in the playoffs also played a role in developing a narrative about him that he was someone who just played to get his numbers and not to make his team better.
The other superstars of his time were players like Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas, both point guards that were excellent at playmaking, and Jordan famously didn’t get along too well with either of them. Even Larry Bird was someone around whom the Boston Celtics team revolved.
“Give Me The Supporting Cast Like That And I Promise You, I Will Make Them Better”: Michael Jordon
Doug Collins who was Jordan’s coach during this era, while speaking on the Icons Club Podcast of The Ringer, went on to explain why this narrative about MJ was wrong.
“Michael was always troubled early because he didn’t have the supporting cast Jackie, so all he ever heard was he didn’t make guys better. Magic made guys better, Isiah made guys better, Bird made guys better and I remember Michael saying, ‘Give me the supporting cast like that and I promise you, I will make them better,’ which he did!”
In hindsight, MJ was right about what he said. The 1980’s were completely dominated by the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics so it’s no surprise that Jordan couldn’t do much against teams that had multiple megastars. But the Bulls’ moment in the sun finally arrived when Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant started to bloom. During the 90s, the Bulls won 6 titles in 8 seasons and stamped their authority on the league.
It is no hidden secret that a leader is as good as his team. One cannot expect that even a legendary player like Jordon can win a championship on his own, until he is provided with the right set of support cast. Players themselves develop too, something that MJ did with his playmaking as well. Between 1988 and 1993, MJ averaged 6.3 assists per game.