Salley: Jordan Needed To Be Demanding Of Pippen, Grant

Four-time NBA champion John Salley shared his thoughts on The Last Dance – and what transpired behind the scenes

The DA Show
June 12, 2020 - 1:35 pm
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Prior to the airing of The Last Dance, Michael Jordan was worried about how he would be perceived in the 10-part documentary. As it turns out, some people thought Jordan was too demanding, and some of his former teammates had various issues with the film.

John Salley, who played for the Chicago Bulls in 1996, offered his perspective on The Last Dance – and on what actually happened behind the scenes.

“I’ll say this,” Salley began on The DA Show. “This is the deal. If you’re the standard, you can’t ever lighten up. You can’t take your foot off the pedal. You have to stay on it. You don’t have any off days. His off days was playing golf, but everybody else had to realize that. You have to play like you have no other game or nothing else, and that’s the way Michael was. He left whatever problems he had off the court, and when he got on the court that was his safe space. So I love the way he was so very demanding of his teammates [and wanted them] to be as great as him. That’s the way you win six championships in eight years.”

Scottie Pippen, who won six titles with Jordan, was reportedly furious about how he was portrayed in the documentary. From refusing to re-enter a playoff game against the New York Knicks in crunch time in 1993 to intentionally delaying surgery so he would miss part of the 1997-98 season, Pippen, at times, comes across as selfish.

“Well, I’d say this: If it’s on film, it happened,” Salley said. “He had to see it the way everybody else [saw it]. Sometimes you do something, and you don’t know how it affects everybody else. I guess he had to see it. While he was injured and he wasn’t around – because he chose to get the operation when he chose to get it; it was his right to choose when to get it – those guys are going to feel some kind of way. Guys feel some kind of way when they’re around people who are injured anyway, so to be injured and have an operation not in the summertime kind of rubbed guys the wrong way.”

As the documentary shows, Jordan’s teammates were split into two camps: those who thought he did what he had to do to get the best out of them, and those who thought Jordan was too demanding.

“I think he was really hard on Horace [Grant] because he needed to be,” said Salley, who won two NBA titles with the Bad Boys Pistons. “He had to be hard on Scottie and Horace because we were beating the mess out of them. So if all of a sudden you’re not showing up to play against these guys – we were constantly tying to put it down; we were constantly [working] on the weaker parts of . . . the Chicago Bulls. When those guys toughened up, Horace came in a skinny kid, Michael came in as a skinny kid, Scottie Pippen – next thing you know, they got shoulders, muscles; they got laser focus. Sometimes you have to wear that into somebody who’s not used to it. It made Horace a champion three times.”