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“Too Much Negativity and It’s Going to Poison You”: Bulls Boss Bad Mouthed His Own Players, Setting Different Rules for Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen

Published 01/20/2023, 11:30 AM EST

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Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were the pivotal pieces behind the successful domination of the Chicago Bulls dynasty in the 1990s. However, a former Bulls coach also played a crucial role in maintaining the team’s efficiency and performance. While Jordan and Pippen were the permanent members of the team that won six championships, many players gave their contributions during different seasons. Once, former Bulls boss Phil Jackson bad-mouthed his own players after setting different rules for Jordan and Pippen.

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Michael Jordan was an immediate sensation in the NBA when he joined the Bulls in 1994. However, the Bulls legend had to wait for seven years before winning his first NBA title. It was after Scottie Pippen and former coach Phil Jackson’s addition to the franchise in 1987 that Jordan managed to create the Bulls dynasty. However, the former Bulls coach took some crucial steps to make Chicago a championship-winning team under Jordan’s leadership.

Phil Jackson bad-mouthed his own players


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As per Sam Smith’s The Jordan Rules, Phil Jackson gave an ultimatum to several former Bulls stars including B. J. Armstrong, Dennis Hopson, Stacey King, and Cliff Levingston after their addition to the Bulls roster. Phil Jackson stated, “And life, just isn’t meant to be fair. There are different rules for you guys and Jordan and Pippen. They are here to take the shots and you’re not. You’re here to fill roles and that’s what you’re expected to do.”

Jackson gave the Chicago Bulls players a reality check about their roles that surrounded around assisting Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, who was handed the responsibility of scoring. The 11-time NBA champ coach wanted the Bulls players to understand their responsibilities and what was expected of them.


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As per the book, Hopson, King, and Levingston considered themselves stars due to their prior roles on the teams they had played before making it to the NBA. However, he wanted these players to understand their new roles on the Bulls team.

Further, Sam Smith reckoned in the book that Jackson considered B.J. Armstrong as ‘salvageable’. But, he was not sure about Dennis Hopson and Stacey King. Meanwhile, Armstrong, Hopson, and King spent a lot of time together on the plane, bus, and road. So, to reduce Hopson and King’s influence on Armstrong, Jackson reached out to the three-time NBA champ a few weeks later.

Jackson told Armstrong, “There’s too much negativity going on with those guys and it’s going to poison you. You might want to join another group.” The former Bulls coach advised Armstrong to maintain his distance from Hopson and King due to their negative influence on the team.


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Luckily for Armstrong, he listened to Jackson’s important advice. While the 1994 All-Star remained in touch with Hopson and King, he started spending more time with other players on the Bulls roster. Moreover, Jackson’s efforts bore fruits as Michael Jordan-led Bulls won their first-ever championship in 1991.

Jordan and Jackson brought the Bulls’ first championship home

In his first six seasons with the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan led his team to the playoffs on each occasion. However, the Bulls missed out on winning a championship during the period. Fortunately for Jordan, things began changing after Pippen and Jackson joined the Bulls. After that, Jordan led the team to their first-ever NBA champ championship in 1991.


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During the 1990-1991 season, the Bulls finished the regular season with a 61-21 record. Moreover, Chicago made it to the finals and defeated the Los Angeles Lakers to win their first NBA championship.

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Written by:

Rohit Kumawat


One take at a time

Rohit Kumawat is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. Currently pursuing an MBA in Media and Business Management, Rohit holds a Bachelor's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. He has been working as a Sports and Entertainment writer for over a year.
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Edited by:

Jayant Chhabra