“Be Very Physical”: An Insight on How the Bad Boys Pistons Tackled Michael Jordan With Their Brutal Jordan Rules

Published 04/27/2020, 2:30 AM EDT


The NBA in the 80s and the 90s was intense. The rivalry between the Detroit Pistons and the Chicago Bulls emerged as a really competitive one, starting in the late 80s. The Pistons even had a specially devised plan to stop the Bulls’ best player, Michael Jordan.

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The Bad Boys wanted to stop Jordan’s dominance. Jordan controlled the play on the court which made the Pistons formulate a strategy to stop him. Detriot had many talented players in their squad and focused on using their physical strength to hold off MJ and the Bulls.

The effective plan used by the Pistons against Michael Jordan

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The Pistons’ defensive strategy was called ‘Jordan Rules,’ which was employed under the likes of Isiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman and Bill Laimbeer. Likewise, the Bulls struggled to make a mark against this strategy, something even their best player couldn’t answer.

In a past interview with Sports Illustrated, former Pistons coach Chuck Daly explained the nucleus of the Jordan rule.

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“If Michael was at the point, we forced him left and doubled him. If he was on the left wing, we went immediately to a double team from the top. He could hurt you equally from either wing—hell, he could hurt you from the hot-dog stand—but we just wanted to vary the look.”

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Moreover, Daly even mentioned the use of physical strength and how players would line up to stop the Jumpman. “And if he was on the box, we doubled with a big guy. The other rule was, any time he went by you, you had to nail him. We didn’t want to be dirty—I know some people thought we were—but we had to make contact and be very physical.” Dennis Rodman had even stated that his team was physically trying to hurt MJ to limit his impact.

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The Pistons angered Michael Jordan with their tactics. They defeated the Bulls in the playoffs with ease. In the 1988 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, the Pistons crushed the Bulls in just five games. A back-to-back victory in the conference finals in the next two years proved the effectiveness of the Jordan rule. 

The Pistons in 1989 and 1990 seemed unbreakable. As a result, Detroit won consecutive titles in these two years. However, Jordan and the Bulls found success from 1991. They countered the Jordan rule with their effective string of plays and humbled the Pistons thereafter.

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Arjun Athreya

2143 articles

Arjun Athreya is a senior writer at Essentially Sports and has been contributing since early 2020. Having developed an avid interest in sports at an early age, he pursued a Journalism degree and graduated from Madras Christian College. Arjun manages the Golf division and its content, and primarily covers news pertaining to the NBA as well.

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