5 things we learned from Episodes 3 and 4 of ‘The Last Dance’

Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons /Allsport
Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons /Allsport /
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The Last Dance
25 May 1998: Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls looks on during an Eastern Conference Final game against the Indiana Pacers at the Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Pacers defeated the Bulls 96-94. /

3. The Bulls-Pistons hatred still burns to this day

This isn’t a surprise for anyone who watched the Bulls and Detroit Pistons meet four straight times in the playoffs in the late ’80s, because those Bad Boys teams were the biggest obstacle Jordan ever had to overcome in his journey to becoming a champion. It’s only natural some of that resentment — on both sides — lingers, given how physical and downright vicious those series were.

But man, the extent of that hatred? The NBA may be a brotherhood, but for anyone wondering if MJ, Isiah Thomas, the Bulls and the Pistons have made peace all these years later, the answer appears to be a resounding “hell no.”

“Oh, I hated them,” Jordan said. “The hate carries even to this day. They made it personal. They physically beat the s**t out of us.”

Part of that loathing stemmed from losing to the Pistons three straight times in the playoffs, two of which came in the Eastern Conference Finals as Detroit would go on to win the title. Part of it was the fact that nobody liked the Pistons’ rugged and borderline dangerous style of play. And part of it was “The Jordan Rules,” Detroit’s system designed to ground Air Jordan by hitting him anytime he reached the paint.

When the Bulls finally got over the hump in 1991 with a conference finals sweep of their arch-nemesis, you can hear the vindictiveness in Bill Cartwright‘s voice–nicest guy in the world, Bill Cartwright! — when he says “But that third year, we put them in our rearview mirror.”

You hear it again when Horace Grant describes the Pistons walking off the court early without shaking hands before Game 4 was over as, “straight up bitches.”

Isiah Thomas said the Boston Celtics did something similar to the Pistons when that Eastern Conference torch was passed on, that it’s just how the NBA was at the time and that they wouldn’t have done it if they had anticipated the backlash it would cause, but before even being shown the clip of his thoughts, Michael Jordan butted in, and you can definitely hear it again:

“Well I know that’s all bulls**t,” Jordan said. “Whatever he says now, you know it wasn’t his true actions then. He’s had time enough to think about it, or the reaction of the public that’s kind of changed his perspective of it. You can show me anything you want, there’s no way you’re gonna convince me he wasn’t an a**hole.”

Well then! Guess time doesn’t heal all wounds, and to be honest, we’re kind of here for more NBA grudges that stand the test of time.