The Last Dance has given us so many memorable moments over the past month, it’s hard to know how we’re supposed to fill the void after the upcoming finale this Sunday. In terms of sheer entertainment value, it’s no surprise that some of the best content has come from the bitter rivalry between Michael Jordan’s Bulls and the Bad Boy Pistons.
In a previous episode, Jordan balked at Isiah Thomas’ revisionist explanation about why he refused to shake hands with the Bulls after they ousted him from the playoffs in 1991, subsequently giving birth to the greatest MJ-related meme since the Crying Jordan.
But in hindsight, it’s impossible not to view the Pistons as a necessary evil and an inescapable part of his origin story, the perfect foils to push Jordan to even greater heights. It’s even gotten to the point where even Thomas and the Pistons take a certain amount of credit for Jordan’s greatness.
On the latest episode of People’s Party with Talib Kweli, John Salley offered up a slightly different take on Jordan’s feelings toward those notorious Pistons squads.
“[Michael] loved everybody,” Salley said. “He hated Bill Laimbeer. Well, no one liked Bill Laimbeer at the time. I just started liking the cat like a week ago. But MJ loved our competitive spirit. He liked that that was a challenge. He liked that he had to get up for it.”
While it’s true that Jordan would later embrace former Bad Boys like Salley and Dennis Rodman, who would go on to help the Bulls win championships, there’s clearly no love lost between Jordan and Isiah Thomas or Bill Laimbeer. Jordan put it bluntly in an earlier episode when he said the hate still carries “to this day.”
But given his penchant for using even totally imaginary slights as motivation, it’s not a stretch to think that Jordan likely appreciates all the fuel it added to his competitive fire.