NBA

The Last Dance: Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls team-mates 'had to have thick skin'

By Sports Desk May 11, 2020

Michael Jordan only tolerated competitive players and his team-mates needed "thick skin" to survive in Chicago, according to former Bulls guard Rusty LaRue.

The seventh episode of ESPN's docuseries 'The Last Dance' – a look at the 1997-98 Bulls team that three-peated – detailed Jordan's attitude towards other players and the notion he could not be a nice guy in practice because he was demanding.

"Winning has a price and leadership has a price," a choked-up Jordan said.

"I pulled people along when they didn't want to be pulled. I challenged people when they didn't want to be challenged.

"I earned that right because my team-mates came after me. They didn't endure all the things that I endured.

"Once you join the team you live at a certain standard that I play the game, and I wasn't going to take anything less."

LaRue was an NBA rookie that season with the Bulls, joining a Chicago team where the status quo had already been established with five championships in the previous seven seasons.

The former point guard revealed it was Jordan, arguably the greatest player of all time, who set the tone and he had no issues with his leadership style.

"By the time I had gotten with the team it was 'The Last Dance'," LaRue told Stats Perform.

"Everyone there had kind of been through the trials and understood the deal and knew what to expect.

"Obviously Mike's a competitive guy. I think everyone knew where they stood with him.

"You didn't make it with the Bulls organisation or that team with him if you weren't a competitive guy.

"All the guys that were there had kind of passed the test – for lack of a better term – and were in it for the right reasons and a piece of that team for different reasons.

"Michael, if he didn't think you were on board or weren't competitive, he certainly would ride you and you had to have thick skin.

"It didn't really bother me, I had high expectations for myself and I think any time you play with a competitor, they want you to compete.

"You're competing against them every day and you compete on a daily basis and you won't have any problems."

LaRue, who played college basketball alongside Tim Duncan at Wake Forest, was a role player with Phil Jackson's team that season and believes not being overawed by Jordan helped him make the Bulls roster.

"You know he's one of the greatest players – if not the greatest player – to ever play," LaRue added of Jordan.

"I think for me that was part of what helped me make the team, that I wasn't intimidated. I'm pretty confident in my abilities and I just kind of come and be who I am.

"I've always been a believer in you go in and compete to the best of your ability and let the chips fall where they may, that's what I did in that situation."

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