Joe Dumars: Michael Jordan Unguardable with Current NBA Rules

One of the great triumphs of defense in recent decades was the 1990 Detroit Pistons' dismantling of young Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Roland Lazenby talked to Dumars about that series, and Dumars admits that the way perimeter defense is being called these days, Jordan would not have been guardable at all (and presumably would have won the title in 1990, much as Dwyane Wade did in 2006). It seems a shame to miss out on stuff like this (originally from Lindy's Pro Basketball Annual, and quoted from Lazenby's blog):

It remains one of the enduring images of NBA lore—Joe Dumars guarding a determined young Michael Jordan in the 1990 Eastern Conference playoffs.

Dumars of the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons, the league’s two-time defending champs, looked like a gaucho corralling the ultimate toro, his feet moving furiously (maybe the best defensive slide in the history of the game), one forearm firmly barred into Jordan to keep contact, the other bent arm thrust into the air, giving Dumars his only hope of keeping his balance while trying to ride the Jordan whirlwind.

Jerry West watched the performance and remarked privately that most people considered Isiah Thomas the Pistons’ superstar, but West pointed out that it was Dumars who was the supreme talent.


Well, West said, both Thomas and Dumars could push the envelope offensively, “but Joe’s defense sets him apart.”

Just how good was that defense?

It left a supremely disappointed Jordan sobbing at the back of the team bus when the series was over (it’s also probably the only NBA defense ever to spawn a best-selling book: Sam Smith’s ‘The Jordan Rules’).

Indeed, it was a formative moment in pro basketball history because it brought Jordan the ultimate challenge and propelled him toward a greatness that fascinated a global audience. Whether they liked pro basketball or not, people felt compelled to watch “His Airness” grow up against the Pistons’ physical challenge.

“I think that ‘Jordan Rules’ defense, as much as anything else, played a part in the making of Michael Jordan,” said Tex Winter, who was an assistant coach for that Chicago team. The 1990 loss forced Jordan and the Bulls to find an answer to Detroit’s muscle.

“Those Jordan Rules were murder,” Winter explained. “The fact that we could win the next year even though they were playing that defense says everything about Jordan as a competitor. Any lesser player would have folded his tent.”