Dennis Rodman has heard the debates for years now. No man has experienced the reality of Michael Jordan as he has. Rodman began his career with the Detroit Pistons spend the late 1980s and early ’90s in a blood feud with the Chicago Bulls, doing everything possible to defend Jordan. This included some of the most ruthless and violent tactics a team has ever employed in the NBA. Then almost a decade later, Rodman switched gears and became his teammate, helping the man to win three championships.
So Rodman has witnessed both Jordan the opponent and Jordan the teammate. One could argue this insulates him from the usual claims that he’s biased when it comes to debating who is the greatest basketball player in history. Rodman watched the rise and fall of Kobe Bryant and has done the same with LeBron James. So when he appeared on ESPN First Take, they felt compelled to ask his thoughts on the ceaseless debate of who is the greatest ever.
Rodman made it clear that while those other two are great players, they still can’t touch Jordan. For one, Jordan was never hurt. His second season he missed all but 18 games with a broken foot but other than that he spent his entire Bulls career never playing less than 78 games in a season. Remarkable durability given the eras he played in. Bryant made it past 78 just eight times in his 20 seasons. James has done it seven out of 16.
Then there is the matter of the rule changes.
Michael Jordan would’ve scorched post-hand checking era
One of the very few ways defenses managed to slow Jordan down during his career was through something call hand-checking. This is where defenders were able to place a hand on the body of the ball handler in attempts to guide where the defense wanted them to go. It was especially rough on point guards but scorers struggled with it plenty too. Even then Jordan still finished 3rd all-time in points anyway.
Before the 2004-2005 season, the NBA instituted a new rule that outlawed hand-checking. This greatly opened up the floor and led to an explosive new era for offense. Rodman, a career defender, realizes how big of a difference it has made and shudders to think what Jordan would’ve of done in these conditions.
“As far as LeBron and Michael? If Michael played in this era, he’d average 50. He’d average 50 points. LeBron’s a great talent. No doubt. He’s probably one of the top three players that ever played. With Kobe, Magic, and Kareem…Michael’s right there.”
Only one man in NBA history averaged 50 points in a season. That was Wilt Chamberlain back in the 1960s. Jordan averaged 37.1 points in 1986-1987. This was during the peak of the physical defensive era with the Pistons and the Boston Celtics. If he was given more space to operate without hand-checking? One shudders at how greater the devastation would’ve been. Dennis Rodman is correct.