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Phil Jackson says “Jordan Rules” book helped Bulls win

Aug 30, 2012, 10:58 PM EDT

Jordan celebration Ehlo Getty Images

Sam Smith is going to receive the 2012 Curt Gowdy Media Awards from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame next week, honoring one of the great journalists ever to ply his craft following the NBA.

He covered the Chicago Bulls for years, for the Chicago Tribune and now for the Bull’s official site. He was the go-to source for Bulls information during the Jordan years, the one guy willing to be honest about the stars and team in a pre-Internet era.

But that’s not why you remember him, you remember him for The Jordan Rules.

That was the book that came out not long after the Bulls had won their first title and pulled back the curtain on Michael Jordan, a guy who up to then had not faced a ton of critical coverage (aside questions of if he could win the big one… seriously). The book exposed Jordan’s bullying ways with teammates in a less than flattering portrayal. It was controversial.

And Phil Jackson thinks it might have helped the Bulls win more titles.

While Jordan had taken some steps toward trusting his teammates he needed to take more if the Bulls were to become a dynasty and not a one-hit wonder. Jackson, speaking to about Sam Smith, said the book helped in that regard.

“I knew it was going to be controversial and Sam had kind of warned me,” said Jackson of The Jordan Rules. “It was an inside look at the team and about the dynamics and the characteristics of our leader, Michael Jordan. Not everybody was going to be happy with it, I knew that…

Between Jordan’s spectacular abilities and the emergence of Scottie Pippen, the Bulls were poised to make a long run. But without Jordan coming around to rely on his teammates, it is possible the Bulls would never have gotten to that point. Jackson believes Smith’s book played a role in Jordan backing off his so-called supporting cast, as well as allowing the coaches to more effectively restore a level of order and maintain control of the team.

“That was probably a part of the dynamic,” said Jackson. “There were a lot of things that contributed to that. I think one of them was Michael playing in a system in which he had to form-fit himself into a group. He had to start trusting his teammates, which came from the appreciation of their individual skills and abilities. Finally, some of the shine came off the idolatry and the unbelievable press Michael got his first four or five years of his career where he could do everything from sew to cook.”

Read the entire interview, it is fascinating. Smith started covering the team when NBA teams still flew commercial airlines (now teams have private chartered jets). That meant journalists were on the same team, got to talk to players in a casual setting, and got a better feel for team dynamics than now when media availability is limited (and team PR personnel are ever vigilant).

Jackson admits that a lot of what was in Jordan Rules rung true. And in the end, that might have been good for the Bulls.

  1. asublimeday - Aug 30, 2012 at 11:21 PM

    GOAT. Nobody close then, nobody close now, nobody close ever.

    • snoopy2014 - Aug 31, 2012 at 12:26 AM

      Sam Smith’s a fine writer, but don’t you think you’re overreacting a little?

    • dedalus13 - Aug 31, 2012 at 6:49 AM

      Yeah, ever. I’m sure somebody said that about a few decades ago 😉

    • connaniii - Aug 31, 2012 at 11:25 AM

      M.J is the “real” GOAT!

  2. stayhigh_247 - Aug 30, 2012 at 11:46 PM

    During the Jordan era Sam Smith and the late great Lacy Banks were the cream of the crop when it came to covering the Bulls. Since then though, Sam seems more like Skip Bayless (who also covered the Bulls during the Jordan era), just a plain ol’ nut job with a typewriter. But if it’s true that the book helped calm Mj down, then kudos to you Mr. Smith and congrats! And yes, Michael Jeffrey Jordan is definitely the G.O.A.T, end of discussion!

  3. ebrownwareagle - Aug 30, 2012 at 11:59 PM

    Damn I guess Kareem was a folk tale.
    6× NBA champion (1971, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987–1988)
    6× NBA Most Valuable Player (1971–1972, 1974, 1976–1977, 1980)
    19× NBA All-Star (1970–1977, 1979–1989)
    2× NBA Finals MVP (1971, 1985)
    10× All-NBA First Team (1971–1974, 1976–1977, 1980–1981, 1984, 1986)
    5× All-NBA Second Team (1970, 1978–1979, 1983, 1985)
    5× NBA All-Defensive First Team (1974–1975, 1979–1981)
    6× NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1970–1971, 1976–1978, 1984)
    2× NBA scoring champion (1971, 1972)
    NBA Rookie of the Year (1970)
    NBA All-Rookie Team (1970)
    NBA all-time leading scorer
    NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
    3× NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion (1967–1969)
    3× NCAA Basketball Tournament MOP (1967–1969)
    Naismith College Player of the Year (1969)
    2× USBWA College Player of the Year (1967–1968)
    No.33 retired by Milwaukee Bucks
    No.33 retired by Los Angeles Lakers
    No.33 retired by UCLA

    • camnellum12 - Aug 31, 2012 at 1:08 AM

      Exactly. Kareem had the greatest basketball career ever, 79-2/3 Catholic City Championships in HS, 3 NCAA Championships, and the Naismith Player of The Year was basically created for him and continued afterward, 6 rings, and 6 MVP’s. Damn the lack of commercials and branding (cough, Jordan, cough), Abdul-Jabbar needs more respect. And not to forget, Kareem was basically a hybrid of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell (both players practiced in his HS gym due to playing the Knicks, so they both molded Kareem). I don’t believe there is one “GOAT”, it’s too many gaps of generations and the game changed a lot since the 50’s, but if I was forced to pick one player to call the greatest, it’s Kareem. He can score at will if he wants, but will be a great team player and keep the ball moving, a great defender, great rebounder, probably the smartest player ever to play, and was very consistent and healthy due to a great workout regiment (similar to Steve Nash’s.) Open your eyes, folks, Jordan isn’t the undisputed “GOAT”, it’s debatable and will always be.

      • 00maltliquor - Aug 31, 2012 at 2:34 AM

        It’s about time somebody said that!! **** man I feel like everyone’s scared to say anyone other then Jordan was the best, and that he stands on a platform all by himself. Personally, I myself think Jordan is the best ever, but it’s not a hands down like everyone else makes it out to be. And I wouldn’t call you crazy for making a case for Kareem. Hell, the difference between Jordan and Kobe isn’t that far apart. But BLASPHEMY! Damn me to hell for thinking that, right?!

      • camnellum12 - Aug 31, 2012 at 2:42 AM

        Yeah, Kobe has a better offensive skill set than Jordan, Jordan set himself apart from Kobe by being the better defender and stayed in attack mode rather than taking tough/stupid shots. And another reason why I say Jordan isn’t the “GOAT” is because he wouldn’t be the same winner had he played in the 60’s or 80’s. Fans need to judge players by position, because there will never be one single great player.

    • berto55 - Aug 31, 2012 at 8:16 AM

      You’re all nuts….Kareem….please….he would get eaten up by today’s big men. If he were in his prime today he wouldn’t even be in the discussion of MVP of the league. Too thin, he’d get pushed around. He did a fantastic job when he was one of a handful of seven footers. Today’s players are so superior athletically.

      I’m an admitted total Jordan homer and heat hater but LBJ is better than Jordan in some ways. Jordan is the GOAT but LBJ is catching him and if stays healthy I wouldn’t doubt he ends up the GOAT. Just a unique individual athletically and his defense is what sets him apart. This argument of a weak era when Jordan played is nonsense. Those Knicks teams were great, Pacers, Supersonics, Spurs, Rockets.

      • blueintown - Aug 31, 2012 at 8:41 AM

        Today’s big men? Like who? The best center in the league is MAYBE 6’10”. Who else is there? You think Andrew Bynum would handle Kareem? Andrew Bogut? Joakim Noah?

      • berto55 - Aug 31, 2012 at 9:02 AM

        It’s not the height so much as the size. You are totally right though, I should have been more general and say “modern”. For example, Duncan, Howard, Bynum, Ewing, Robinson, Olajawon, Malone, Shaq. Plus the rules have changed so that diminishes the effect a big man can have on the game. Modern big men would be such a mismatch for Kareem because of their speed. You laugh, but Noah would blow by Kareem.

      • nolanwiffle - Aug 31, 2012 at 10:41 AM

        Exactly how old are you? You can be excused for your nonsensical blather if you never saw Kareem in his prime. Otherwise…’re a nitwit.

      • blueintown - Aug 31, 2012 at 6:33 PM

        Berto – My personal disagreements aside, at least you were being fairly rational until that last sentence. It is indisputable that Kareem is in the upper-echelon of NBA greats. Joakim might be the fourth best basketball player on his team. In no way, shape, or form would he ever go by Kareem, or come anywhere close to stopping him.

    • thestudiokida - Aug 31, 2012 at 1:53 PM

      Jordan’s 6 NBA Finals MVP trophies vs Kareem’s 2 is a damning stat. That stat alone makes MJ’s career better than Kareem’s.

      Greatest player on the greatest team 6 times.

  4. superseahawk - Aug 31, 2012 at 12:06 AM


    You are a dirty troll. Unprovoked, you still spew your nonsense. Who cares? ebrownwareagle listed accomplishments that prove Kareem is more decorated. Proof, not a troll’s opinion, proof.

  5. hwatt - Aug 31, 2012 at 12:16 AM

    well, time to load up ye olde Kindle Reader and give myself a history lesson. I know what I’M doing this weekend.

  6. asublimeday - Aug 31, 2012 at 1:01 AM


    You are a dirty troll. Unprovoked, you still spew your nonsense. Who cares? ebrownwareagle listed accomplishments that prove Kareem is more decorated. Proof, not a troll’s opinion, proof.
    How is declaring Jordan the GOAT trolling? I think your understanding of trolling is as limited as your understanding of basketball.

  7. asublimeday - Aug 31, 2012 at 1:03 AM

    Kareems numbers are impressive. Jordan was a 6x finals MVP. Came up bigger with less weapons when it counted.

    Kareem is the undisputed #2.

  8. asublimeday - Aug 31, 2012 at 1:09 AM

    Here are the awards that actually matter in the GOAT discussion, not absurd fodder to puff up the list (retired numbers? Really?)

    6× NBA champion (1971, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987–1988)
    6× NBA Most Valuable Player (1971–1972, 1974, 1976–1977, 1980)
    19× NBA All-Star (1970–1977, 1979–1989)
    2× NBA Finals MVP (1971, 1985)
    10× All-NBA First Team (1971–1974, 1976–1977, 1980–1981, 1984, 1986)
    5× NBA All-Defensive First Team (1974–1975, 1979–1981)
    2× NBA scoring champion (1971, 1972)
    NBA all-time leading scorer

    Jordan has just as many championships, more finals MVP’s (by a mile), and Kareems numbers are absurdly fluffed up because he played for 20 years. We all know Barry Sanders would’ve had the untouchable rushing yards record if he didn’t retire early, same with Jordan and the scoring record.

    It’s not all about stats. Anybody with a lick of sense and a vaccination against homerism can tell you Jordan is the GOAT.

    • camnellum12 - Aug 31, 2012 at 1:26 AM

      Yeah, but consider Michael dominated a weaker era and wouldn’t be the champion he would be today, had he not bought into Phil Jackson. If Michael Jordan spent his prime years in the 80’s, I think he’d be the 80’s version of an Elgin Baylor, a great, exciting player who couldn’t win a ring. The 90’s became more of a softer game that catered to superstars, and besides the 90’s Bulls, there wasn’t a lot of stacked teams that could beat Chicago in the 90’s. Had he played against the 1987 Lakers, 1989 Pistons or 1986 Celtics, the 1996 Bulls wouldn’t top them in a 7 game series. Even Dennis Rodman said the ’96 Bulls wouldn’t win 72 games had they played 10 years earlier. You can’t really call one player “The GOAT” when he’s playing in a different era of basketball than other legends.

      • slippyal2 - Aug 31, 2012 at 2:32 AM

        Kareem played in one the weakest eras in the 70s. The talent was split in half with NBA and ABA. Don’t bring that Jordan played in a weaker era, without bringing up Kareem’s.

      • camnellum12 - Aug 31, 2012 at 2:35 AM

        I was talking about the 80’s, but the 70’s was also weak because it was pretty much rock bottom for the NBA, with the drug-use and brawls (just like the 2000’s). And Kareem did face some great players and teams in the early 70’s, like the 1974 Celtics.

  9. asublimeday - Aug 31, 2012 at 1:13 AM

    My favorite part about these discussions is most laker homers have never even studied Kareem’s game and most Heat homers were still pooping their diapers when Jordan was playing.

  10. lakerluver - Aug 31, 2012 at 1:39 AM

    If you ask me who the best player “I’ve ever seen” is I would have to give the nod to MJ. But let’s not act like there’s nobody else in the discussion. I didn’t have the privilege of seeing Wilt, Russell, Elgin or Oscar play. But I’m sure there are those who did see them play that would pick someone from that group over MJ.

  11. lakerluver - Aug 31, 2012 at 1:46 AM

    I’ve heard several older former players in interviews say that Elgin was a bigger, stronger version of MJ. But because he didn’t win 6 rings MJ is “automatically” considered better by most.

  12. ebrownwareagle - Aug 31, 2012 at 8:25 AM


    Your delusional if you think Big Cap would not dominate this era… There are no real big men for starters. They had to change rules because of what Kareem could do. In this Era with no big men with his skill set, he probably Average 30-40 a night.

  13. asublimeday - Aug 31, 2012 at 8:40 AM

    Shaq is better than Kareem.

    Moving on…

    Kobe does not have a better skills set than Jordan.

    And finally….

    Jordan’s career overlapped with countless other top-10 all-time players. Calling it a “weak league” during his time is absurd.

    • camnellum12 - Aug 31, 2012 at 11:44 AM

      What? Shaq NEVER won a rebounding or blocking title, wasn’t as a profound scorer like Kareem, and Kareem was just a flat out better overall player than Shaq: great outlet passer, much higher IQ, had a softer touch, could beat you in more ways than one. You couldn’t “hack” Kareem, he was a good FT shooter.

      And the 90’s was weak. 1990-1993 was great, it had the same feel and substance of the 80’s, but when the expansion teams came in and the league started to cater to superstars, it got weak. The only ” countless other top-10 all-time players” Jordan faced was Shaq. You can also say Hakeem, but he’s not in my Top 10, just right below it. So in your Top 10, that would make only 2 Top 10 HOF players Jordan played against. The NBA in the 90’s had talent spread out, but parity doesn’t work in the NBA, to simply put, this aint the NFL. If you look at all the great centers of that decade, they either had good or sub-par teams. It’s sad Patrick Ewing’s 2nd best teammate was John Starks (no knock to Starks). Jordan never faced a stacked squad in the Finals, he may have played against great duos, but all-time great squads.

      • badintent - Sep 27, 2012 at 1:49 PM

        one word: WILT 50 points for a season. complete domination at his position and having rule changes to slow down his scoring. No one even close.AT 7′!’ and 275 pounds and great foot speed NO one in any era could stay with him. He average more than 30 points a game vs. Russell. In Wilt’s time, no stats on blocked shots, he would be all time leader. I saw him play when Kareem first came in the NBA, great battle, but Wilt didn’t pick up Kareem and break him in two, he was a gentle giant with great skills. But I do remember him picking up Bob Lanier, Detroit Center(260) and carrying him to the foul line and tell him not to move from it.Wilt , GOAT He wasted 2 years with Globetrottters and 1 with ABA as coach/player. Take back those 3 seasons and he would be all-time scorer.

  14. paulhargis53 - Aug 31, 2012 at 9:01 AM

    I honestly cannot believe I’m going to type this, but good postings lakerluver.

    • manchestermiracle - Sep 2, 2012 at 1:07 AM

      Wow, I can’t believe you typed that, either. But I did give you a thumbs up for the first time…

  15. ebrownwareagle - Aug 31, 2012 at 9:46 AM

    All of them would foul out. Bynum and Howard went to him to learn and play the game(by the way, they were in the league at the time). Iverson is quicker than Jordan. Clearly your not going to say he’s better because of that. Not even close. And for the record every team MJ23 played on had 2STUDS or more on team period. So for all you people, MJ23 was ONE of the greatest ever. But stop it with the Bromance, go kiss your Woman that’s what they are for. But then again MJ might just be that for most of y’all.

  16. isujames - Aug 31, 2012 at 10:01 AM

    @Camnellum12 Please just STFU because you no absolutely nothing, especially when it come’s to MJ, you must have been a piston,knick or pacer fan during that time.MJ is without a doubt, hands down the GOAT PERIOD.Where a helmet when you walk the streets so you won’t suffer any more brain damage.Im not going to go there with that weaker time era crap, you sound silly son.

    • camnellum12 - Aug 31, 2012 at 11:46 AM

      How big is your saddle? ‘Cause you riding Jordan HARD!

  17. isujames - Aug 31, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    @ Lakerlame, Yea right, just like they say the same thing about Kobe while all the people that witnessed Kobe and MJ in their prime know kobe’s game couldn’t touch MJ’s game if he had a 1,000 feet slinky arm.

  18. joshm5683 - Aug 31, 2012 at 12:27 PM

    Its been proven time and time again…….having a guy who wants to be your best friend does not necessarily mean you are a great leader. Kobe, Jordan, Bird, etc……those guys were all fierce competitors who demanded excellence. Supporting casts aside, there is a reason they have multiple titles.

  19. shockexchange - Aug 31, 2012 at 4:57 PM

    The “Jordan Rules” helped Chicago win in the same fashion as the Shock Exchange’s “Lebron Rules” helped Lebron and the Heat take the cake.

  20. frankyvito - Sep 1, 2012 at 10:28 PM

    Sometimes I think we take this modern era thing too far. Not EVERYONE is bigger faster stronger. Just the elite & specialists.

  21. frankyvito - Sep 1, 2012 at 10:46 PM

    And to say Kobe’s game can’t come close to Jordan is utter stupidity & nonsense… just dumb. Why every time I wanna say something good about one it means I have to bash the other?!? I GUARANTEE you Kobe in his prime ONE ON ONE numbers were just as efficient as Jordan’s. Unfortunately, Kobe played almost his entire career against teams that were allowed to matchup zone. Teams have MUCH more freedom to defensively game plan in this era (see finals, 2011. Mavericks comma LeBron). So you can’t just throw stats at me & tell me that makes it difinitive. Just like you can’t tell me that just because Kobe was born a decade & a half after MJ he’s automatically quicker than him. Gtfoh. There’s no way to know, but to say they don’t compare is beyond ridiculous. Tell me ONE THING MJ did Kobe can’t do. I can name thing Kobe does/did MJ couldn’t. Their skill set is VERY comparable.

    • Pete Rubens - Sep 4, 2012 at 2:15 PM

      I agree with your point on generation gaps. But to say Kobe can do everything MJ can do is ridiculous man. I agree, in terms of pure hoop skill, Kobe surpasses Jordan. But in overall hoop skill, Larry Bird surpasses LeBron. What seperates the MJ’s & LeBron’s from their counterparts are their elite athleticism. Kobe in his prime was an above average athlete, but Jordan was ELITE. He had the combination of size, strength, speed, quickness, explosiveness & length thats only comparable a few players since (Westbrook, Rose, Wall, Wade, except Jordan was 2-3 inches taller). That’s why he was, in my opinion, a much better off-ball defender, shot blocker, rebounder, finisher at the rim & slightly better on-ball defender than Kobe.

      Oh, & let’s stop kidding ourselves, Jordan’s the best player in NBA history, FACT. Stats & accolades aside, just seeing with your eyes, he’s the greatest package of athleticism, natural talent, developed skill & consistency we’ve ever seen. LeBron & Wilt are the only players to compare. Plus he’s an absolute lunatic who’s addicted to winning & will win by any means. Be better off arguing who’s number 2.

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