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Be sure to give Dean Smith some credit for Jordan’s success

Feb 16, 2013, 10:31 AM EDT

Michael Jordan North Carolina Getty Images

When you see the retrospective highlight clips of Michael Jordan this weekend, they almost all start with him in Carolina blue, knocking down the jumper that wins the Tar Heels a national championship.

But did that and the three seasons Jordan played at North Carolina make his six NBA titles and the rest of his success possible?

None other than Tex Winter, architect of the triangle offense Jordan and Phil Jackson won with in Chicago, thinks the answer is yes.

This according to Roland Lazenby, the author of “Blood On The Horns, The Long Strange Ride of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls” (which is being re-released right now by Diversion Books as an ebook edition in honor of Jordan’s birthday) and also the author of a new Jordan biography due out in the spring of 2014 (by Little, Brown). Lazenby has a great relationship with Winter, and he talked about those years

“Tex Winter always credited Dean Smith because Jordan first played in a tightly run system at North Carolina,” Lazenby told ProBasketballTalk. “If he hadn’t done that, Jordan would never have accepted the triangle offense as he did, Winter said.”

Jordan thrived in that offense, which is predicated on spacing and on high basketball IQ players moving the ball and taking what the defense gave them. The offense not only helped Jordan score but also helped get his teammates good looks allowing them to help.

Of course, it all comes back to MJ.

“Still, so much of the credit is Jordan’s because he had the character and intelligence and will to bend his game to that offense,” Lazenby said. “Then there’s Scottie Pippen. His maturing into the kind of player to could team with Jordan to make this magical core to a competitive dynamo, well, that contribution was immeasurable, as Jordan and everyone else involved has acknowledged.”

Jordan was the icon and is the consensus greatest player ever to play the game. You can’t ever take that away from him. But he didn’t do it all alone.

And Dean Smith deserves some of the credit.

  1. nbascreed - Feb 16, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    Since when did Jordan ever “take what the defense gave him.”? Such statements are heresy. By his own admission, in almost every interview he loved putting pressure on the defense and forcing the action. He was unrepentant in stating his desire to force the ball down other teams’ throats.

    • davidly - Feb 16, 2013 at 11:23 AM

      You’re not seriously making the claim that when defenses gave Jordan something, he didn’t take it?

      Nevertheless, the reference in this article is to the 90’s Bulls’ triple-post offense, which thrived on mismatches pretty consistently. MJ just happened to be the guy who most often mismatched at will.

  2. davidly - Feb 16, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    Kurt: As MJ still sits atop the career PER that you have cited on occasion, have you noticed that over the course of this season LBJ has slid from second to third? Considering the career-making season that he is having, to what would you attribute the slip?

  3. Mr. Wright 212 - Feb 16, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    Dean was and still is the man. Get well, coach.

  4. daddyghi - Feb 16, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    ask MJ to write a check to dean smith

  5. thenmoveback - Feb 16, 2013 at 3:16 PM

    MJ and Kobe both need to give credit to Phil Jackson. Mastermind behind all their championships.

    • fanofevilempire - Feb 16, 2013 at 5:52 PM

      yeah , he is pretty good, ain’t he.

  6. oldcat157 - Feb 16, 2013 at 6:07 PM

    Don’t forget MJ’s parents. If it wasn’t for them, none of this would have happened. Also, the person who killed his father deserves credit too. That made him quit only to come back to win a few more rings. Oh, what about his highschool coach and the person who taught him to dribble!!! //end sarcasm

    • saintlaron - Feb 17, 2013 at 10:30 AM

      LOL exactly. If Pippen and the rest of the bulls barely get any credit why should Dean be next in line?

  7. slippyal2 - Feb 16, 2013 at 7:12 PM

    It’s been said, the only one to stop Michael Jordan was Dean Smith.

    • 6stn - Feb 17, 2013 at 7:34 AM

      And minor league pitching.

  8. 1historian - Feb 17, 2013 at 11:32 AM

    When Jerry Krause got to Chicago in 1986 MJ was already there. Over the next 5 years the rest of the roster and all the coaches were gone, replaced by people Krause brought in. Except for MJ Krause was responsible for bringing in every single coach and player on all 6 of their title teams.

    Krause was responsible for the draft day trade in 1988 that brought TWO starters to the Bulls’ 1st 3 NBA champs – Horace Grant and Scotty Pippen. The only other time that has been done in at least the last 40 years – if ever – was in 1980 when it was pulled off by Red Auerbach when he got Kevin McHale and Robert Parish.

    Between 1991 and 1998 the Bulls won 6 titles. There was a turnover rate of 83% between year 1 and year 6 – 10 out of 12.

    Krause was smart enough to know that you build your team around your best player, no matter what position he plays.

    • jimeejohnson - Feb 18, 2013 at 9:27 PM

      It’s the reason the Celtics have not trade Rondo.

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