Did Jordan make those around him better?

To this, the answer is an emphatic "NO!"

One theory was that Jordan drew so much defensive attention that his teammates got to take wide open shots and benefited from Jordan.  It sounds good on paper, but wasn't true in reality.  Jordan played in 1993 and retired in 1994.  Nine players played on these two teams, and these 9 players, as a whole, shot a higher percentage without Jordan than they did with Jordan, even though the defenses were focusing on them.  This was not a fluke. this occurred over the course of 164 games.  That is enough to determine a trend.

Furthermore, this was proven again in 2001, when Jordan joined Washington.  Jordan missed a lot of games due to injury, and The Sporting News commented on their surprise that the Wizards shot better in games in which Jordan did not play.  This is no surprise.  This is a trend.


Guys like Oscar Robertson, Jason Kidd, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson all wanted their team to take the best shot each time down the floor.  They had no problems passing the ball to a teammate who had a better shot.  That is why their teammates shot such a higher percentage when they played with these guys.  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once said that Magic Johnson knows where your best shot is, even if you do not, and Magic throws the ball in such a way that if you hustle, you will find the ball in your hands for an easy shot that you didn't know was there.  That is called "setting up a teammate."

In Jordan's case, he did not have this mentality.  Jordan once said, "I thought of myself first, the team second.  I always wanted my teams to be successfulBut I wanted to be the main cause."  He wanted to be the center of the spotlight.  He was selfish to the core.  He only wanted to win if it brought praise to him.  In his mind, HE had the best shot most of the times down the floor.  One time, Bill Cartwright chastised Jordan for not giving up the ball while he was double-teamed.  Jordan responded with "but one of the two players was Fred Roberts!"  It didn't matter if there was an open teammate, because Jordan thought taking a shot over two guys was better than somebody else taking an uncontested shot.

Doug Collins tried to put Jordan at the point guard in 1989.  The idea was that Jordan was such a tremendous penetrator, that he could break down a defense and hit the open man or score.  Jordan responded with 11 triple doubles in his first 13 games.  However, he was often found going to the scorers' table to check to see how many rebounds or assists he needed to get a triple-double.  He played for stats.  Doug Collins later said, "Do you know who's the biggest obstacle to us running?  Michael Jordan, that's who.  He won't let go of the ball."

This selfishness resulted in players standing around and watching Jordan, or Jordan not passing to the open guy with the best shot.  Without Jordan, the teams flowed into their offense and found the open man.  That is why they consistently shoot better when Jordan doesn't play.  Jordan simply does not make his teammates better.

Furthermore, I issued this challenge on Usenet: Name one player whose career was enhanced by Jordan. I never received a serious challenge. Let’s look at some of the candidates.

Scottie Pippen – The press love to sing long songs about Jordan made Pippen. However, their songs are missing a few verses. For example. Why did Pippen have his finest seasons without Jordan? In 1994, Pippen averaged 22 ppg, 8.7 rpg, and 5.6 apg. In 1995, Pippen became only the second player in history (Dave Cowens was the first) to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. How could he do this without Jordan to make him better?
        Furthermore, when deciding to retire, Jordan said over and over that he would not play without Pippen. While recovering from foot
"Why did [Scottie] Pippen have his finest seasons when Jordan was playing baseball?"
surgery in December of 1997, Pippen said that he was not going to play with the Bulls when he was fully recovered. Jordan said that if he had known this, he would not have come back. Why? If Jordan makes everyone so much better, why not fill in Scott Burrell into Pippen’s position (or Toni Kukoc, for that matter), and make another Pippen? Answer: Jordan didn’t make Pippen. Pippen made Pippen.  Without Jordan, he is still the dominating defensive player, and he continues to be a complete player.

The typical Jordan fan will respond with "how many championships did Pippen win without Jordan?"  The answer is zero.  Likewise, how many championships did Jordan win without Pippen?  Zero.  Comparing these two players apart from each is very unfavorable for Jordan.  Pippen had a better career record and a better post-season record than Jordan.  Pippen's only losing season was his final year in the NBA, when he missed much of the season due to injury and was in a veteran leadership role for the young re-building Bulls.  That was the only time in Pippen's career he had a losing record and the only time he missed the playoffs.  Jordan played 5 seasons without Pippen.  Out of those 5 seasons, he posted 5 losing records, missed the playoffs twice, and was 1-9 in the playoffs. 

Think about it: Jordan never had a winning record apart from Pippen.  Pippen played on many playoff teams in Portland and Houston without Jordan.

It makes you wonder who made who a better ball player, or at least who was the most valuable player to the win-loss column.

Dennis Rodman – Rodman had established himself LONG before playing with Jordan. His defensive reputation was made in Detroit, where he was voted the Defensive Player of the Year in 1990 and 91. His rebounding ability was established in Detroit, also, where he won the first of his seven consecutive rebounding titles (4 without Jordan), and his reputation as a winner was established in Detroit, where he won two titles – both times defeating Jordan’s Bulls. "Rodman established his rebounding and winning ways in Detroit, when he beat Jordan twice on the way to the championship."

"If 7 points and 5 rebounds per game is your shining example ofJordan making someone better, than Jordan sucked at improving those around him." Luc Longley – Put simply, Longley was a bad player before he joined the Bulls. He was a bad player when he played with the Bulls, and he was a bad player after he left the Bulls. Nobody has questioned Jason Kidd’s ability to improve his teammates, and even he hasn’t been able to coax out respectable play from Longley. If seven points and 5 rebounds is what you want out of your center, then Longley is your man, but you don’t need Jordan to get this out of him.  
If 7 points and 5 rebounds per game is your shining example of Jordan making someone better, than Jordan sucked at improving those around him.  He improved Longley from a laughable joke to a mildly amusing joke.  Wow!

John Paxson – This is the guy that most Jordan fans bring up. Paxson was on the perfect team in Chicago (perhaps the only team he could get significant minutes with), but his career blossomed because of Scottie Pippen, not Jordan.  Let me explain:

Jordan could not play well with classic "drive-and-dish" style points. He disliked playing with Sam Vincent and Steve Colter for this very reason. The reason why was because they were in the lane too much, and Jordan wanted to be the one to drive to the basket.   The logical choice would be to have Jordan play the point guard and have a spot-up shooter in the shooting guard slot.  However, according to Phil Jackson, Jordan lacked the passing skills to play the point guard and he hogged the ball too much.   No one really doubts Jackson's knowledge of the game.  

"Jordan lacked the skills to play point guard and didn't like playing with guards who played the classic point guard role.  That means in order for Jordan to play with a spot-up shooter, one of the forwards would have to play the point.  Guess who that was?"

Because Jordan cannot co-exist with a typical point guard and can't play it himself, that means somebody else has to bring up the ball and be the point man.  Guess who that was?  Scottie Pippen.  Pippen was a rare breed in that he was a forward who could handle point duties.  That short list consists of Larry Bird, Paul Pressey, Grant Hill, and Pippen.  In his book "Sacred Hoops", Jackson lauds Pippen for his ability to run the offense and figure out who is hot and cold and how many shots a player needs and how frequently to stay in his rhythm.  These were things that Jordan could not do, because he only cared about his own shots.

Because Pippen could play the point, that allowed Paxson to play alongside of Jordan, even though he lacked all point guard skills.  This means that Jordan did not make Paxson a better player.  Pippen did.  If not for Pippen, Paxson couldn't have cracked the line-up.

Just incase you doubt me, and you think you know more than Phil Jackson, ask yourself: how come Chicago with Jordan was the only team at that time NOT to have a point guard?  Think about it.  When Jordan retired, B.J. Armstrong played a classic point guard role and made his only all-star appearance.  When Jordan came back from retirement, the Bulls let Armstrong go in the expansion draft and replaced him with Ron Harper, another 2-guard.  Who else teamed up with Jordan in the back court?  Craig Hodges, Steve Kerr, Randy Brown, and Jud Buechler.  None of these guys could be confused with a point guard.


Steve Kerr – See John Paxson. This is the exact same case, as Kerr was a Paxson-clone.  In 1993, the year before Jordan retired, Kerr was the 12th man on draft lottery-bound Orlando.  The next year, he joined the Jordan-less Bulls and had his finest season ever.  How could he do this if Jordan made him better?

Furthermore, Kerr had established himself as one the top 3 point shooter in history and set a record for best 3 point shooting percentage (from 23'9") in a season (1989-90). Considering this, and how he filled in for Mark Price when Price was injured in Cleveland, I ask: what did Jordan do differently for his career?  Kerr's game was exactly the same before he joined Chicago.  When he joined Chicago, he had his best year, while Jordan was playing baseball,

"Like Paxson, Kerr blossomed because of Pippen's ability to play the point, allowing the Bulls to play 2 non-point guards.  That is why Kerr had his finest seasons in Chicago when Jordan was playing baseball."

and like Paxson, Kerr got more minutes because of Pippen's ability to play the point role, since Kerr was not a true point guard.


Washington Wizards – Then, there are the Wizards... if Jordan made those around him better, why couldn't he do this with Larry Hughes, Jerry Stackhouse, and ESPECIALLY Kwame Brown?  You should know the answer by now.