'How would I coach against him?'
Hubie Brown on Jordan
Turner Sports analyst and former NBA head coach Hubie Brown has experienced the dominance of Michael Jordan from both the sidelines and the broadcast booth. Through the years he has developed a keen appreciation of what No. 23 has accomplished. Known as one of the best tacticians in basketball, Brown takes a look at the different facets of Michael Jordan's legendary career.
Looking back at Michael Jordan's long and illustrious career, I think the quality that sets him apart from all other players is that he set the bar of excellence at such a high level that in our immediate future, his status is unlikely to ever be challenged.
When Michael came into the league, he came in with an explosion by averaging 28.2 points in his very first year, shooting 51.5 percent from the field, 84.5 percent from the line, and adding 6.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists a game. So for all of the people who say that he was wasn't a complete player and didn't do everything on the court, I say to them he did do everything! In his very first year!
True, Michael wasn't what you would call an automatic three-point shooter, but he was never that throughout his career. In 13 seasons, Michael shot 33.2 percent for his career from beyond the three-point arc, but because of his greatness, once he got on a roll he could shoot you out of a game by hitting three-pointer after three-pointer. Once again though, that was developed over the 13 years.
From the outset of his career, Michael possessed an unparalleled quickness off the dribble, and his ability to dribble with either hand and finish in the lane with an explosion separated him from the rest of the players in the league. Plus, he always backed up his drives with the high shooting percentages, so defending him was nearly impossible. You could never foul him, because he'd go to the line and make 85 percent. What they had in Chicago was this incredible diamond, but a diamond surrounded by less than a playoff-type athlete.
As his career went on, the Bulls put in the missing pieces. They added Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant in 1987 to give them their "Big Three" and once that happened, common thought was that Michael's game had exploded when in reality he had a complete game when he first came in. Now, he had the supporting cast to help transform individual success into team success.
As his career moved on, there was a slight step back because of age, but he always had the medium game, those eight to 15 foot shots that are missing in basketball today. Not only did he have that tough medium game, but he could always finish his drives when he went to the hole because of his incredible leaping ability. And at the end of his career, Michael transformed himself into one of the best post-up players in the NBA. He was nearly unstoppable because he perfected his bump and fadeaway jump shot. That one move, never mind all of the other things that he could do with his back to the basket, made him one of the most dominating post players in the game.
Before he retired in 1993 to pursue a baseball career, you would always double team him and he still couldn't be stopped because of his ability to elevate. Once he elevated, it just came down to whether he made the shot or not. As a coach you could: a.) try to take the ball out of his hands; or b.) force him into a bad percentage shot. Neither choice is really correct because regardless of whether he would either make the shot or not make the shot, he understood how to beat the double team, and that alone was dangerous.
How would I coach against him? That's not an easy question and I don't know if I'm qualified because he scored 50 points on us twice during my last year in New York! In fact, there is that famous picture of him falling out of bounds right into our Knicks bench as he hit for two of those 50. The trouble was, we didn't have two guys on him, we had three and he still made the shot! We've all seen that type of play at least a thousand times, the play where Jordan could make the spectacular seem so normal.
When you look at everything that Michael Jordan has accomplished from his game attendance to the six NBA championships, six Finals MVPs and five league MVPs, it's easy to see why he is considered the greatest of all time. When people debate over the greatest players of all time, and what players can transcend every era from the 1940s to present day, these people will pick a certain player because of a position that they like. Some guys like small forwards, some guys like centers, some guys like guards, some guys like power forwards and they'll pick one of their guys at those positions. But in Michael Jordan you had a guy who could give you everything.
From a defensive standpoint, when the Bulls won their first three championships, Jordan was not only a scorer, rebounder and assist man, but as a defender, he was the best double team post-up guy in the league. Not only did he play the two guard position defensively against one of the top scorers on your team and shut him down, but he also was the designated double team guy. And no matter which side the ball went in on, he would come and double team, and that's a facet of his game which people forget because he was always in the top three in steals because of the size, wing span, incredible quickness, and anticipation.
Bill Russell won five MVP awards, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won six, but the element of Jordan's game which separates him from all the rest is his attendance. Michael played 13 years, playing all 82 games eight times. Ten times Jordan played 80 or more games, one year he only played 18 games due to a broken foot, one year he played only 17 games after coming back from baseball, and there's only one other year he played 78 games. That competitive fire and desire to play and desire to win is second to none. Michael showed up to give you 30 or more points on a nightly basis, with the great shooting percentages, with the rebounding, with the assists and never sacrificed anything on the other end of the floor, where he gave you nine years of First Team All-Defense. There's nobody that's done that. When they compare him for competitiveness, the only guy in the same breath with Jordan is Bill Russell. Russell backed up his game with 11 championships as the heart and soul of the Boston Celtics. Russell's rebounding, shot-blocking and total defensive dominance from the foul line down is unmatched. But nobody in the history of the game has dominated at both ends of the floor like Michael Jordan. Therein lies the difference.
Michael Jordan simply leaves the game as the best player ever to play, and I don't think there is any argument over that. At the 1997 NBA All-Star Game in Cleveland when they celebrated the the top 50 players in NBA history, it was interesting because it was nearly unanimous among the players was that this guy is the greatest player to ever play. To me that thought is interesting because of its absolute nature.
Return to top of page