The time Michael Jordan’s bullying backfired against Robert Parish
The stories about Michael Jordan pushing his teammates to points where it might have been considered sheer bullying were exposed in ESPN’s 10-part docuseries “The Last Dance.” Yet one man managed to make Jordan’s barbs backfire: Robert Parish.
Parish played the last season of his 21-year career with the Chicago Bulls. Having won three rings himself as a longtime member of the Boston Celtics, the 7-footer was not the least bit intimidated by His Airness.
Parish played 14 years with the Celtics and faced up against some great Los Angeles Lakers teams in his time. He can still recall a difference in leadership from Larry Bird to Magic Johnson to Jordan:
“What set Larry apart from Magic and Jordan was he wasn’t an in-your-face leader like they were,” Parish told ESPNs Jackie MacMullan in 2012. “He had too much respect for us. If you weren’t having a good night, he was more inclined to encourage you, or not say anything at all.
“But Magic and Jordan would jump all over you.”
When Parish arrived in Chicago for his last season in 1996-97, Jordan lambasted him for botching one of the plays, soon getting in his face. The Chief wasn’t having it:
“I told him, ‘I’m not as enamored with you as these other guys. I’ve got some rings too,’ ” Parish recalled. “At that point he told me, ‘I’m going to kick your ass.’ I took one step closer and said, ‘No, you really aren’t.’ After that he didn’t bother me.”
Jordan would intimidate plenty of his teammates, as seen in “The Last Dance,” despite not being the biggest guy in the gym. Though those plans quickly change when all 7 feet of Robert Parish are standing right next to a 6-foot-6 Jordan.
Parish, who only averaged 3.7 points and 2.1 rebounds in his last season in the league, admitted he might have stayed a couple years too long, as Luc Longley and Bill Wennington were giving him the works in practice. However, that didn’t keep The Chief from standing up to Jordan.