Read this tip to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Basketball Blog and other Basketball topics.
So the Question has been raised. Now it's my job to justify it. There were two questions left unanswered. 1) "How good would Jordan have been without the friendly whistles?" and 2) "Can you achieve greatness without ever defeating greatness?" In this entry I will answer the first of those questions.
There is little argument from anyone who actually witnessed Jordan during his 15 year career that he got a favorable whistle throughout. A defender couldn't touch him, breathe on him, or even pass wind in his general direction without getting a foul called. These stats(courtesy of NBA.com) tend to back this statement up. Jordan averaged 8.7 free throws per game during the regular season. That number jumped to 9.9 ft's/game in the playoffs. Out of the 29,277 pts he scored with the Bulls, 6,798 of them came way of the free throw line. That's over 23% of all his points, from the line. In comparison, the all-time scoring leader in NBA history, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, only got 17% of his points from the line.
The Pistons were well aware of this foul discrepancy. Chuck Daly implemented The Jordan Rules in light of this situation. The philosophy behind the Jordan Rules were simple: If the officials were gonna call every little touch foul against MJ, why not touch his face with an elbow? Sounds rough, but the Bad Boys of the late eighties earned their title for good reason. They were physical, some might say dirty. But could they have won any other way? They were facing such legends as MJ, Bird, and Magic. They had no true superstars. They had to fight for everything they got. And this is the style Chuck Daly implemented, and it worked. The Pistons knocked Jordan and the Bulls out of the playoffs THREE straight years from '88-90' on their way to back-to-back championships in '89 and '90.
So, "Why didn't everyone use The Jordan Rules?" That's a question only the losing coaches of playoff past can answer. But "why was it successful?", that I can answer. Because if a guy is gonna get to the free throw ten times a game, then you have to make him feel it. You have to make him earn it. And that is exactly what the Pistons did. Made Jordan earn every point.
So back to the question at hand: "How good would Jordan have been without the favorable whistle?" Unfortunately it's impossible to quantify. You can ask Byron Russell. He played for the Utah Jazz and in game 6 of the '98 finals he was involved in one of Jordan's most famous highlights, where Jordan pushed Russell(clearly an offensive foul), almost knocking Russell over, before pulling up and hitting Jordan's famous game winner.
"How good would Jordan have been?"...nobody knows for sure. It's like asking "How good would Barry Bonds have been without Steroids?" Would Barry Bonds have been one of the best baseball players on the planet? Probably. Would he be hands down the greatest baseball player to ever live? Doubtful.