What the Sixers can learn from Michael Jordan and ESPN’s “The Last Dance”
ESPN’s The Last Dance has been absolutely fantastic. The show hit it’s stride last night with “The Rodman Episode” that has been talked about since the show initially was announced. We also got to see Michael Jordan hold
one two of the best grudges in history, still hating on Isaiah Thomas for refusing to shake hands after the Bulls swept the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals, and MJ’s ahem “understanding” of Scottie Pippen getting a migraine but refusing to let go of the fact that he couldn’t play through it.
Dennis Rodman is iconic. The fact that he went right to Phil Jackson and asked for a vacation mid-season, and Phil granted his request under the terms that he would return in 2 days, is nothing short of amazing. MJ knowing that Dennis wouldn’t be back in 2-days, plus him then going to Vegas to bring Rodman back, only to find him in a hotel room where Carmen Electra (still got it) was hiding in a closet, is simply must watch TV.
Throughout everything, there was one thing I couldn’t get off my mind: The Philadelphia 76ers and more specifically, Brett Brown, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons. There’s so much the three of them can learn from the mentality of Michael Jordan and the Bulls. There’s also a ton of much needed realizations that the fan base needs to pay close attention to. Here we go…
Michael Jordan was drafted in 1984. He won his first championship in 1991.
This is more of a testament to the fans, rather than the players, and managing expectations. I have my own working theory that ever since the Eagles won a Super Bowl, Philadelphia has been “chasing the red dragon” to catch that high again. With that, came an emerging, youthful Sixers team that was unfairly expected to enter the win now mindset in Philadelphia. The Eagles hit, we watched the window on the Phillies 5-6 years of glory open and close, and now we have the Sixers with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Two generational talents both super young, raw, and learning. Hell, Joel Embiid didn’t even watch basketball until 2010.
Point being, winning an NBA Championship is hard. It takes time to develop as players, as coaches, and to adapt to the league. Let’s be patient. Thinking about trading Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons is never the answer. Let these two super-stars, under the age of 26, develop. There’s no reason to panic yet.
Michael Jordan was the greatest player in the world (MVP, All-Star, Scoring Champion, Eastern Conference Finals Appearances) yet he was still willing to change his game.
No matter the accolades, Michael Jordan knew that something needed to change. Most importantly, he was willing to make that change. After Doug Collins was fired (more on that later, Brett) Phil Jackson took over and told MJ that things were going to change. It was time to start building up the players around him and moving the ball in a new offensive game plan, “The Triangle Offense”. At first, Michael wasn’t so sure and like the GOAT he truly is, responded to Phil Jackson saying “there’s no I in team” with “but there’s an I in win” – but in the end, MJ was willing to change and learn a new offensive set-up.
Imagine that, Michael Jordan trusting the process. Of course – this came at the expense of Doug Collins. But Michael was willing to change. I’m talking to you Ben Simmons. I’m not going to beat a dead horse about your shooting and I’m aware you’re still young and there’s plenty of time to develop your shot – but I’m DYING for that acceptance and willing to change the way you view the game of basketball.
Maybe this is, in fact, a coaching issue, and with a new coach, you will change. Which brings me to my next point.
Doug Collins helped Michael Jordan develop early in his career. He was well-liked by Michael Jordan, but not the coach to take them to the next level.
This is just way too familiar. I’m not even sure how much I need to expand on this but incase you didn’t know. Brett Brown is way too close to his players. He’s a father figure. He literally has said those exact words. I don’t believe Brett is the guy to take the Sixers team to the next level and no, I’m not sure who is either. However, new coaching for the Bulls brought a new offensive philosophy. It challenged Michael to make the players around him better and to move the ball and rely on others.
Doug was a great coach for the Bulls. He wasn’t the guy. I don’t believe Brett is the guy to take this team to the next level either. It’s time to move on and bring in someone that can continue the development of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
After yet another loss to the Pistons in the ECF – Michael Jordan made everyone spend the entire summer working out and preparing for the following year.
This is the type of killer instinct I crave. MJ and the Bulls lost to the Pistons again and again. MJ couldn’t take it anymore. Immediately following the loss, he gathered up the team and hit the gym. Together. He was tired of getting bullied on the court. He wanted to do the bullying.
He and his teammates worked all off-season. They got stronger, they learned a new offense, they developed a team chemistry and toughness. Who speaks up and says this on the Sixers team? Who’s the leader? When you lose Game 7 on a ball that bounces off the rim fifty billion times – who’s hungry for more? I’m not sure there is an answer on the Sixers.
Michael Jordan understood the importance of Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman and did everything he could to ensure they were on the same page and growing together.
MJ literally went to Vegas to bring back Dennis Rodman to the team. Imagine Michael Jordan coming to Vegas and taking you out of a hotel room where Carmen Electra is hiding in the closet. What a wild scene that must have been. But that’s not even the most important aspect of this point. The fact that Michael Jordan, the best player in the world, wanted nothing more than a confident Scottie Pippen and a present Dennis Rodman on his team and would do anything to have it tells you a lot about his leadership on and off the court.
There wasn’t any talk of “who is the star on this team” or “who is the leader” it was MJ understanding the importance of his teammates and realizing that by having them be great, it would only make him better. Spoiler alert: it worked.
Everyone watching should stop and think about Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The way they are portrayed in the media, the way they carry themselves on and off the court. Of course it’s only been a few years with them together. But where’s the chemistry – who’s talking to who behind the scenes? Where’s the attitude that screams “we need to figure this out and win a ton of rings”?
To Michael, winning was everything. That’s the mindset Ben and Joel need.
Draymond Green is no where close to Dennis Rodman. Stop it.
In summary – Brett Brown is basically Doug Collins on the Bulls. Joel Embiid is Michael Jordan and needs to become the leader on this team. Ben Simmons is Scottie Pippen and needs to develop confidence and accept changing his game to benefit others. And ya know what – let’s just say Matisse Thybulle is Dennis Rodman because I’d love to see him come out next year pierced up with crazy clothes and hair styles.
[…] Despite all of that, every year they have been in a position to succeed. The Jimmy and Tobi era only played roughly 20 games together and they were able to go 7 games with the future NBA champions. While all of these roster moves are not negative, it is hard to blame the coach for not winning immediately with significant changes like that during the season, let alone twice in the same year. Winning takes time (Hint: The Last Dance). […]