As The Last Dance, ESPN's comprehensive docuseries about the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls has revealed, playing alongside the hyper-competitive, even ruthless Michael Jordan wasn't necessarily fun, and the NBA's number one wild man in the '90s, Dennis Rodman, could personally attest to that.
Around seven minutes into the video above, Rodman made it clear he thought LeBron could never be as great as Jordan. He wasn't talking about mere gameplay, either—he was really thinking about motivation and drive, and doesn't think LeBron can match that.
Rodman said that James “wasn’t bought up this way." Then he used himself as an example, saying he “had that desire to win" and "didn’t give a shit what it took."
"I’ll do the dirty work, I don’t give a shit," Rodman said, "At the end of the day, that ring is more important."
As for Jordan, Rodman said, "when he came up he had one thing...'I'm going if I didn’t beat your ass and do my job.'"
"It wasn’t about the money” for him or Michael Jordan, according to Rodman, it was about being on "fire" for basketball.
In another recent interview with ESPN, Rodman said he would even rank Bulls teammate Scottie Pippen ahead of James.
"Scottie could handle, he could shoot the ball, he could defend, he could rebound,” Rodman said. “If LeBron was playing during the ‘90s, I’d still say Scottie Pippen was the second-best player behind Michael.”
“At that time, people were calling Larry Bird the quintessential forward,” Rodman told ESPN. “He was great, but he couldn't play multiple positions like Scottie could. He wasn't agile enough. I just don't think people realize what Scottie was doing in 1991. He revolutionized the point-forward position. All these players today should thank Scottie Pippen."
The video excerpt above from a recent episode of The Last Dance in which Jordan grew emotional about defending the way he played the game simply added to Rodman's point. "I wanted to win," Jordan said, "But I wanted them to win and be a part of that as well."
What truly became clear in episode 8 of The Last Dance, which aired May 10th, was just how deeply Jordan invested so many parts of himself into the game. His reaction to Gary "The Glove" Payton, the Seattle SuperSonics defender who went up against him in the 1996 NBA Finals, was another side of the GOAT altogether.
In the clip above, Jordan watched footage of Payton talking about staying on Jordan as they played. "I kept hitting him and banging him and hitting him and banging him, it took a toll on Mike, it took a toll," Payton says at one point.
Jordan cracked up then shook his head. "'The Glove,'" he said, completely dismissing Payton, "I had no problem with 'The Glove.'"
Like him or not, it's hard to disagree with Rodman about Jordan's drive after watching clips of him from Last Dance interviews. Even at 57, he seems as intense as he was 24 years ago. Self-doubt has clearly never been MJ's thing.