« Jordan is smaller than me, he wouldn’t mess with me » – Scott Burrell

Perhaps, Michal Jordan didn’t want the smoke because Burrell was bigger than him.


Becoming the greatest of all time was easier said than done. Anyone who witnessed Michael Jordan’s work ethic first-hand was well aware of the effort he put in to reach that status. This definitely included everybody on his team, including backups such as former Chicago Bulls forward Scott Burrell.

MJ wants everybody to get better

ESPN’s « The Last Dance » gave us a deeper look at Jordan’s zero tolerance for giving less than 100%. In the docuseries, we’ve seen « His Airness » harping on his teammates all the time, but the punching incident with Steve Kerr created the narrative that Jordan’s intense leadership sometimes crossed the line and got physical.

However, according to Burrell, who played only one season with the Bulls, things never got physical between him and MJ. Jokingly, Burrell said perhaps Jordan didn’t want any of the smoke because he was bigger than him.

« No, it was never physical, » Burrell told HoopsHype in 2020. « Jordan is smaller than me, he wouldn’t mess with me. (laughs) I’m just joking; I’m just teasing. (laughs) That was a strong man for his size, just saying. But, no, it was always verbal. It was never physical. »

On a more serious note, Burrell fully understood Jordan’s mentality, so he never questioned why the GOAT always barked at him.

« It was all to make me better and prepare me for the season later on, » he added. « So, I don’t think it’s anything that I have to worry about. »

No time for whiners

In The Last Dance, Jordan is often seen as a bit too hard on Burrell. It’s possible that the directors just wanted to emphasize MJ’s leadership style, but still, some viewed him as a bully.

Regardless of what people think, for Jordan, it’s plain and simple. If you play with him, you better have the same winning mentality. If not, you pay the price.

« If you want to win, you have to pay the price- it’s not that complicated, » Jordan once pointed out. « If somebody didn’t want to hear that from me, fine. But go play somewhere else. A leader has to be willing to sacrifice to help everyone else get to where a team needs to go. No one could take days off with the Bulls because I never took a day off. »

Burrell was a journeyman throughout his entire NBA career. However, he won the chip in his year with the Bulls in the 1997-98 season. And be it verbally or physically, Burrell learned that winning alongside Jordan wasn’t a walk in the park.

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