Celtics Legend Kevin McHale: Michael Jordan's Bulls 'Complained All the Time'

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMay 10, 2020

CHICAGO - 1989:  Isiah Thomas #11 of the Detroit Pistons looks to pass against Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls during an NBA game in 1989 at the Chicago Stadium in Chicago, Illinois.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1989 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Kevin McHale's biggest takeaway from reliving the 1980s and '90s NBA through The Last Dance: The Chicago Bulls were a bunch of complainers. 

"First of all, you can see why the Pistons didn't like the Bulls," McHale told Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. "The Bulls complained all the time. That's one thing that came across (in the documentary). Like, 'This is not basketball. This is thuggery.' All that stuff. I thought the Bulls really disrespected what the Pistons were able to do. But, hey, when you kill the king, you can talk [expletive]."

The Pistons-Bulls rivalry, which lasted over four playoff series from 1988 to 1991, was examined in full during episodes of The Last Dance that made it clear hard feelings were still fresh three decades later.

Michael Jordan still seems to hold a grudge against Isiah Thomas in particular, calling the Hall of Fame guard an "assh--e" during one pointed clip. 

"We actually liked playing like that," McHale said of the Pistons. "We didn't have any problem with the Pistons, really, until we got all beat up [with injuries]. But their physicality never bothered us. I thought their physicality made us play better."

The Celtics beat Detroit in the 1985 and 1987 playoffs before the Pistons returned the favor with wins in 1988, 1989 and 1991. 

McHale's Celtics had their own run-ins with the Bulls early in Jordan's career, sweeping them in 1986 and 1987. By the end of the second series, Jordan had a 1-9 career record in the playoffs. It could be argued that playing against those Celtics, followed by the Bad Boy Pistons, helped shape Jordan's competitive edge that carried him to six championships in the '90s.