Is Michael Jordan a Poor Defender? Analyzing Rasheed Wallace’s Bold Claim on the Bulls’ 9x Title Holder

You can’t measure defense. Even though some counting statistics like steals and blocks exist, defense is all about the eye test. As a result, making an objective claim about a player and his defensive prowess remains a hard ask. However, there are a few common notions that continue to exist. Rasheed Wallace was considered one of the best defenders of his generation. But, the Detroit Pistons legend wasn’t willing to extend that same courtesy to another man of similar stature – Michael Jordan.

One of the primary components of the GOAT argument for His Airness, aside from 6-0, is his dominance on both ends of the court. Even though most consider him the greatest scorer ever, and his NBA history leading ppg serves as proof of that, he was just as cerebral defensively.

But, according to Rasheed Wallace, that wasn’t the case. “Mike wasn’t all that good of a defender…All that’s NBA s**t, we like Mike, we’re gonna put him up there. I’m talking about being out there. I seen this motherf***er get his a** bust where he couldn’t stop a motherf***er,” the 2004 NBA champion stated.

Further, Sheed wasn’t ambiguous in his take. He brought names of players that the Chicago Bulls legend could not stop. “Against JR Rider, yeah probably against Clyde Drexler. S**t, don’t forget the early Joe Dumars,” recalled Wallace. However, the 2x All-Star did eventually tone down his comments. “I’m not saying that he didn’t play defense. I’m just saying that his defense wasn’t as high as most other cats at that time. I couldn’t put him on like 10 or 11 consecutive First-team All-Defensive joints, dog.”

However, there is one fact that makes Rasheed Wallace’s last statement a bit redundant. Wallace said he wouldn’t have MJ on 10 or 11 consecutive All-Defense First Teams. Well, nobody in NBA history has 10 or 11 All-Defense First Team selections, let alone consecutive ones. Michael Jordan is tied for most All-Defense First Team selections in NBA history (9) with Gary Payton, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett.

If we were to play devil’s advocate however, the closest argument to support Rasheed Wallace in his argument would be the other defenders present on those Bulls teams.

How was Michael Jordan as a defender?

Due to the presence of names like Scottie Pippen, and eventually Dennis Rodman, the 5x NBA MVP did not have the biggest defensive assignment. Even though he may not get the credit he deserves, the NBA Finals in 1991 switched when Pippen took on Magic Johnson after Jordan struggled against him in Game 1.

However, in terms of individual numbers, it is hard to argue against MJ’s talent. When he retired, Michael Jordan was number 3 all-time in total steals. He also finished with the most blocks for a guard in NBA history, although both these records were eventually broken. With a DPOY under his belt in 1988, the voters did view him as the best defender in the entire league at one point in time.

The argument for one-on-one defense does stand out. In NBA history, there hasn’t been a defense that was able to slow down an all-time great. So, to hold that one component against the Hall of Famer seems like a bit of a stretch.

What do you think about Rasheed Wallace’s comments? Was Michael Jordan overrated as a defender? Let us know in the comments below.


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