Will Perdue was the 11th overall pick in the 1988 NBA Draft, and he, along with his new Chicago Bulls teammates, had to find the answer to a very important question: How do we get past the Detroit Pistons in the playoffs?
Perdue, who went to Vanderbilt, was a smart guy. But even he didn’t have all the answers, especially as a rookie.
“It was, ‘How do we do this? How do we figure this out?’” Perdue said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “Quite honestly, just from a talent standpoint, we probably had more individual talent. No disrespect to (Bill) Laimbeer, but he wasn’t like a great athlete. But he figured out how to play the game at that level. (Dennis) Rodman figured out how to play the game at that level. Now Joe Dumars, Isiah (Thomas), Hall of Fame guys. But when you start talking about Horace Grant, Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan – you got Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan top 50 all-time. So maybe we had more individual talent, but we a) hadn’t figured out how to put it together and b) how to mentally beat the Detroit Pistons. Not mentally. Physically.”
The Pistons won back-to-back NBA titles in 1989-1990 before the Bulls finally got over the hump. Jordan, of course, led the Bulls to a pair of three-peats, with the first coming in 1991-93.
Jordan was notorious for being hard on teammates – sometimes unfairly – and Perdue was no exception.
Perdue, though, is okay with that.
“I just felt that he didn’t understand,” said Perdue, a four-time NBA champion and Westwood One college basketball analyst. “The reason I say that was I came in, first and foremost, with, I thought, a great work ethic. We get to the first practice, I was like, ‘Holy cow, man. That dude’s on a totally different level’ – not just from a talent standpoint, but how he works. I was like, ‘Man, I got to pick up my game.’”
Perdue did that as best he could, but Jordan still wasn’t happy.
“He didn’t understand,” Perdue said. “He kind of felt, ‘Listen, if you practice as hard as I do and you commit as much time as I do, you’ll be as good as I will.’ Eh, I don’t think so. I appreciate you thinking that, but no. I don’t want to say he was ignorant or stupid, but he was just like, ‘You got to work harder.’ How did he get that way? By working his butt off.”
“Go back and listen to his Hall of Fame speech, thanking all those people that slighted him,” Perdue continued. “Well, if he was so good back then, why did all those people slight him? Because he wasn’t. He didn’t make his JV team, so he worked on his game. Think about how hard he had to work to bring out that talent and then all of a sudden be, quite honestly, the best basketball player to ever play the game.”