The third and fourth episodes of “The Last Dance” flashed back to the Bulls-Pistons rivalry, culminating in the Bulls sweeping the Pistons in the 1991 Eastern Conference finals.
As the Bulls blew out the Pistons in Game 4 in Detroit, the Pistons walked off the court without giving the Bulls a chance to shake their hands. John Salley, one of the Bad Boy Pistons, was notably not a part of that.
In the documentary, some of the Pistons explain how the walkout came to be. The Boston Celtics did it to them in the '80s, so Bill Laimbeer convinced his teammates to do the same to the Bulls.
Salley told the story of why he wasn’t involved in an interview on SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt after “The Last Dance” episodes aired.
“Bill Laimbeer said, 'let’s hand them the torch the same way the Celtics handed it to us,'” Salley said. “I understand that Michael is my frat brother, my guy. Horace and Scottie and I trade tickets. I was like nah, ‘Chuck, put me back in the game because I don’t think I want to be a part of what’s happening.’ And in hindsight it would have changed everything.”
Salley asked Pistons coach Chuck Daly to put him back on the floor so he wouldn’t be a part of the group leaving from the bench.
“Chuck Daly thought, ‘Salley, you can’t get any more points. Come on, let the guys play,’” Salley said. “And I understood Bill, and I still do understand where Bill was coming from. He keeps that, and as he always said it’s just business. Everybody else took it personal, and they decided to come out and say things about us, but we were essential to Michael Jordan becoming Michael Jordan. That’s the way we need to look at it. Once you get through us, you can get through anything.”
Salley ended up playing for the Bulls late in his career for the final stretch of the 1995-96 season. He joined the 72-win team and got the third of his four championship rings.
“When it was time to get me to come on, they asked MJ and he was like, ‘Yes,’” Salley said. “So Michael doesn’t hate anybody. He knew what we were great at.
“He doesn’t really hate us as individuals. He hated the fact that we were a team that wasn’t going to be moved easily and we weren’t a team that was so enamored. We knew he was great.”