Why Michael Jordan Considers Hall Of Famer Joe Dumars His Toughest Opponent

The greatest athletes have a way of making their feats seem almost effortless. Commentators will say they make it look easy, as goals are scored through the slightest of non-spaces and countless defenders are dribbled past as though they weren't even there. The fact is, though, such things are far from easy.

Often, fans only see the players they idolize in action during matches. This brief window, however, hardly represents the countless hours of training, fitness, practice, and preparation they spend off the pitch. Even then, as much as these stars can dazzle us, nobody is unstoppable.

In the world of basketball, there's surely no greater legend than Michael Jordan. The man's talent is undeniable, his performances spellbinding; but natural ability can still only take one so far. The other vital ingredient? Enormous, consistent effort. In the documentary "The Last Dance" from ESPN (via CNBC), Roy Williams, who had been the assistant coach for Jordan's UNC team, stated that the young man told him, "I'm going to show you. Nobody will ever work as hard as I work."

Later, when Jordan's superstar career was truly underway, he seemed to find himself working especially hard against one defender in particular: the Basketball Hall of Fame's Joe Dumars.

The Detroit Pistons' notorious Jordan Rules

It's an unfortunate fact that defensive roles in sports teams often fail to grasp the headlines they deserve. It's often flashy goal-scoring and point-grabbing that wins games, yes, but the moments that take place in a team's own end are just as crucial. In this area, Joe Dumars was one player who certainly excelled.

As the NBA reports, it was only in 1985 that Dumars was drafted by the Detroit Pistons, with whom he served as a defensive powerhouse for 14 years. More than capable of going on the offensive when the chance arose, Dumars had a career that was mostly defined by one specific role: he was charged with attempting to tame the formidable Michael Jordan. Most unusually, he actually seemed to succeed.

MJ was so feared that the Pistons had to develop some very special tactics to manage him and his impact on a game. The so-called Jordan Rules were established by the Pistons' then-mastermind Chuck Daly in the late 1980s, per Sporting News. The principle was a simple one. Per Jack McCallum via Sports Illustrated, Daly explained, "If Michael was at the point, we forced him left and doubled him. If he was on the left wing, we went immediately to a double team from the top. If he was on the right wing, we went to a slow double team." He continued: " ... [Y]ou had to nail him. If he was coming off a screen, nail him ... "

Joe Dumars, stalwart defender

With this specifically anti-Michael Jordan defensive plan in place, it's no surprise that the maestro himself found the Pistons particularly troublesome: No member more so, it seems, than Joe Dumars himself.

On a "Relatively Speaking" episode dedicated to the Bad Boys (via NBAPistonsFiles on YouTube), Jordan shared his opinion on what made Dumars such a difficult opponent to take on. "I think he approaches the game as trying to dissect his opponent, and try to find weaknesses or try to force them to do things that they didn't feel comfortable doing." It's easy to see how the superstar, who became quite accustomed to dictating momentum and blasting through in his own inimitable way, would have been absolutely stretched by the rock-solid Dumars.

Dumars had such an impact on Jordan, in fact, that the latter went on to credit him as a reason for his constant push to develop his "talents as an offensive player," per "Relatively Speaking." This is high praise indeed, from a man whose abilities in that area are perhaps the greatest the sport has ever seen.