John Salley says that referees during Pistons/Bulls rivalry era probably had tattoos of MJ on their chest

89/90 Detroit – John Salley Hand Face | Michael Jordan | Pinterest | Detroit, Michael jordan and Jordan 23. Photo Credit: Pinterest

John Salley chats with Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson about the Bulls/Pistons Rivalry on Scoop B Radio. Press Play Below To Listen!

When John Salley speaks, you listen. After all, he’s got the hardware. A retired 11 year NBA vet, Salley  was the first player in NBA history to play on three different championship-winning franchises. The former host of Fox Sports’ Best Damn Sports Show, Period also holds the distinction of being the first player in NBA history to win a championship in three different decades.

He’s played with Hall of Famers Isiah Thomas, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal and played under head coaches Phil Jackson and the late Chuck Daly.

Salley won his first championship with the Detroit Pistons in 1989, during their Bad Boy era with Thomas, Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn.

While playing for the Pistons, Salley saw the transition of NBA Eastern Conference power of the Pistons in the 80s be taken by the Bulls in for mostly all of the booming 90s.

That era was ushered in the evolution of Michael Jordan as one of the league’s best players.

Before the Bulls’ takeover, the Pistons’ ‘Jordan Rules’ defensive scheme was used to limit MJ’s effectiveness on offense.The Bulls combatted that with the Tex Winter’s implemented  triangle offense, an offense predicated upon reading defenses and complex  passing and cutting patterns.

Chicago struggled with the Pistons from 1988-90 before having a turnaround in 1991.

The Bulls swept Detroit in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals, progressed  to the NBA Finals and beat the Magic Johnson-led Los Angeles Lakers.

“The thing that stands out the most is that I believe the league wanted Michael to win the championship and I believe we got in the way,” John Salley told me on Scoop B Radio.

Game 7 of that ‘91 Eastern Conference Finals was memorable because the Pistons walked off the court with 7.9 seconds left.

Salley and Pistons guard Joe Dumars were the only members of the team to stay on the court and shake hands with the Bulls after winning the series.  

Salley says that Scottie Pippen was the difference maker for the Bulls. “I remember when Scottie got the migraine and that was a big game for us and we won that game and went to the championship in 1990,” he said.

“But then I remember Scottie becoming tough, like mentally he became a different guy and they just came in and played tough.”

But Salley also says that the Bulls had an advantage because the NBA wanted the Bulls to win it all. “The media was so against us,” he said.  

“I always said it was eight against five when you played against the Bulls because the referees were wearing Jordans. You know and they probably had tattoos of Michael on their chest, so that’s what I remember them wanting their messiah to win.”


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About Brandon Robinson

Brandon 'Scoop B' Robinson is a managing editor and columnist at RESPECT Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @ScoopB and Instagram: @Scoop_B. As a 12 year old, he was a Nets reporter from 1997-1999, co-hosting a show called Nets Slammin' Planet with former New Jersey Net Albert King and Nets play-by-play man Chris Carrino. He's also been a writer and radio host at CBS and a staff writer at The Source Magazine. He's a graduate of both Eastern University and Hofstra University. You can catch him daily on the Scoop B Radio Podcast. Visit to listen. For inquiries and to contact Brandon 'Scoop B' Robinson visit