Why Van Gundy is right
There’s no debate that Jordan’s style would push away some of the players today, but Van Gundy makes a really interesting point about the media perceiving Jordan’s leadership as harassment and bullying. The world has evolved and things like bullying have certainly become more magnified than in the ’90s, so he’s not far off.
He’s also right that a player would not only have to be the best in the league, but one of the all-time greats to even pull that off. This is why Jordan and Kobe were able to get away with it, because players aren’t going to tolerate a teammate punching them in the face or constantly berating them from just anybody. The leadership style that’s more prevalent now-a-days is leading by example, a la LeBron James.
JVG used Steve Nash and Tim Duncan as examples of hugging and patting on the back, which was certainly the opposite of Jordan’s approach. Many players from the ’80s and ’90s believe the game has become soft over time, because the league is much different all around than it was when they played.
If you’re of the belief that the league has gotten softer, a good illustration is the Chicago Bulls team of late. When Jim Boylen became the head coach, the Bulls players were prepared to boycott (subscription required) one of his practice sessions on a Sunday afternoon, which is odd considering how they were coming off a historic 133-77 loss and were 6-21 at the time.
The Last Dance is also a good example of how the game has changed in that much of the physical play that was allowed at the time would lead to ejections and fines now-a-days. JVG is more than credible on this subject, as he coached during the Jordan era and even coaches USA basketball today, so he knows how the players are wired.
But overall Van Gundy is right in that Jordan’s leadership style wouldn’t be tolerated today and we’ll likely never see it again. But then again, we’ll never see another Jordan or another player with his psyche.