Ron Harper: Jordan's Bulls better than Curry's Warriors
Ron Harper, member of the legendary Chicago Bulls squad of the late 90s, says Curry's Warriors are no match for his Class of '96
He played alongside "His Airness" in the effervescent Chicago Bulls team that won three straight NBA Championships from 1996 to 1998.
And Ron Harper has no doubt that that Bulls side, led by arguably the greatest player of all time, Michael Jordan, would blow away Stephen Curry's current Golden State Warriors team that took the NBA by storm in the last two seasons.
In Singapore to coach local youths as part of the Junior NBA programme, Harper (right) chuckled when The New Paper brought up his tweet from last season saying the Bulls of '96 would "sweep" the Warriors if the two sides played each other at their peak.
"It's the truth, though," said the 54-year-old with a grin.
"What makes us the superior team is that we were a very confident side.
"We had some very good basketball players on that team.
"We had the best basketball player in Michael Jordan.
"Then we had a guy by the name of Scottie Pippen, who maybe is one of the best all-round players.
"We also had a guy by the name of Dennis Rodman, who was very colourful, but also a great defensive player and awesome rebounder.
"And you can add all the roll guys they had - me, Steve Kerr, Toni Kukoc, Bill Wennington.
"We had a more talented team.
"We probably had six or seven guys that would start in most NBA teams."
The main driving forces of that legendary Bulls side was Jordan.
"Air Jordan" was known for his intensity and for demanding excellence from all around him, and Harper admitted his drive to win was a big factor in the team's success.
"He's competitive, you know. We all are competitive," he said.
"Anybody who plays professional sports hates to lose.
"MJ just wants you to work as hard as he does when he comes in every day.
"And that's all we want.
"For a guy to come in and compete every day."
On the numerous stories of Jordan trash-talking even his teammates, Harper replied: "We all trash-talked! He didn't trash-talk by himself.
"You think I didn't trash-talk to him?
"For example, when MJ first came back out of retirement (in 1995), he told me, 'You better go home and sleep, because tomorrow I'm going at you (in training)'.
"I said, 'Well, I'm going back at you too. I'm not scared of you...'.
"That's all it was."
Looking ahead to the new NBA season, which kicks off next month, Harper said he was intrigued to see how Curry's Warriors team would evolve and develop, especially after the capture of 2014 MVP and seven-time All-Star Kevin Durant.
He railed against critics who said Durant only joined the Warriors - NBA champions in 2015 - from the Oklahoma City Thunder because he wanted an "easy route" to a Championship ring.
NO EASY WAY
"There's no easy way," said Harper.
"Listen, he was a free agent.
"When I was a free agent, I signed for the Chicago Bulls.
"When LeBron James was free, he went to the Miami Heat.
"You play the game to win Championships, and Kevin Durant, who is a great player, has won none yet.
"He's given himself the best opportunity to.
"But there's no easy route."
The former LA Lakers man also chimed in on the recent "anthem protest" by Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers NFL team, who chose not to stand for the American national anthem before games, to protest police violence against African-Americans.
"It's a positive form (of protest), I think," said Harper.
"It gives people a chance to speak out, and gives him a chance to get his message out...
"And I have no problems with that.
"(A statement like that) is long overdue... So whatever Colin's standing up for, that's his right.
"And, as you saw over the last week and a half, we had three or four different athletes join in now.
"People want to have a conversation now.
"That's the big thing."
Harper wants to inspire
Chase your dream and keep working hard.
That's the message five-time NBA champion Ron Harper wants to send to kids in Singapore, ahead of the first Junior NBA Singapore programme here this weekend.
The three-day training camp will be held at the OCBC Arena, and the 54-year-old will help coach boys and girls.
On Sunday, at the end of the training camp, 10 boys and five girls will be named Junior NBA Singapore All-Stars and earn the chance to mix it with Junior NBA All-Stars from other South-east Asian countries at a later date.
Harper said: "I hope the most impact we can make is to tell these kids that they should chase whatever dreams they have.
"And if they work hard, they can (achieve) it. We don't ever want to discourage them.
"That's the big goal."
- SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ