Chicago Bulls: MJ was ‘not pleased’ Reinsdorf he didn’t come back in 1998-99

Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images)
Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images) /

Given that the Chicago Bulls won their sixth title in 1998, it is understandable why Michael Jordan is upset about not getting one more year with the team.

The recent hit 10-part ESPN/ABC/Netflix documentary series spotlighting the 1997-98 title-winning Chicago Bulls team came to a controversial end. The final scene on of part 10 of “The Last Dance” showed the Bulls all-time great shooting guard Michael Jordan being interviewed about the way the dynasty ended after the 1998 NBA Finals six-game series win over the Utah Jazz.

Jordan was clearly upset with the way that The Last Dance ended and that the ownership and front office didn’t ultimately decide to bring that same dynasty core back to the Windy City to round out the decade. He thought that owner Jerry Reinsdorf and former controversial general manager Jerry Krause could’ve brought that legendary core back for at least one more year if they could essentially move their egos out of the way.

And it’s really difficult to disagree with that take from Jordan given the tone of The Last Dance, and what Bulls fans know about the two Jerry’s.

However, a piece from K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago released way back on May 18 detailed the way the dynasty ended following the 1997-98 season. That piece from NBC Sports Chicago showed the perspective that Jordan partly had on this subject and mostly Reinsdorf’s point of view after the way The Last Dance ended in part 10.

Here’s what that piece had to say on the matter.

"“I was not pleased. How’s that?” Reinsdorf told NBC Sports Chicago in a phone conversation, when asked for his reaction to the scene. “He knew better. Michael and I had some private conversations at that time that I won’t go into detail on ever. But there’s no question in my mind that Michael’s feeling at the time was we could not put together a championship team the next year.”Don’t get it twisted. Reinsdorf called his current relationship with Jordan “great” and said his favorite part of the documentary is that it should put to rest any doubt about the NBA’s greatest player of all-time."

That part of the article shows how Reinsdorf felt about the way the dynasty years ended. While there might not be as much blame to place on the shoulders of Reinsdorf as there is to Krause, it should still go in both directions.

Here’s more on the logistics of the situation that was facing Reinsdorf and how he would’ve felt about putting back the same core together for at least one more year.

"“I asked (coach) Phil (Jackson) to come back. Phil said no. Michael said I won’t play for anybody other than Phil,” Reinsdorf said, reiterating facts that were reported 22 years ago. “I met with Michael on the 3rd of July of that year and I said to him, ‘We’re in a lockout. Who knows when we’re going to play? Why don’t you wait until the lockout is over and maybe I can talk Phil into coming back?’ And he agreed.“When the lockout was over, I still couldn’t talk Phil into coming back. And the big thing is Michael had cut his finger with a cigar cutter, and he couldn’t have played. So what’s all this talk about bringing everybody back when Michael couldn’t have come back?”The flip side, of course, is that perhaps Jordan doesn’t pick up a cigar cutter in retirement mode if he knows his preferred coach and trusted teammates like Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman will be re-signed once the lockout is over.“OK, let’s take that hypothetical. Scottie had Houston offering him a multi-year contract. You think he would’ve turned that down to come back for one year? I don’t think so,” Reinsdorf said. “Dennis Rodman had gone beyond the pale. As it turned out, he played 35 games after that (in his career). Luc Longley was on his last legs. If we had brought that team back, they were gassed. Michael had been carrying that team.”"

Given that the NBA had a shortened 1998-99 regular season, that saw the league play just 50 games, the Bulls would’ve had a leg up on the competition. While the likes of Jordan, and Hall-of-Fame forwards Dennis Rodman and Scottie Pippen were getting older, they had an extended break to work with if the Bulls brought them back on at least one year contracts for the 1998-99 season.

Instead, Rodman ended up playing with two others team after the 1997-98 season before his career came to a rocky end. And Pippen landed with the Houston Rockets during the 1998 offseason in a blockbuster sign-and-trade deal.

Jordan would retire from the NBA during his playing days for the second of three times. He would come back for a two-season stint with the Washington Wizards in the early 2000’s before officially calling it quits as a player.

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The Bulls officially began to rebuild during the 1998-99 season under Krause’s direction as general manager. They would finish up with a record of 13-37, missing out on the playoffs by a mile in the Eastern Conference, and would never really reach playoff contention again until the “baby Bulls” came to fruition in the mid-2000’s.