One of the most incredible things about Michael Jordan’s legendary career is how easy it is to play “what if” and imagine more championships even though he won six.
What if he didn’t miss an entire season in the middle of his prime to play baseball? What if he didn’t play three years in college before joining the NBA?
And what if the core of the Chicago Bulls stayed together after their 1998 NBA Finals victory over the Utah Jazz?
The Last Dance documentary closed on that question Sunday with Jordan saying “no” when asked if it was satisfying to leave at his peak. “It’s maddening because I felt like we could have won seven. I really believe that. We may not have, but man, just not to be able to try, that’s something I just can’t accept, for whatever reason. I just can’t accept it.”
Those interviewing Jordan for the documentary showed him footage of owner Jerry Reinsdorf saying he would have been willing to bring head coach Phil Jackson back for the 1998-99 season but with a different core group of players since it would have cost too much to maintain the team.
Jackson said, “This is a good time to go. It’s a great run. We had a wonderful time. Good team. Time to go.”
Jordan had a different tune, suggesting everyone, even Scottie Pippen with some convincing, would have accepted a smaller contract to chase a seventh championship:
“If you ask all the guys who won in ’98, Steve Kerr, Jud Buechler, blah, blah, blah. We give you a one-year contract to try for seven, do you think they would have signed? Yes, they would have signed. Would I sign for one year? Yes, I would have signed for one year. I’ve been signing one-year contracts up to that. Would Phil have done it? Yes. Now, Pip, he would have had to do some convincing. But if Phil was going to be there, if Dennis is going to be there, if MJ was going to be there to win our seventh, Pip is not going to miss out on that.”
Still, the reason that season was deemed “the last dance” is because general manager Jerry Krause said it would be Jackson’s final season no matter what happened. Jordan also said he wouldn’t return for a different coach and wasn’t looking to be part of a rebuild.
Alas, Jordan retired for three years before returning for two more seasons with the Washington Wizards, and Jackson resumed his coaching career on the Los Angeles Lakers, where he won five more championships.
The Bulls didn’t make the playoffs again until 2005 and went a mere 119-341 in the six seasons after Jordan retired.
In retrospect, they probably should have tried to keep the team together.
Courtesy: Bleacher Report