In the wake of the conclusion of ESPN’s The Last Dance documentary, there has been much chatter around the Chicago Bulls breaking up their core group. That created a stir with Hall of Famer Michael Jordan‘s claim that he believes the team would have stayed together at least another season to defend their title. All of that has pinned much of the blame on management and ownership for how the situation unfolded. It hasn’t taken long for Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf to respond with a strong statement against what Jordan spewed.
Michael Jordan’s claim about returning another season
The Last Dance documentary gave fans an inside look at how the Bulls put together a roster that helped guide them to six NBA titles in eight years.
That has also included the internal conflict that brewed and ultimately led to the disbanding of many of the core pieces on the roster along with head coach Phil Jackson. It’s a discussion that Jordan rehashed during the documentary voicing that he believes the team could have vied for another NBA title had the Bulls kept it together. (H/T WBBM News Radio)
“It was maddening, because I felt like we could’ve won seven,” Jordan said of leaving the game on such a high note as the Bulls chose not to defend their title. “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.”
Jordan’s belief hangs on the team getting another shot at defending their title to accomplish something that only the Boston Celtics did during the 1960s. The Hall of Famer wanted an opportunity to achieve that incredible feat that never came about for various reasons.
Jerry Reinsdorf skeptical due to Michael Jordan’s finger injury
These comments from Jordan have further painted Reinsdorf in a dark light as being a significant part of the reason why the Bulls elected to rebuild after the 1998 title.
The Bulls owner decided not to sit quietly after these rough comments as he voiced to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN that Jordan’s finger injury would have prevented the Bulls from contending in the 1998-99 season.
“The thing nobody wants to remember,” Reinsdorf said, “during lockout, Michael was screwing around with a cigar cutter, and he cut his finger. He couldn’t have played that year. He had to have surgery on the finger, so even if we could’ve brought everybody back, it wouldn’t have made any sense.”
There is much truth to Jordan’s injury as he did suffer bad damage to his index finger that required surgery. It would have taken months for the ailment to heal, likely putting his availability up in the air for that campaign.
Although it’s hard to point the finger back at Jordan, his injury during that offseason certainly didn’t help the situation. More than anything else, it shows that there is plenty of blame to go around.
Jerry Reinsdorf had the power to make it happen
During the last couple of years in the Bulls dynasty, there were plenty of internal issues that wound being the deciding factor in the team breaking up.
However, it hard not to give Reinsdorf the biggest piece of the blame pie as he has the ultimate power in the situation. He has final say over the roster decisions and could have stepped in if he wanted to make a push to keep the group together.
There was palpable tension between Jackson and general manager Jerry Krause, which Reinsdorf could have put his foot down to keep the team together. There are undoubtedly other factors that played a part, such as Jordan’s injury, Scottie Pippen’s trade demand, and Dennis Rodman’s antics. Still, it’s hard to put more blame on anyone else’s shoulders in the matter.
It will forever be a “what-if” scenario around what could have been an entertaining run at a fourth straight title.