Michael Jordan never missed the playoffs with the Chicago Bulls. Even though he didn’t always see eye to eye with Jerry Reinsdorf and Jerry Krause, the three men — for the most part — were aligned on their vision to win at the highest level.
That alignment, though, began to change after the Bulls’ fifth championship in 1997. Reinsdorf and Krause thought about breaking up the team and rebuilding instead of going for a sixth title since the core players were getting old.
Jordan, who was an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 1997, wouldn’t have re-signed with Chicago if a rebuild took place even though his heart and soul were with the city and team.
Michael Jordan: I’m not playing for a rebuilding team
Jordan vehemently told SLAM Magazine in the summer of 1997 that he wouldn’t re-sign with the Bulls if Reinsdorf and Krause wanted to rebuild. Phil Jackson and Dennis Rodman were unsigned at the time of MJ’s comments, and it was unclear if the two would return to Chicago.
“I’ma take it year by year,” Jordan said. “As long as we keep winning, and they want to continue to be a winning organization, instead of rebuilding, then I’ll play. But as soon as they wanna start rebuilding, then it’s time for me to go in other directions.”
Krause didn’t want Jackson back for the 1997-98 season since the two had developed a sour relationship. However, Reinsdorf flew to Montana and offered the Zen Master a one-year, $6 million deal. Krause then infamously told the Chicago media that the 1997-98 campaign would be Jackson’s final season with the Bulls.
In October 1997, Jordan re-signed with the Bulls on a one-year, $33.1 million deal. Chicago was set for one final run, and it was certainly memorable.
Bulls dealt with a lot adversity in 1997-98
The Bulls began the 1997-98 season without Scottie Pippen, who was rehabbing an injury. The All-NBA forward got surgery late on purpose as his way of thumbing his nose at Krause, who never gave him a contract extension and tried to trade him several times.
Without Pippen, the Bulls struggled out of the gates. They were only 5-5 after the first 10 games and looked mentally and physically exhausted. Fortunately for Chicago, Jordan put on his Superman cape and carried the team until Pippen returned. He averaged 28.7 points in the first 35 games and helped the Bulls compile a record of 24-11.
Pippen’s injury wasn’t the only distraction the Bulls dealt with. Rodman took a mini-vacation to Las Vegas after Piippen returned. The Worm was supposed to stay in Vegas for only 48 hours, but he remained there longer. Jordan had to grab Rodman out of his hotel room and drag him back to practice in Chicago.
A 10-time scoring champion, Jordan was the one constant for the Bulls in 1997-98. He played in all 82 games and averaged 28.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists while shooting 46.5% from the field. His Airness won his fifth regular-season MVP and led the Bulls to 62 wins and their sixth championship.
In the summer of 1998, Jordan was once again an unrestricted free agent. And a man of his word, the UNC product didn’t re-sign with the Bulls, who embarked on a rebuild.
Michael Jordan retired for a second time
In the 1998 offseason, Krause replaced Jackson with Tim Floyd. As a result, Jordan retired for a second time since he wasn’t going to play for a rebuilding franchise.
After Jackson and Jordan, Pippen was the next member of the dynasty to go. He was traded to the Houston Rockets as part of a sign-and-trade deal. Meanwhile, Rodman was released.
Had Krause not let his ego get in the way, the Bulls could have gone for championship No. 7 in 1998-99. However, the late GM was determined to rebuild the franchise without Jordan, Pippen, and Jackson. Unfortunately for him, he failed miserably.
The Bulls didn’t make the playoffs again until 2005, and Krause wasn’t even the general manager. They also haven’t gotten back to the Finals since the Jordan era ended.
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