There was only one way Michael Jordan would return to the Chicago Bulls in 1998-99. Phil Jackson would have to be the head coach, a scenario Jerry Krause killed before the 1997-98 season started. Since he knew Jackson would be gone, Jordan understood his 13th season with the Bulls would be his last.
Despite all the turmoil Krause created, Jordan performed at a high level in 1997-98. The Bulls superstar was essentially forced to retire because of Krause, and that situation could have been different if majority governor Jerry Reinsdorf had taken one of Jordan’s proposals seriously.
Michael Jordan: Bulls should fire Jerry Krause and make Phil Jackson GM and coach
Jordan made it crystal clear that he wouldn’t play for another coach other than Jackson. Since Krause didn’t want the Zen Master back in 1998-99, Black Jesus told Rick Telander of ESPN in April 1998 that Reinsdorf should fire Krause and make Jackson the coach and GM.
“One thing is for sure, money won’t keep me in the game. Never. Just change ownership,” Jordan said. “And you know what I’d consider a change in ownership? Change the GM. Let Phil be general manager and coach. Krause? I don’t want to start a war around here. I’ll just say that sometimes it’s tough working for an organization that doesn’t show the same type of loyalty toward you as you show it.”
Reinsdorf didn’t take Jordan’s advice and went through a rebuild after the 1997-98 season. It was a foolish move since the Bulls could have won a seventh title in 1998-99 with MJ, Jackson, and Scottie Pippen leading the way.
All things considered, Jordan deserves tremendous credit for what he accomplished in 1997-98 since Krause made things so tumultuous. The two men had such a sour relationship that they never spoke to each other, even if they were close by.
Michael Jordan on Jerry Krause: I don’t agree with his business decisions
Jordan didn’t respect Krause’s business decisions and had no interest in repairing his relationship with the GM. The 10-time scoring champion and five-time MVP didn’t speak to Krause during the 1997-98 season and took several public shots at him through the media.
“I can operate with or without Krause, but when we walk past each other, we never speak,” Jordan said. “I guess you could say I don’t agree with his business decisions. We give up Jason Caffey, there’s no logic to it. The lousiest decisions are stumbled on. Getting some second-round picks in return? I can’t even think of a second-round pick in the league.”
Despite Krause being a distraction, Jordan, Jackson, and Pippen led the Bulls to 62 wins in 1997-98. The legendary trio wanted to finish their time together on the right foot, and they accomplished their goal with flying colors.
Bulls won ’98 title; GM got booed at championship parade
Not only did Krause get booed at the United Center when the Bulls got their 1997 championship rings, but he was also booed at Grant Park during the 1998 championship parade. Chicago fans will likely never forgive Krause for prematurely breaking up the dynasty despite the GM being deceased.
After Jordan, Pippen, and Jackson won their sixth championship together, they each went their separate ways. Jordan and Jackson retired, while Pippen was traded to the Houston Rockets. Jackson returned to the NBA in 1999 to coach the Los Angeles Lakers, while Jordan played two seasons with the Washington Wizards from 2001-02 to 2002-03 before retiring for good.
Jordan, Pippen, and Jackson were celebrated by Bulls fans when their banners were raised at the United Center. Meanwhile, Krause was booed when his banner went up. Although he did a great job as GM, he made too many questionable moves behind the scenes that rubbed Jordan and Pippen — the two most famous players in Bulls history — the wrong way, and that will likely never sit well with Bulls fans.