After Michael Jordan won his fifth championship in 1997, Chicago Bulls management started thinking about breaking up the team and embarking on a rebuild. Majority governor Jerry Reinsdorf and general manager Jerry Krause realized that other than Jordan, the rest of the core players were likely at the end of their high-productive years, and they thought about rebuilding instead of going for a sixth title.
Jordan kept hearing about a possible rebuild, and he got irritated every time he heard it since the Bulls were the best team of the ’90s and never lost in the Finals.
Michael Jordan thought Bulls management was being unfair
Jordan was upset that Reinsdorf and Krause tried to break up the Bulls after the fifth title in 1997. An intense competitor and someone who took everything personally, Jordan wasn’t going to let two men who didn’t play basketball dictate what was going to happen on the hardwood.
“We had just finished winning a fifth title. It’s a lot of uncertainty, and management started talking about the franchise is gonna change, or we’re gonna rebuild,” Jordan said in The Last Dance. “I thought it was unfair. I would never let someone who’s not putting on a uniform and playing each and every day dictate what we do on the basketball court.”
The Bulls wound up not rebuilding after the fifth title. However, Krause said the 1997-98 season would be Phil Jackson‘s last year in Chicago, even if the team went 82-0 and won the championship. That comment essentially meant that 1997-98 would be the final season of the dynasty era since Jordan made it clear he wouldn’t play for the Bulls if Jackson weren’t the coach.
Plenty of drama took place behind the scenes during the Bulls’ 1997-98 season because of Krause’s actions. However, Jordan never lost sight of his goal of winning his sixth championship.
Michael Jordan won his fifth regular-season MVP and sixth title
Despite all the tension with Krause, Jordan was spectacular in 1997-98. He played in all 82 games, won his 10th scoring title, and took home his fifth regular-season MVP. His Airness averaged 28.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists while shooting 46.5% from the field and 78.4% from the free-throw line.
Behind Jordan’s dominant play, the Bulls went 62-20 and were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They defeated the New Jersey Nets, Charlotte Hornets, and Indiana Pacers to reach the NBA Finals, where they faced the Utah Jazz, the team they beat in the ’97 Finals.
Jordan was so focused on winning his sixth championship that he didn’t speak to Krause when they crossed paths. That focus helped him lead the Bulls to the ’98 title over Utah in six games.
The Bulls embarked on a rebuild after the sixth championship. Jackson and Jordan retired, and Scottie Pippen was traded to the Houston Rockets. Since the Jordan era ended, the Bulls have had some success, but they haven’t come close to winning a championship.
Bulls haven’t gotten back to Finals since ’98
Since the Jordan era ended, the Bulls have made the playoffs 11 times. Derrick Rose guided them to the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, where Chicago lost to the Miami Heat in five games. Rose and Jordan are the only players in Bulls history to win Rookie of the Year and MVP.
Krause died in March 2017, while Reinsdorf is still the majority governor of the Bulls. Jordan’s No. 23 hangs in the rafters at the United Center, and his statue is still one of the most famous landmarks in Chicago.
The end of his Bulls career wasn’t smooth or ideal since Jordan probably would have come back in 1998-99 had Krause not ousted Jackson. However, the Hall of Famer finished his “Last Dance” with a regular-season MVP, a championship, and a Finals MVP.