Jerry Reinsdorf was not happy that Michael Jordan insisted the '98 Bulls could be kept together

Jack Baer
Writer

ESPN’s “The Last Dance” came to a much-awaited conclusion on Sunday, and its final source of debate wasn’t much of a surprise.

With the 1998 NBA Finals finished, the documentary turned to the seemingly inevitable breakup of the Chicago Bulls dynasty. Scottie Pippen and Steve Kerr were traded, Dennis Rodman was released and Phil Jackson walked away.

Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf insisted the Bulls’ time had come, saying “it would have been suicidal at that point in their careers to bring back” the team’s core and that a rebuild was necessary. However, this was Michael Jordan’s documentary, and that meant the NBA legend would get the last word.

After watching a video of Reinsdorf’s justification for the breakup, Jordan tore into the claim that the writing was on the wall and said the team could have been kept together:

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 a seventh, you think they would have signed them? Yes, they would have signed them. Would I have signed for one year? Yes, I would have signed for one year. I’d been signing one-year contracts up to that. Would Phil have done it? Yes. Now Pip, you would have had to do some convincing, but if Phil was gonna be there, Dennis was gonna be there, if M.J. was gonna be there, to win our seventh? Pip is not gonna miss out on that.

Reinsdorf never got a chance on the documentary to respond to Jordan on that, and the billionaire is apparently not happy about that claim.

Bulls owner rebukes Michael Jordan’s claim that team could have stayed together

From NBC Sports Chicago:

“I was not pleased. How’s that?” Reinsdorf told NBC Sports Chicago in a phone conversation, when asked for his reaction to the scene. “He knew better. Michael and I had some private conversations at that time that I won’t go into detail on ever. But there’s no question in my mind that Michael’s feeling at the time was we could not put together a championship team the next year.”

Reinsdorf’s claim that he had private conversations with Jordan seems to contradict what Jordan said on the documentary. When handed the iPad with Reinsdorf’s explanation for the breakup, Jordan said he was eager to hear it because he never had a dialogue with the owner about the situation.

As far as details for why he believed Jordan was incorrect, Reinsdorf pointed to Jackson declining an offer to return as coach for the 1998-99 season, Jordan’s infamous cigar-cutter injury during the early days of his second retirement, Pippen’s multi-year contract offer from the Houston Rockets and the fact that Dennis Rodman only played 35 games in his career after his release.

Reinsdorf did acknowledge Jordan’s frustration with former general manager Jerry Krause, declaring Jackson would be gone even if the team went 82-0, calling the statement “pretty ridiculous” and claiming he told Krause he shouldn’t have said it.

Even Michael Jordan acknowledged getting Scottie Pippen to return to the Bulls would be a hard sell. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Jerry Reinsdorf still thinks Michael Jordan is the GOAT

Even with all the disagreement, Reinsdorf did emphasize that he enjoyed “The Last Dance,” mostly because he believed it was a strong statement in the interminable Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James debate.

From NBC Sports Chicago:

“This is history. It makes for fascinating stuff,” Reinsdorf said. “And ‘The Last Dance’ obviously should establish in the mind of any person with normal eyesight that Michael was beyond a doubt the greatest of all-time. In my mind, anytime anybody wants to talk to me about comparing Michael to LeBron [James], I’m going to tell them to please don’t waste my time.

“I’m really pleased it showed how great Michael was to people who hadn’t seen him play. I’m truly tired of people trying to compare LeBron to Michael when it’s not even close. They should try to compare LeBron with Oscar Robertson or Magic Johnson. Michael was so head and shoulders over everybody, and that really came out in this documentary. He was a phenomenon. We may never see another like him.”

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