In Sunday night’s finale of The Last Dance, Michael Jordan said he would’ve been willing to sign a one-year contract to do it again.
The 10-part documentary series focused on the last season of the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty. It ended in a sixth championship before the team dismantled.
“If you asked all the guys who won in ’98 … ‘We’ll give you a one-year contract to try for a seventh,’ you think they would’ve signed? Yes, they would’ve signed,” Jordan said. “Would I have signed for one year? Yes, I would’ve signed for one year. I’ve been signing one-year contracts up to that.”
However, when general manager Jerry Krause told Phil Jackson that the 1997-98 season would be his last as the Bulls’ head coach, it was already over. It was, Jackson who dubbed that season as The Last Dance, and the team played the season knowing it would break up at the end.
In addition, Scottie Pippen missed the beginning of the season while rehabbing and partially protesting his lower contract.
Change Of Heart
After the final championship parade in Chicago’s Grant Park, team owner Jerry Reinsdorf offered Jackson the opportunity to return.
“After the sixth championship, I offered him the opportunity to come back,” Reinsdorf said. “[I said,] ‘You’ve earned the opportunity to come back, regardless of what was said before now.'”
However, Jackson declined.
“I said, ‘Well, I think I should just take a break,'” Jackson said. “I don’t think it’s fair to Jerry [Krause], and I know it would be difficult for him to accept that.”
After saying that he offered Jackson the opportunity to come back, Reinsdorf said Jackson was not interested in coaching a rebuilding team.
“That was the end. It just came to an end on its own,” Reinsdorf said. “Had Michael been healthy and wanted to come back, I don’t doubt that Krause could’ve rebuilt a championship team in a couple years. But it wasn’t going to happen instantly.”
Ironically, this was all news to Michael Jordan. The documentary showed him being handed an iPad to watch Jackson and Reinsdorf’s recount.
Before hitting play, Jordan said, “I can’t wait to hear this. We’ve never had any dialogue about [it]. I’ve made my own assumptions about it.”
In addition, Reinsdorf explained his reasoning for breaking up the team. From a business standpoint, it seemed “suicidal” to bring back an aging roster on inflated contracts.
“They weren’t going to be worth the money they were going to get in the market,” Reinsdorf said.
Still, Jordan said he would’ve signed another contract to chase a seventh title.
“Would Phil have done it? Yes,” he continued. “Now, Pip, you would’ve had to do some convincing. But if Phil was going to be there, if Dennis was going to be there, if MJ was going to be there, to win our seventh? Pip is not going to miss out on that.”
Jordan said the “craftsmanship” of his game peaked in 1998, and he said that championship season was the best of all. Asked if it was gratifying to go out at his peak, Jordan gave an emphatic “no.”
“It’s maddening,” he said. “Because I felt like we could’ve won seven. I really believe that. We may not have, but man, just to not be able to try, that’s something that I just can’t accept for whatever reason. I just can’t accept it.”