This weekend is all about Chicago and its rich basketball history. The NBA is taking over the Windy City and it’s mandatory to revisit the history of the Chicago Bulls, one of the most iconic organizations in the league.
This time, we’ve learned the story of how team owner Jerry Reinsdorf played a part in breaking up Michael Jordan’s six-time champion Bulls, with the dynasty coming to an end in 1998 after the second three-peat.
Reinsdorf, 83, now a fellow member of the NBA’s Board of Governors alongside the 56-year-old Charlotte Hornets owner, recalled how things went down at Chicago during that time, via Jeff Zillgitt and Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports:
When it comes to Jordan leaving Chicago, the narrative in the 20-plus years since that last title has often centered around Reinsdorf and general manager Jerry Krause breaking up the Bulls dynasty before it had run its course.
Not true, says Reinsdorf.
“At some point it had to end,” he said. “It wasn’t going to go on forever.”
“I knew we were going to have to rebuild,” Reinsdorf said. “Phil Jackson says he didn’t want to be part of a rebuild. And Michael said he didn’t want to play for anybody but Phil Jackson.
“If he hadn’t cut his finger, he might have come back, but we wouldn’t have come close to winning that year. Nobody with the Bulls thought we would end up getting these guys back because they were all past their peak. They didn’t have it anymore. So they all ended up leaving, and the teams that signed them to those big contracts were sorry they did.”
Reinsdorf also remembered all the things Michael did for his team, winning Finals MVP in all six championships, stating that he never found anybody close to the level of MJ.
“In the last championship year, Michael carried that team on his back,” Reinsdorf said. “We didn’t even have the best team. Michael willed us to that championship. With Michael, he just wasn’t going to lose unless somebody killed him.”
“I never encountered anything like him,” he said. “To beat him, you had to kill him. He just had that fantastic will to win. I once told him that he reminded me of (boxer) Jake LaMotta. He didn’t know who he was, and I explained it to him. LaMotta never got knocked down. He was always on his feet. That’s Michael. He was never knocked down. Just an amazing, amazing athlete. He had so much respect for the game.”
Jordan retired for a second time after calling it time in 1993, something that resulted in a stint playing minor league baseball. He returned to the Bulls in 1995 to commence a second three-peat from 1996-98. Following that, he retired again as head coach Phil Jackson also moved on, eventually heading to the Los Angeles Lakers to continue his successful career.
After Jordan and Jackson left, Reinsdorf and Krause tore apart the team and started a rebuild that’s been unable to land another championship to the Windy City, or even an NBA Finals trip, since Jordan’s dynasty came to its end.