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How Many More Titles Michael Jordan And The Bulls Could Have Won If They'd Stayed Together

(via Fadeaway World)

(via Fadeaway World)

In light of the release of "The Last Dance" documentary, Jordan's Bulls team of the 90s is on the thoughts of many in the NBA community. For the first time, we'll get a peak on the inside of what things were like for one of the best teams in history -- but it will also draw up a lot of questions. See, by the beginning of that 1997-98 season, Michael Jordan and the Bulls knew the end was near. At the time, GM Jerry Krause was set to fire head coach Phil Jackson after the season -- leading to the eventual collapse of the dynasty.

But what if the team had stayed together? What if Krause had let coach Jackson stay? It's a question that will obviously remain unanswered, but we can still speculate. The crew on ESPN's "The Jump" did just that and they all seemed to agree that more titles could have been in their future.

Richard Jefferson did seem less than convinced that the Bulls would have won more than one more Championship had they continued to play beyond 1998. And, to his point, the Shaq/Kobe Lakers were on the rise. Jordan would have also been 35+. There is a reason, after all, that it's so rare for teams to repeat as Champions. Still, RJ gives them the benefit of the doubt in 1999, saying they would beat that Spurs team.

Kendrick Perkins goes on to point out that the lock-out shortened season in 98-99 would have given MJ more rest and, thus, would have increased their odds of winning a fourth straight chip. After that, well, nobody really elaborates.

But are they right? Let's break it down and find out.

From 1995-1998, the Bulls won three-straight Championships fairly easily. They not only had MJ (the GOAT), they also had Scottie Pippen, defensive juggernaut Dennis Rodman, sharpshooting guard Steve Kerr, and (towards the end) had European star Toni Kukoc. The roster was deep, rich with talent, and well-coached. Most of all, they had experience at the highest level and knew what it took to close out a Championship. Even at 35-years-old, one has to think the dominance of Jordan would have been enough to keep them in Championship contention. Even when he returned to play for the Wizards (at nearly 40-years-old), he averaged 20+ points per game.

In the East, their biggest competition would have been against the Knicks, Pacers, and Sixers. Those teams were good, but they weren't anything too special. In fact, the same Bulls team beat the Pacers in the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals so it's fair to say they were capable of beating them again. The Knicks and Sixers, meanwhile, just didn't match up to the Bulls talent-wise, and their experience was incomparable.

So, going with the scenario that the Bulls go on to play a few more seasons with their Championship core intact, their biggest competition, by far, would have been the Kobe & Shaq Lakers. Even without Phil Jackson, they would have been a lethal combo. Shaq was in his prime during the early 2000s and was pretty much unstoppable on the inside. Kobe was young but still very good. He was an amazing shot creator and wasn't afraid to step up to any challenge.

The duo won three-straight Championships from 2000 to 2003. They beat the Pacers, Sixers, and Nets before eventually splitting up years later. They were obviously no joke.

So let's assume the Bulls stay together for at least two more seasons. They would face the Spurs in the 1999 Finals and the Shaq/Kobe Lakers in the 2000 Finals. Considering the 1999 season was shortened, we can assume a rested Jordan would have been too much for the Spurs to handle. Rodman and Pippen would have helped offset the operations of Duncan and an aging David Robinson. Not even Gregg Popovich would have had an answer for Jordan's heroics.

Let's say that the Bulls beat them in six games to win their fourth straight Championship. The team would be etched in history as the first to win four in a row since the old 60s era Celtics. Jordan's legacy as the GOAT would grow with his seventh title.

The real challenge would come the following season. At this point, Jordan would be 36-years-old and the NBA might finally be catching up after nearly a decade of dominance. After a hard-fought battle through the East playoffs, the Bulls would face the legendary 2000s Lakers team with Shaq, Kobe, Glen Rice, Rick Fox, and Tyronn Lue. They were young, powerful, and being led by two of the greatest stars to ever play the position.

Still, the team was very young and was facing a number of challenges. The duo never had the best relationship and while they were able to work together for years before their split, there was little doubt that they often rubbed each other the wrong way.

With those things considered, it makes sense that the Bulls would have beat them with will power and experience alone. It would have been a close, hard-fought, seven-game series. Knowing that the Lakers would likely be impossible to beat again, Jordan would call it quits and the dynasty would finally be over in 2000.

Instead of ending with six Championships and a lot of questions, the team would have won a total of eight and would have played until the end of the line. Jordan's legacy would be even more untouchable than it is now and history for the Spurs and Lakers would also be drastically changed without those title wins.

It's really a shame that we were never able to see the Bulls end things on their terms. Instead of choosing when to quit, the firing of one of their own (Phil Jackson) prompted their exit.

Had they stated together, it's easy to imagine them winning at least two more titles. It would have really stamped their legacy as the greatest team in the history of sports.

Nevertheless, we'll have to leave that scenario in our heads as one of the great "what ifs" in sports history.