After 12 seasons and 5 NBA Championships, there was no reason to think that Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls didn't have years of dominance left ahead of them.
They were, after all, on the verge of winning their third-straight for the second time in six years.
But according to Jordan, the team knew that season would be their last chapter, their final song, their "last dance."
“We were all trying to enjoy that year knowing it was coming to an end,” Jordan told Good Morning America. “The beginning of the season, it started when (general manager) Jerry Krause told (coach) Phil Jackson that he could go 82-0 and he would never get a chance to come back,” Jordan said. “Knowing that I had married myself to him, and if he wasn’t going to be the coach, then obviously I wasn’t going to play. So Phil started off the season saying this was the last dance — and we played it that way.”
So, coach Jackson was the domino that ultimately led to the team's collapse. After it was revealed he'd be leaving after that season, Jordan said it only helped the team focus harder on winning that final Championship.
“Mentally it tugged at you that this had to come to an end, but it also centered our focus to making sure we ended it right,” Jordan said. “As sad as it sounded at the beginning of the year, we tried to rejoice and enjoy the year and finish it off the right way.”
The Bulls did not disappoint. Jordan averaged 32 points per game that season en-route to leading his team to a dominating run that cemented their place in history. It was a beautiful way to end.
And while Jordan would return to the NBA for a short stint a few years later, things were never the same.
Looking back, it's clear that Phil Jackson had a hand in it all, and his presence in the locker room helped keep the team together. Today, Jackson is known as or of the greatest coaching minds ever, and his handling of NBA superstars is the main reason why.
Had he stayed with that team for at least a little longer, who knows what more they would have accomplished?