"The Last Dance" may be over, but the feats of Jordan and his Bulls team will forever be on the hearts and minds of the basketball community. As people all around the nation pick apart and analyze the doc, new topics surrounding that team are being discussed every day.
One of these topics is the matter of how many chips MJ could've won had he stayed in town for even a few more years. In fact, during episode 10 of The Last Dance, he confidently claimed that “We could have won seven. I really believe that.”
But could they really have won another chip if their run was extended another year? Basketball analyst Michael Wilbon seems to think so:
Of course the Bulls could have won a seventh championship in that ensuing 1999 season. The conditions were ideal, relative to the state of the league. Remember, because the players were locked out, the ’99 season didn’t begin until the first week of February. Only 50 games were played in that regular season. After winning in June ’98, Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Jackson would have had seven full months to recharge, the kind of break that very well could have prevented burnout. Krause was worried that too many players on the roster were too old. More than half a year off might have worked wonders for Jordan, Pippen, Ron Harper, Dennis Rodman, Bill Wennington and Steve Kerr.
He has little doubt they would have overthrown the Spurs, who were a rising dynasty of their own at the time.
Of course, had Jordan been able to convince Jackson to come back for one more go (but first get Reinsdorf to call off Krause), that would have presumably led to keeping the gang together and more specifically prevented Kerr and Will Perdue from going to San Antonio, which would have weakened (OK, just a little bit) the Spurs, who reached the NBA Finals.
OK, the Spurs with a young Tim Duncan and a seasoned David Robinson were going to be a problem. Coach Gregg Popovich and the Spurs won five titles of their own. But imagine Jordan’s motivation after hearing all season about how his Bulls would have no answer for the Twin Towers of Robinson and Duncan. Imagine how Jordan and Pippen, all rested and healthy, would have warmed to the notion of sprinting through a 50-game season.
With more time, Krause might have been able to pull off a deal for Tracy McGrady -- which obviously would have increased their chances even further.
The big issue would have been to pay Pippen or perhaps try to acquire a young wing who could have played with Jordan. Think Tracy McGrady, whom Krause coveted and might have been gettable since the Toronto Raptors never figured out what they had in the future Hall of Famer.
So, Jordan playing with a now-seasoned Toni Kukoc and McGrady as his wings couldn’t have gotten past Ewing and the New York Knicks a fifth time in the playoffs? Please. In Jordan’s sleep. The Knicks were a No. 8 seed that advanced in a fluke by beating the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs, and shocked the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals. The issue for the Bulls, if they didn’t have to even confront the Pacers for the second consecutive postseason, would have been the Spurs, which even without Kerr and Perdue providing depth, had Robinson, Duncan and an impressive ensemble of savvy veterans including Avery Johnson, Sean Elliott, Mario Elie, Jerome Kersey and Malik Rose. And Popovich leading them. No knuckleheads need to apply.
It's easy to give the benefit of the doubt to the Bulls with Jordan, Mac, Kukoc, and the crew. And, had they won, seven, their legacy would have been seen as even greater than it already is.
But, in the end, reality had a different plan for them -- one that was ultimately less exciting. But hey, we can still dream, right?