Had Michael Jordan and ‘The Last Dance’ Bulls been granted an encore, there’s no guarantee it would’ve been a smash


If there was an opportunity to do another chapter of "The Last Dance" – well, there would be no reason to do the entire series. The essential conflict at the heart of the 90s NBA Dynasty Chicago Bulls' final season drama was the realization that it would be the final season.

Let's assume that Michael Jordan got what he wanted, however. Let's say Phil Jackson agreed to coach the team for another season. Let's say that Jordan agreed to sign a one-year contract with the Bulls and that management had found a way, like magic, to appease the chronically underpaid Scottie Pippen when he approached the free agency that had waited so long.

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Could the Bulls have won again?

GREER: Three major flaws in "The Last Dance"

Or it is possible that general manager Jerry Krause and owner Jerry Reinsdorf won a favor by allowing them to leave Chicago as a group holding company, with the help of Toni Kukoc, Dennis Rodman and Ron Harper, six editions of Larry O & # 39 ; Brien Trophy in front of 300,000 fans on a cloudy day in June at Grant Park?

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I mean, think of the few Rocky sequences needed for Apollo Creed to become the world heavyweight champion, completing another title defense, until he died in the ring.

In his 2017 interview with basketball journalist Adrian Wojnarowski, Krause explained his reasoning behind the decision not to continue with Phil Jackson as a coach and to allow double champion Bulls to disperse while the franchise sought a complete reconstruction. Krause insisted on the front court of Luc Longley and Dennis Rodman, who combined an average of 65 minutes in the central and forward positions, could no longer physically perform at the championship level, and the situation of the team's salary ceiling did not accommodate the place of substitutions. enough.

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Jordan's faithful insist that he could have elevated whoever was installed in these positions to a championship level.

If there had been another episode of "The Last Dance", it could have lasted only half an hour. The 1998-99 NBA season would have been the best possible place for the aging Bulls because of the blockade that limited the regular season to 50 games. For Jordan and Pippen, with 35 and 33, respectively, it would have been the ultimate in cargo management.

The season produced a deserving champion, but no elite team. Only Spurs and Jazz managed records that would, in a standard season, equal 60 wins.

The Spurs, however, became a dominant team in the 1999 NBA playoffs. They went 15-2 in the postseason, equaling the Bulls' best run in their six champion teams. They lost one game in the opening series and one in the finals, but won the Lakers (with Shaquille O'Neal and young Kobe Bryant) and the Trail Blazers (with Rasheed Wallace and Damon Stoudamire).

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To challenge them, the Bulls would have to re-sign Rodman and Longley against their own judgment or find someone available who could have approached their contributions. Derrick Coleman was a free agent that year, but the Bulls could not have swallowed the five-year, $ 40 million contract he signed. Matt Geiger signed for about $ 7 million a year with Sixers. They probably could have bought Sam Perkins, who signed with Pacers for an average of $ 2 million; he averaged 5 points and 2.9 rebounds.

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After the Bulls released him, Rodman was not much desired in the league and signed with the Lakers in late February 1999, almost a month after the start of the shortened season. It lasted less than two months and was released, with Bryant acknowledging that Rodman was appearing "continually late" for the team's obligations.

The Bulls traded Longley for a package that included a draft selection from the first round, used to select Ron Artest. In Phoenix, Longley's playing time dropped from almost 30 minutes per game on a championship team to 24 minutes in the sixth seed of the Western Conference and just 17 minutes after the Suns made it to the playoffs.

Steve Kerr, who averaged 7.5 points and shot 0.438 of the 3-point streak in 22 minutes for the Bulls, won another championship in his first season after being traded to San Antonio. But he managed to contribute only 4.4. points and 0.313 long distance in 17 minutes per game. He barely made it into the playoffs, making just 97 of the 816 minutes possible.

"If you asked all the guys who won in 98 – & # 39; Will we give you a one-year contract to try seventh?" – do you think they would have signed? Yes, they would have signed, "said Jordan in" The Last Dance. "He acknowledged that it would have been different for Pippen, given how important it was for him to profit from his free agency, but Jordan insisted it could still have happened.

"If Phil was there, if Dennis would be there, if MJ would be there to win the seventh?" Jordan said. "Pip is not going to miss this."

There is not much clarity, even with two decades of retrospective, as to what "this" would have involved. It may have ended with another NBA championship, the most unlikely of all. It probably would have ended somewhere before the summit. We might like MJ for another All NBA season, but there would be no reason to put together a documentary as attractive as "The Last Dance".

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