It’s the question everyone is asking – would they have won a 7th Championship?
As much as the docu-series has thrown some great limelight and shade on that 90s Bulls team, the one question that remains is could/would they have won a 7th? MJ blames Reinsdorf, Phil blames Krause, Pippen blames his grossly underpaid 7 year stint, Rodman blames cheap booze & cheap women. Also why is there no blame for MJ? Don’t get me wrong I love the guy but had he returned would he be willing to part with his $30m a year contract for a lesser contract so players like Pippen, Rodman, Kerr et al could get paid? Or is it simply another competition for his ego that he needs to be paid the most? I now hear I’m on the ‘grudge list’ and he’s flying over to beat me 1v1. PS – I think they would have won but that may be an ever-so slightly biased opinion.
I think you know this email could motivate him to return again. Never say never with MJ. But let me try to finally deal with this canard. Of course, if I have as much success as my 30 years of trying to explain there is not one, two or three sources for a 90,000-word book… But I digress. It’s no one’s fault, but Jordan’s closing declaration in Episode 10 that he wished he’d had a chance is, I’ll charitably not say a lie, but a nicely dramatic conclusion to a docudrama that began with Jerry Krause declaring even if Phil is 82-0. Everyone will always believe what they prefer, and the answer is not whether they would have won or not. You never know until you get there.
And despite our general view that anyone who wins is destined to win, it’s a lot less certain until you know the final score. I wrote before the documentary began on bulls.com that I believed both Phil and Michael understood better than everyone else this was the end given Scottie’s estrangement and Dennis’s strangeness, that what a wonderful opportunity it was for bonding and motivation to get through another long, strange season by playing the victims. You can say the Bulls should have paid long term contracts to Pippen, Longley, Kerr, Buechler like they received elsewhere. They could have, in theory. As unproductive as that would have been. It’s more likely they, especially Pippen as even Jordan acknowledges, would have opted to be elsewhere. Look, they all were part of multiple title teams. Which no one said they were responsible for. And we’ve seen enough and Michael acknowledged he wasn’t always that much fun to be around. So why would most of those guys, especially Longley who Jordan especially detested, want to stay around instead of going to teams welcoming them as champions? No one asks to see your ring if you’re playing with Michael Jordan. And all then on one-year deals. But the way, which Jordan was assured all would be offered if he opted for another year. In Chicago as opposed to wintering in Phoenix and San Antonio? Jordan did make it clear he wanted just a one-year contract. So why would the Bulls mortgage their future to give six years to Pippen coming off a second back surgery, six years to Longley, five to Kerr, three to Buechler. Heck, Jason Caffey got seven years. Mike did get guys paid.
The rebuilding obviously didn’t work out for the Bulls from 1999-2004. But it could have. With that salary capped out and a core of Pippen, Longley, Kerr and Buechler you know it couldn’t have. Remember Pippen coming back at the end of his deal in 2004 and basically being unable to walk? Phil? Yes, he was done, and also because Shaq was calling. The Lakers had gone through several coaches and Shaq already was lobbying Phil. Phil would have been misguided, let’s say, to ignore that to opt for a Bulls rebuild or one more year. He likely recognized this was his one chance for that sabbatical he long coveted. And the main part of the staff was there, anyway, Tex and Frank Hamblein. They were the triangle.
But the biggest reason it wasn’t possible was Jordan said enough. Not now in episode 10. But then. He seemed pretty open about it in those scenes with Ahmad Rashad talking about how much strain it was, how he wanted to move on. There actually was a group there to compete led by Kukoc and Harper. And free agent possibilities for support with Rodman, for one, more than willing to take the one-year offer at any price. Who’s telling Michael Jordan no if he wants to stay? The truth is he was urged to be patient, that it was a lockout, there was time and who knows who’d change their mind by December or January. No, Jordan was adamant. The playing load had grown too large to carry any more. It was time and nobody was telling Michael Jordan what to do. But it is nice to know even Michael Jordan has crazy dreams and fantasies all these years later.