Michael Jordan admitted in episode 10 that he thought the Chicago Bulls could have won another championship and it still bothers him.
Ouch. The ending of The Last Dance was a dagger to the heart to any Chicago Bulls or Michael Jordan fan who wanted to see the team continue competing. Forget about winning another championship, Jordan had more to give and wanted to give it. The love of basketball was still there, which Jordan proved by coming back three years later for the woeful Washington Wizards.
So many things should have happened to keep Jordan in the game with the Bulls. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf could have created a new position for General Manager Jerry Krause in 1996 when Krause was flying Tim Floyd to Seattle with Floyd convincing Reisndorf to keep the team together. Krause could have scouted baseball for a couple of years and have been brought back to handle the Bulls rebuild when the time was right.
Phil Jackson? Come on, man. Are you kidding me? Jordan put six championships rings on your finger and you walk away? Did you not owe it to Jordan to stick around for one more season, or whenever the run was over, and then chill out in Montana for a year? Not a huge ask.
Side note, It was disappointing Jackson was not asked or quoted in the documentary whether he felt he had let Jordan down. Whether or not he felt it, Jackson did.
Would Scottie Pippen have taken a one-year deal? Probably not. But, the Bulls could have signed him to a long term contract, then traded Pippen when Jordan ultimately wanted to retire. Dennis Rodman would have taken a one year deal, replacing Steve Kerr and Luc Longley would not have required splitting the atom.
Ultimately, Jordan himself is to blame. Yes, Jordan deserved to have everything he wanted in his workplace. But sometimes, life is not fair. Jordan chose to cut off his nose to spite his face and retire because Jackson was gone. What a mistake.
Go get Doug Collins, Frank Hamblen, Dean Smith, Bill Cartwright, one of the security guards, anyone, to coach the team that you trust. Maybe the Bulls would have won in 1999, maybe not, nobody knows. Reminder, the No. 8 seed New York Knicks represented the East in the Finals.
But, it doesn’t matter. Jordan’s legacy was intact. He could have only added to it by leading a new group to yet another title, or as far as they could go. A loss in the playoffs would have been understood. Jordan clearly could still play, he averaged 23 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds his first year in Washington. Again, three years later.
Jordan also made it abundantly clear he had no interest in anything else. He wasn’t going back to baseball and he wasn’t trying to have a next-career as a social activist.
Jordan was a basketball player, the best basketball player ever, and basketball players should play basketball until they can’t play basketball anymore. Then you get a tear-jerking standing ovation when you walk off the court for the last time. It should have been in a Bulls uniform with chants of Michael, Michael, Michael coming down from the United Center rafters.
Jordan should have realized that there was nothing else in his life that could have given him more joy than playing for another couple of years in Chicago. That yes, he shouldn’t have been put in the position he was in, but, still make the best choice. Play on.
It will forever be a shame the Bulls championship run, and more importantly, Jordan’s run in Chicago, came to an end the disjointed way it did.