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The Last Dance ended with Michael Jordan confidently asserting that if Jerry Reinsdorf and Jerry Krause had acquiesced and brought the same roster back, they could have won a seventh title. Ian Levy and Paul Centopani aren’t sure they’re buying it.
Ian Levy: After all the build-up, The Last Dance ended right where we always knew it would — Michael Jordan dropping in that jumper over Byron Russell, an extended celebration and then the dissolution of a dynasty for reasons that still don’t totally make sense. My read on the situation was that everyone’s pride was a barrier but Jordan said in that final episode he thought the team could have been brought back together and that they could have won another championship.
Setting aside the relative implausibility of the roster actually staying together, are you buying Jordan’s confidence? Do you really think that roster could have won another title?
Paul Centopani: Do I buy Jordan’s confidence? I dunno, do chickens wish they could fly? And yes, let’s assume Jerry Reinsdorf and Jerry Krause/Mr. Swackhammer finagled the cap and brought all the major pieces back – including convincing Phil Jackson to stick around.
Would the One More Run Bulls be the preemptive favorites? Of course, they’d have Michael Jordan, the ultimate basketball boogeyman, and nobody else would. We also have to remember this headed into the lockout. Fewer games would have helped weary bodies recuperate, but a shortened season also opens up higher variance in the standings. A multi-game swoon or extended injury could mean missing the playoffs entirely.
If we’re picking Chicago versus the field, I’m taking the field and it’s not even close. As the 8-seeded Knicks Finals run from that season showed, chaos is a ladder.
Levy: Are we positive the Bulls would still be the favorite? I’m guessing yes just because things we less scientific then and, as Jordan said in the last episode, “they can’t win until we quit.” I have a feeling Vegas would largely agree with him. The Pacers and Jazz would be the other obvious contenders, especially since Kobe wasn’t really Kobe yet and the Trail Blazers wouldn’t have Pippen in this scenario. But this was also when the Miami Heat really emerged and Pat Riley obviously had some experience dealing with Jordan and the Spurs, of course, actually won it all, although I don’t recall anyone thinking Tim Duncan’s impact would be so immediate at the time.
There are so many moving parts, it’s hard to imagine exactly how things would have worked out. But the Bulls could conceivably have had to go through the a) the Dikembe Mutombo/Steve Smith/Mookie Blaylock Hawks b) the Tim Hardaway/Alonzo Mourning Heat and c) the Pacers, just to make it to the Finals. And if by some fluke it wasn’t the Tim Duncan/David Robinson Spurs waiting for them, it probably would have been the Jazz again. The Bulls were probably uniquely suited to survive the lockout because of continuity and experience but that’s among the most challenging paths they would seen on the way to a title.
I agree with you that I’d have rather bet the field, but honestly I think there’s probably a few individual teams I would have bet on before I’d bet on Jordan (or maybe I’m just blinded by hindsight).
Centopani: The Bulls were the public team at the time so I think it’s safe to say Vegas would have put them at the lowest odds. Though that road to coronation would be harder than year’s past. Aside from their rivals becoming tougher outs (Heat, Pacers, YOUR EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPION KNICKERBOCKERS), the bullseye (sorry) on Chicago’s back only grew larger after that sixth ring. Everyone was tired of getting beat by Jordan.
If they did make it through that gauntlet, the twin-tower Spurs with a blossoming Timmy D would not be a welcome sight. The Last Dance showed how worn down the Bulls became during their swan song. Another season would push the Jordan/Pippen/Rodman troika to an average of 35-years old with strenuous mileage on each of them. Adding to the matter, the rest of the Kukoc/Harper/Longley/Kerr crew would all have been 30+ too. No young legs were ready to spring into action and save the day. MJ would rather play 4-on-5 than let Scott Burrell have an integral role on his team.
For an incredible decade, Jordan existed as NBA Thanos — from the six stones to the iconic bald dome to the fact he was inevitable. But eventually, the Avengers figured out how to beat Thanos. And as we’ve seen with inevitability, stuff happens. Pippen’s back spasms could have flared up again. Or Rodman could have gone AWOL for good. Or maybe MJ orders another suspicious late-night pizza. I don’t know much, but I do know nothing lasts forever.
Levy: The incredible thing about this Jordan run wasn’t just that they always won it was that they faced bumps in the road and they still won, they beat the odds again and again. I agree, the odds were getting longer and the legs were getting older and I don’t think they win a seventh title. I’m really intrigued by the idea of that 1999 Spurs team playing these Bulls because they had bodies to throw at Jordan — Mario Elie, Sean Elliott, Jaren Jackson — but they also had Duncan and Robinson which is a defensive duo unlike anything the Bulls really had to overcome before.
We’ll never know but color me skeptical.
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