Michael Jordan won his 6th title in 1998, capping a glorious career. However, the Bulls management wasn’t very keen on going for glory that season, he reveals.
Coming off their glorious title in 1997 against the Utah Jazz, the Bulls were on an unseen high. The series was extremely memorable too. With the “Flu Game” and Steve Kerr game-winning shot, the title was on everyone’s minds.
To run it back would have been a clear way forward. The Bulls management including Jerry Reinsdorf and Jerry Krause felt otherwise, however. They believed every other core player had passed their peaks, and rebuilding was a logical choice.
And as expected, MJ took it personally.
To Jordan, the Bulls were still clearly the best team in the league, head and shoulders above their competition. He also wanted to prove a point.
“I would never let someone who’s not putting on a uniform and playing each and every day dictate what we do on the basketball court.” There was menacing confidence behind that quote. He was not finished, and a couple of empty suits in the office couldn’t tell him otherwise.
The Bulls ended up deciding against the rebuild. Who in their right mind would oppose Jordan? But GM Krause wouldn’t relent so easily. He made it clear to head coach Phil Jackson that this would be his last season in Chicago. Win the title, or not.
Michael Jordan took home his 5th MVP trophy in 1997-98 and got his team the first seed in the East
The 1998 postseason would bring new challenges to the fore. The team was visibly past its peak now, however, going into the Eastern Conference Finals, they were unchallenged. The ECF brought Chicago face to face with the resurgent Indiana Pacers led by legendary clutch star Reggie Miller.
The series was brutal, and quickly became a battle of attrition above skill. Bulls emerged victorious by the barest of margins, and everyone believed their time was up. The mighty Utah Jazz would prove to be beyond their capabilities, and the series would be brutal for the Bulls.
Well, brutal it was. For both teams though. Jordan absolutely dominated his matchup, Byron Russell, buoyed by a personal vendetta yet again. MJ, in typical MJ fashion, took control when necessary, and buried the famous game-winner to seal the deal.
There’s the lesson for you, Jerry Krause. Never doubt Michael Jordan. Ever.