Michael Jordan was still a superstar when he won his 6th championship, but he was not as efficient as 7 years ago.
Despite the salary cap being 26.9 million dollars in 1998, Michael Jordan commanded a premium of an excess of 6 million dollars over the cap for his contract extension. That was the power Jordan held; he brought so much more than viewership to the table. Jersey sales, ticket sales, and sneakers capped off an incredible Return on Investment that the league allowed.
While he performed at an admirable rate even at age 34, MJ was nowhere close to being the outright dominant force he once was. In his run to the first championship, Jordan averaged a double-double in the playoffs, scoring an average of 31 points, while dishing out 11 assists. If Russell Westbrook did that, he’d be coronated as the best player on the planet.
But fast forward 7 years later, what he marginally gained in points, he lost drastically in all other areas. He was shooting at a much worse percentage, assisted almost 7 times as lesser, and his defensive numbers came down as well. Now, the cause for it is unknown, but Jordan deserved more money when he played at a much higher level than in 1998.
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Michael Jordan deserved his money – but Jerry Krause was right to break up a 3-peat winning team to try and rebuild
It looks like Jerry Krause read stat sheets regularly because he decided to break up the aging team to start a rebuild. All his stars were pushing 35 or above, and it made the most sense to arrest the drop right at the top. Not many GMs have the guts to break up a championship-winning team, but he dared.
Granted, it was a move that ultimately led to Chicago’s demise as a title winner, but the intention was right. The Lakers suffered a similar fate last season, having almost every player in their starting 5 aged 33 or older. While they came nowhere close to winning regular season games, the need was apparent. They looked out of place and huffed for breath after every 2 minutes.
The game has gotten progressively quicker and younger, and the management knew when to curtail it. Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and Ron Harper were no longer their dominant selves after the 1998 championship. MJ did well for himself with the Washington Wizards, but that would not have sufficed.