One of the final scenes in The Last Dance featured Michael Jordan expressing his dismay in Jerry Reinsdorf after the Chicago Bulls’ owner laid out why it wasn’t feasible for the team to run it back during the 1998-99 campaign. As Jordan explained, he would have signed a one-year deal if the opportunity presented itself, and he believed that everyone else would have came back on similar contracts if they were presented to them.
Instead, Jordan opted to retire, Phil Jackson left the team, and the remainder of the franchise’s core was broken up. It turns out Reinsdorf was not a fan of Jordan’s take on how things played out, according to an interview he gave to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.
“I was not pleased. How’s that?” Reinsdorf said. “He knew better. Michael and I had some private conversations at that time that I won’t go into detail on ever. But there’s no question in my mind that Michael’s feeling at the time was we could not put together a championship team the next year.”
Reinsdorf recalled a conversation he had with Jordan in which he got Jordan to agree to waiting to make a decision on a retirement, as Reinsdorf wanted to try and convince Jackson to return as head coach — Jordan had made it clear he would not play for anyone other than Jackson. When those efforts failed, Jordan ended his time in Chicago, but even beyond that, Reinsdorf believes it just would not have been possible to get everyone back and have a good basketball team.
“Scottie had Houston offering him a multi-year contract,” Reinsdorf said. “You think he would’ve turned that down to come back for one year? I don’t think so. Dennis Rodman had gone beyond the pale. As it turned out, he played 35 games after that (in his career). Luc Longley was on his last legs. If we had brought that team back, they were gassed. Michael had been carrying that team.”
It is important to stress that weird things happen in lockout-shortened seasons — the Eastern Conference’s representative in the NBA Finals that year was the eighth-seeded New York Knicks — and perhaps there was a path forward on such a shortened timetable. Instead, that did not happen, and the Bulls’ dynasty came to its conclusion.