At the end of Episode 10 of “The Last Dance,” Michael Jordan called it “maddening” that the dynasty Bulls were not afforded a chance to chase a seventh title in the 1998-99 season.
“I felt like we could have won seven. I really believed that,” Jordan said in the documentary, reacting to Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf explaining why he didn’t believe bringing the band back was feasible. “We may not have. But man, not to be able to try, that’s just something I can’t accept for whatever reason. I just can’t accept it.”
Coming from Jordan, whose legendary competitiveness was on full display throughout the documentary, that sentiment is far from shocking.
But trusted confidant to Jordan and then-NBC Sports on-air reporter Ahmad Rashad said in an interview with NBC Sports for the Sports Uncovered podcast he believes Jordan is OK with how it ended in Chicago.
“Yes. I think he’s 100 percent OK,” Rashad said. “He did what he wanted to do. He played for 15 years. He gave it all he could, and he’s leaving, you can’t even get him in an argument about who’s best, who’s this, that and the other.
“It’s like, here’s my stamp, there it is. That’s it. I’ve done all I can do and he’s still excelling in other areas of life. So, yes. I don’t think he has any regrets for any of it. I think he poured his heart out. He enjoyed every single moment of it.”
That runs contrary to Jordan’s parting shot in “The Last Dance” and the tenor of the documentary, overall, which saw Jordan seek out and relitigate decades-old feuds and debates to reassert his preeminence.
In fact, Jordan broke down what it would have taken to reunite the Bulls for (at least) one last gasp at glory in the documentary.
“If you ask all the guys that won in ’98, Steve Kerr, Jed Buechler… We give you a one-year contract to try for a seventh, you think they would’ve signed it?,” Jordan said in Episode 10. “Yes, they would have signed for one year. Would I have signed it? Yes, I would have signed for one year. I had been signing one-year contracts up to that. Would Phil have done it? Yes. Now Pip, you would’ve had to do some convincing. But if Phil was gonna be there, Dennis was gonna be there and MJ was gonna be there to win our seventh, Pip is not going to miss out on that.”
Reinsdorf said he made a direct offer to return to Jackson during the lockout that succeeded the 1997-98 season, but Jackson declined. Years of frayed relations with management undoubtedly went into that decision. From there, Pippen inked a lucrative sign-and-trade deal with the Houston Rockets, Dennis Rodman played 35 games in his career before fizzling out and role players from Kerr to Buechler to Luc Longley moved on to other pastures, as well.
Jordan tore a tendon in his finger in a mishap with a cigar cutter during the lockout, which would have inhibited him even if the principles of the dynasty reconciled and reconvened. Maybe that doesn’t happen if plans for the gang to return are in place earlier.
But they weren’t and it did. Now, 22 years later, accounts differ on Jordan’s true feelings on the manner in which the Bulls broke up. Even after coming out of his reclusive shell for “The Last Dance,” Jordan in many ways remains an enigma.
Rashad, who has been close with Jordan since early in his career, will continue peeling those layers back in his full interview on the Sports Uncovered podcast, which debuts May 28.
To listen and subscribe to the Sports Uncovered podcast, click here.