We’ll never know. That’s the beauty of leaving while you’re on top, your fans can keep talking about you being unbeatable. If there is no one season too long, then your legend lives forever. The problem is, the greatest always believe they can play more; that’s how the Wizards happen (we may say the same about the Lakers in a few years).
In the meantime, we get to play the fan’s favorite game -what if? In a recent episode of The Jump, Scottie Pippen commented on MJ’s second retirement announcement and the end of that Bulls era, saying that he believes the players wanted to stay together. Still, they were informed (by the front office/ownership) that would be their last season together.
It sounds baffling that someone would get rid of Jordan, Pippen, Rodman, Kukoč, and Phil Jackson, right? Well, MJ was playing his 13th season at age 34, Rodman was 36, Pippen 32. Scottie was the only one to continue to play significant basketball next season, and a player who was consistently around 20 points per game dropped to 14 with the Rockets. Father time is undefeated, and assuming they would just run it back is naive. It’s hard for champions not to have faith in themselves; that’s why management says “better a year too soon than a year too late.” That’s what the Bulls management did, as explained by Pippen on The Jump:
“I kind of felt that was the situation. We wanted to stay, but it was looked at that they were picking out pieces, Phil was no longer gonna be there, that they feel like it wasn’t gonna be the same. … It was one of those seasons we knew we could’ve won 50 games; no other team would’ve had the advantage we had.”
Scottie believes they would’ve won the next year as well, but with time passed, there is an appreciation for the time he spent with the Bulls. Everyone involved had harsh words about Jerry Krause, Bulls GM, during the ’90s, yet Phil and Scottie spoke with high praise when it was announced he would join the Basketball Hall of Fame.
That is a reminder for the situation we saw in Golden State this year with Draymond and KD. Just like father time, the disease of more is undefeated.