The last two episodes of “The Last Dance” gave us a few details we didn’t know before, a lot of laughs, and confirmed a lesson we continuously need to be reminded of. All paths lead to the owner.
The biggest reveal from the last two episodes is the knowledge that “the flue game” will from now on be referred to as “the pizza game.” Five guys delivered the pizza that would eventually give Michael Jordan food poisoning, and lead to one of the most impressive playoff performances in NBA history. As we found out J.R. Smith threw chicken soup, our next task is to find out what kind of pizza did MJ order.
The most important question and the premise of the entire show was addressed at the end. Why was it “The Last Dance”? From the start of the show, the issue was framed around Jerry Krause deciding he wants to blow the team up and start to rebuild. We covered his legacy extensively, and overall feeling the man didn’t get a fair shake through the doc. All along it seemed like Jerry Reinsdorf was getting away with murder. MJ was as eager as we were when the director, Jason Heir, gave him an iPad to watch Reinsdorf’s explanation.
“Reinsdorf? I can’t wait to hear this. I never understood... we’ve never had any dialogue about why. I made my own assumptions why.”
Michael Jordan, The Last Dance
The whole documentary provided an insight into how significant decisions are made and made me value competent leaders so much more. So much politics happens within an organization, and everyone is strategizing with every move. Basically, almost no-one speaks their mind, and everything is a battle of wits. Why? As always, the almighty dollar.
“Now, after the sixth championship, things were beyond our control. Because it would’ve been suicidal at their point in their careers, to bring back Pippen, Steve Kerr, Rodman, Ron Harper. Their market value individually was gonna be too high. They weren’t gonna be worth the money they’d get in the market.
So, when we realized that we were gonna have to go into a rebuild, I went to Phil and offered him to come back the next year. But he said, “I don’t want to go through a rebuild. I don’t want to coach a bad team.” That was the end, it just came to the end on its own.”
Jerry Reinsdorf, The Last Dance
Reinsdorf continued to explain that if Jordan wanted to come back, he had no doubt Krause could’ve “rebuilt another championship team in a couple of years.” MJ looked at the video with a smirk that spoke more than words. We mostly picked up “bullsh**”
Jordan called it in different words, pointing out it the only guy who needed convincing to come back would’ve been Pippen. There was no doubt, Kerr, Harper and Rodman would come back on a one year deal. MJ’s feeling is that Pip wouldn’t miss the chance to go for number seven once he would hear that everyone is coming back for one more year.
Reinsdorf saying “things were beyond our control” and that “it came to the end on its own” is false. Things were well within his control and the end came because he decided so. At the team, teams had no cap when resigning their own free agents. Reinsdorf made so much money on the Bulls in the ’90s, not counting the rise in valuation that happened since then, that no matter how much he had paid for all the players, it wouldn’t make a dent.
In '97/'98 Kerr, Harper, and Rodman made a total of $10.4 million ($700k + $5.2 million + $4.5 million). The following year, they made $4.7 million ($1.7 million + $2 million + $1 million) - $5.7 million less!! It’s safe to assume they would return to the Bulls for the same amount of money and a chance to win a ring. Pippen went from $2.7 million in his last Bulls season to $11 million with the Rockets - a pay bump of $8.3 million. Take the $5.7 million you saved on Kerr, Harper, and Rodman, add $2.6 million, and give Pippen what he got in Houston.
So, the guys Reinsdorf talked about at market price would cost $2.6 million more compared to what he paid them in ‘97/’98. Whatever Krause believed about the team and rebuilding, it was Reinsdorf’s decision. He either didn’t want to pay a few million more or believed the team didn’t have it anymore. Either way, it didn’t “came to the end on its own.” Jerry Reinsdorf decided it was over.