Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf knows there will be questions about why he didn’t keep the team together following its sixth championship. After the end of “The Last Dance,” in which Michael Jordan said he believed the Bulls could have won a seventh title — how could Reinsdorf avoid those questions?
But Reinsdorf has an answer for those who believe he made the wrong move. Reinsdorf, 84, believes the quest for a seventh title would have fallen short because Jordan injured his finger, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
"The thing nobody wants to remember," Reinsdorf said, "during lockout, Michael was screwing around with a cigar cutter, and he cut his finger. He couldn't have played that year. He had to have surgery on the finger, so even if we could've brought everybody back, it wouldn't have made any sense."
Reinsdorf also says that even if Jordan came back, many of the team’s role players would have left on bigger deals. Reinsdorf mentions Steve Kerr and Dennis Rodman as guys who could have left on larger contracts.
Jordan, who injured his finger during a golf tournament in January, said he would not have messed around with a cigar cutter if he knew he — and Bulls coach Phil Jackson — would be back. The NBA season didn’t start until February that season due to a lockout.
No matter which side you take, it boils down to a he said, he said situation. Would the Bulls have fallen short if Jordan missed a majority of the season after surgery? Perhaps. Would Jordan avoid injury if he knew he was coming back? It’s tough to say. Jordan was shown smoking cigars during the season numerous times in “The Last Dance.”
Ultimately, though, Reinsdorf’s point relies far more on hindsight. He wasn’t bringing back Jackson or Jordan anyway, so it feels disingenuous to pretend a January injury derailed the 1999 Bulls. If Reinsdorf wanted them back, he could have made that happen long before January rolled around. If Jordan still got hurt, at least Reinsdorf could have said he tried to win the seventh title.
The way things worked out, Reinsdorf is left with weak excuses. While Reinsdorf’s legacy is secure — his Bulls won six titles and his Chicago White Sox won one — he’ll also be remembered as the guy responsible for breaking up the Bulls’ dynasty.
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