One of the many things "The Last Dance" had audiences wondering was why one of the greatest dynasties of all time reached its end. With six championships in eight years, why would anyone want to tear down a team that dominated the NBA? Isn't the goal to win championships?
The documentary places the blame in a few directions, primarily toward general manager Jerry Krause and owner Jerry Reinsdorf. We didn't have much clarity on the reasoning beyond the financial risk, but fans can now read deeper into it after this excerpt from Krause's unfinished and unpublished memoir.
"During the last championship run in 1998, cracks in the foundation of the teams we’d built began to alarmingly show up at inopportune times," Krause wrote. "To the adoring public, the age that was showing on Dennis Rodman, the lack of movement by Luc Longley, the slowdown in efficiency after playing over 100 games per year in two of the previous three seasons, was not apparent. The lack of recovery time in the summer, where beaten-up legs could have enough time on (strength and conditioning coach) Al Vermeil’s summer program to gain back the strength they’d lost in playing far longer than any other team in the league, never struck the fans or the media. The fact that winning titles meant drafting last each year in what at the time were poor draft crops meant nothing. We’d gotten lucky in 1990 in that most NBA people did not think that Toni Kukoc would even come to the NBA, and he’d fallen to early in the second round where we had a pick.
"But to the fans and media, we had Michael Jordan and he could overcome anything. He could play without a center and a power forward for a capped team with little or no flexibility and still win by himself. Or Scottie Pippen, with two operations in the previous two years, could rise to the occasion and win with Michael and a declining supporting cast."
While Krause did not receive much of a say in the documentary due to his death in 2017, his perspective is quite telling. The option to pursue a seventh ring was on the table, but with long seasons and short summers, fatigued and aging players, and the lack of high draft picks, Krause looked ahead instead of attacking another title.
Krause understood that on the outside Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan seem more than enough. But without any reliable big men and the cap space to sign a worthy replacement, how was Jordan expected to lead a team by himself?
Yes, a general manager is expected to win championships, but the job also calls for planning for the future. Let's also not forget he got the best for his players who left the team after that championship year, so it's not like he abandoned ship and let everyone fend for themselves.
All good things must come to an end, but many will continue to believe that the Bulls fell a bit sooner than they should have and will vilify Krause for it. At least the story of The Last Dance is a bit more complete with Krause's perspective.