Chicago Bulls Could Have Gone for Title Number Seven in 1999, Michael Jordan Says in the Last Dance

The Last Dance may not have been The Last Dance had Michael Jordan got his way.

In the final episode of ESPN's 10-part documentary chronicling his final season with the Chicago Bulls, the six-time NBA champion revealed he, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman would have all returned to defend their title in 1999 had they been given the chance.

As the documentary revealed in Episode 1, the Bulls began the 1997-98 season knowing the team would be broken up at the end of the campaign. Chicago head coach Phil Jackson had been told in no uncertain terms by then-general manager Jerry Krause that he would be replaced at the end of the season.

Despite knowing the end was nigh, the Bulls clinched a second three-peat and Jordan believes the players had earned their right to be given the chance to defend their title the following season.

"If you asked all the guys who won in '98 [...] 'We'll give you a one-year contract to try for a seventh,' you think they would've signed? Yes, they would've signed," Jordan said in the documentary on Sunday.

"Would I have signed for one year? Yes, I would've signed for one year. I've been signing one-year contracts up to that."

By the time the Bulls clinched their sixth NBA title, Jordan was 35-year-old, while Pippen and Rodman were 32 and 37 respectively. Key elements of the supporting cast such as Ron Harper, Steve Kerr and Bill Wennington were also on the wrong side of 30s.

Following the Bulls' sixth NBA title, Jackson left the Windy City, while Jordan retired. In the following season, meanwhile, Pippen and Kerr were traded to the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs respectively, while Rodman left as a free agent.

Bulls' owner Jerry Reinsdorf felt Chicago's race had been run and keeping together one of the greatest teams in NBA history would have been financially not viable.

"They weren't going to be worth the money they were going to get in the market," he said.

"That was the end. It just came to an end on its own. Had Michael been healthy and wanted to come back, I don't doubt that Krause could've rebuilt a championship team in a couple years. But it wasn't going to happen instantly."

Reinsdorf, however, revealed that he would have been happy to bring Jackson back for at least another season.

"After the sixth championship, I offered him the opportunity to come back," Reinsdorf told Jackson after the Bulls celebrated their sixth title.

"[I said,] 'You've earned the opportunity to come back, regardless of what was said before now.'"

Jackson's relationship with Krause had shattered and the former was told by the then-Bulls general manager he would not be allowed to remain with the team behind the 1997-98 season.

"[Krause] called me into his office and said 'This will be your last year with the Bulls," Jackson recalled in Episode 1.

"I don't care if you win 82 games and the championship.'"

Jackson eventually signed a one-year contract before the 1997-98 campaign but his relationship with Krause never recovered and refused Reinsdorf's offer.

"I said, 'Well, I think I should just take a break,'" Jackson said in the documentary. "I don't think it's fair to Jerry [Krause], and I know it would be difficult for him to accept that."

Chicago's decision to pull the plug on Jackson was particularly significant as Jordan had previously stated he would not play for another coach. As a result, rumors over his retirement followed MJ throughout the 1997-98 season.

In The Last Dance, Jordan insisted that had Jackson been allowed to return for at least another season, the Bulls would've been able to convince their stars to embark on one last title defence.

"Would Phil [Jackson] have done it? Yes," he explained.

"Now, Pip [Scottie Pippen], you would've had to do some convincing. But if Phil was going to be there, if Dennis [Rodman] was going to be there, if MJ was going to be there, to win our seventh? Pip is not going to miss out on that."

Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, Chicago Bulls
Michael Jordan (R) and Chicago Bulls head coach Phil Jackson (L) congratulate each other after winning Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on June 14, 1998. The Bulls won the game 87-86 to win their sixth NBA championship. Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty

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