Michael Jordan Says He Would Have Returned to Bulls For 1-Year Deal

“Would I have signed for one year? Yes, I would’ve signed for one year.”

Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, 1997 Chicago Bulls championships
Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson

ESPN aired the final episode of The Last Dance on Sunday night, and it dug into the 1998 NBA Finals, which marked the last hurrah for the legendary Chicago Bulls lineup. As anyone who has watched all ten episodes knows by now, Michael Jordan had some things to say regarding the team’s breakup and whether he might have stuck with the franchise.

Producers, in a now-familiar move, handed Jordan an iPad on which he watched video of Bulls team owner Jerry Reinsdorf explaining why the iconic team split up.

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Reinsdorf said that for Scottie Pippen, Steve Kerr, Dennis Rodman, and Ron Harper it “would’ve been suicidal at that point in their careers” to return to the Bulls, as “their market value individually was going to be too high.”

“They weren’t going to be worth the money they were going to get in the market,” Reinsdorf continued, “So we then we realized we were going to have to go into a rebuild, I went to Phil [Jackson] and said—offered him the opportunity—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 an end on its own.” 

“Had Michael been healthy and wanted to come back,” the owner concluded, “I don’t doubt that [Bulls GM Jerry] Krause could’ve rebuilt another championship team in a few years, but you know it wasn’t going to happen instantly.”

Jordan wasn’t so sure about that. Here’s what he said in response:

In ’98, Krause already said at the beginning of the season Phil could go 82-0 and he was never going to be the coach.

When Phil said it was the last dance, it was the last dance. we knew they weren’t going to keep the team. Now, they could’ve nixed all of it at the beginning of ’98. Why say that statement at the beginning of ’98? If you asked all the guys who won in ’98, Steve Kerr, Dennis Rodman, blah blah blah, we give you a one-year contract to try for seven, do you think they would’ve signed?

Yes, they would’ve signed. 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. Would Phil have done it? Yes.

Now Pip, you would’ve had to have some convincing, but if Phil was gonna be there if Dennis was gonna be there if MJ was gonna be there to win our seventh? Pip wasn’t going to miss out on that.

Michael Jordan has been the center of the docuseries in part because he was inarguably a superstar and he’s also been honest about himself and his legendary competitiveness. Another revelation from Last Dance (episode 9) was related to a story that has long been at the heart of Jordan’s rep: “The Flu Game.”

Turns out it was actually the Food Poisoning Game, according to Jordan. 

Jordan’s trainer Tim Grover and his friend George Koehler helped tell the story of what was likely a case of superstar player vs. bad pizza.

Koehler said that “when the pizza came there was four or five guys outside the door.” 

“Five guys delivering one pizza,” added Grover.

Koehler continued on to note that it is “very rare you get five delivery guys from the pizza place to bring you your pizza.”

“They’re all trying to look in,” Grover said, “and everybody knew it was Michael. So I take the pizza, I pay them, and I put this pizza down and I say ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this.'”

He was right. “I ate the pizza,” Michael Jordan said, “All by myself. Nobody else eats the pizza. I wake up about 2:30 throwing up left and right.”

“Three o’clock in the morning I get a call, ‘come to the room right now,'” Grover said. “He’s literally curled up in a ball shaking. He says, ‘man find a team doc, now.'”

“So it really wasn’t the flu game,” Jordan said, “It was food poisoning.”

Even sick as hell, Jordan tore up the court. Chicago beat the Utah Jazz, 90-88. Jordan put up 38 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, and a block. Because that’s the kind of stuff legends do.

The Last Dance will be available to watch again on Netflix beginning July 19, 2020.