It is aggravating observing this NBA season with the knowledge that the Warriors and Cavs are oligarchs and everything else is the undercard. What are the stakes? Consequently, basketball figures from the past have criticized the players involved for forming “super teams,” conveniently forgetting that this has been the lay of the land for quite some time.
Charles Barkley sounds like a broken record about this, even though he joined Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston, where they were later joined by Scottie Pippen.
The latest to take a shot (more implied than explicit) at the LeBron’s and Durant’s of the world is Jerry Krause, the architect of the 1990s Bulls dynasty.
But I will say one thing for Michael Jordan … never came to me and asked for other players. He never came to me and asked me to draft a player. Never came to me and asked to trade for a player. Never once did that happen. Part of it was he thought he was so darn good he could win without ’em … He understood what we had to do as an organization.
Frankly, the idea that MJ was always satisfied with his supporting cast is patently untrue. In the late 1980s, he had no answer for the Bad Boy Pistons. Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer, Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, and John Salley bruised and battered him en route to three consecutive playoff exits. Jordan did not sit idly by and expect his front office to make things better without his input.
In The Jordan Rules, Sam Smith noted the following:
- Jordan was dismayed in 1987 when the Bulls drafted Brad Sellers over Johnny Dawkins: “Jordan believed that Dawkins would be the choice, and he had told Dawkins so in pickup games they played in North Carolina. So when the Bulls skipped Dawkins for Sellers, Jordan felt embarrassed.”
- Jordan “lobbied extensively during the 1988-89 season for a trade that would bring New Jersey’s Buck Williams to the Bulls. Jordan didn’t particularly care for Horace Grant, Krause’s other pick in the 1987 Draft, never believing Grant would develop into a responsible player, and lobbied hard for Williams.”
- Jordan “never cared for the [Charles] Oakley – [Bill] Cartwright trade … and he began to wonder more and more whether the Bulls were serious about winning or whether they merely wanted to keep the Stadium filled.”
- Jordan had reservations about Toni Kukoc, supposedly telling friends: “Wait until he gets an elbow from Laimbeer. He won’t be going to the basket again. I know he looks good, but that’s against college players. He has no idea what the NBA is all about.”
Jordan specifically coveted free agent Walter Davis during the 1990 offseason, and some combination of Krause, owner Jerry Reinsdorf, and Jordan failed to land him.
In a May 1991 story for USA Today, Peter Vecsey wrote:
Less than three months ago, Michael Jordan and those of us in the media who worship at the few remaining follicles of Air Supremacy, regularly rebuked Bulls GM Jerry Krause for failing to measure the bench to title specifications.
Krause felt his offseason pickups of Dennis Hopson and Cliff Levingston upgraded Chicago from a perennial Eastern Conference runner-up to an authentic title contender.
Both Jordan and Krause were wrong, one louder than the other. But who’s quibbling about amplification?
So what if management didn’t adhere to Air Supremacy’s public outcry for Walter Davis or LaSalle Thompson? So what if Levingston and Hopson are coach Phil Jackson’s 10th and 11th men? All that’s supposed to count is the Bulls are undefeated and nearly unscored upon in the playoffs and, considering the injuries plaguing Detroit and Boston, almost a lock to reach the Finals.
From a December 1991 story in the Oklahoman:
After learning that NBA veteran and former North Carolina Tar Heel Walter Davis had been traded to Portland and not the Bulls, Jordan responded before a game against the Nets. “As soon as we get back, I’m calling (Jerry) Reinsdorf. Krause has messed everything up again. He can’t do anything. ” (Two days later before practice, Jordan took off after Krause again. “If I were general manager, we’d be a better team. “)
The story continued:
“I figured I’d try to put the pressure on him to do something about Krause,” Jordan said about his first volley of remarks after the team returned from New Jersey in late January. His eyes were hard and cold as he spoke. “This thing isn’t over. I’m gonna get that guy fired yet. ” Reinsdorf called Jordan and asked him to come over to his North Shore home just before the team left for San Antonio. It was the first time Reinsdorf had ever invited a player to his home.
Reinsdorf recognized that Krause had weaknesses, he told Jordan, but he believed Krause had done an adequate job. “We are in first place,” he said. “Jerry’s done some good things. He got Scottie (Pippen) and Horace (Grant) in the draft and he got us a center (Bill Cartwright). ” Reinsdorf knew Krause could be annoying with his secretive ways, and he knew he wasn’t the ideal person to represent the team in public. But he liked Krause’s moxie. And the team was winning. So what was the problem?
Jordan insisted that Krause was incapable of making any but the draft-choice deals he’d made, that his lack of personal skills kept him from making serious deals and getting players who could already have helped the Bulls win a title. He wasn’t a good judge of talent, Jordan said. The Bulls should have a former player as general manager.
Anyways: Even with LeBron fast on his tail, Michael Jordan remains the greatest player in NBA history. Nevertheless, let’s stop acting like he never wanted or needed any help.