As months, years and decades tick off the calendar, it’s easy to remember Michael Jordan as invincible. Six trips to the Finals, six victories and six Finals MVPs over the course of eight years – all in Bulls red – have a lot to do with that.
Those title-less years, of course, were sandwiched in the middle of two three-peats when Jordan embarked on a hiatus to try to become a professional baseball player before the 1993-94 season.
It begs the question: Had Jordan stuck around, could the Bulls have ripped off eight straight?
That topic was broached to many who were in the league at the time in a recent feature from David Aldridge and Michael Lee of The Athletic. The verdict? Fat chance.
“A lot of people they say that and it’s amazing because they act like (a Bulls-Rockets Finals) couldn’t have happened. Orlando beat them,” former Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon told The Athletic. “He was playing (in 1995). He missed a year. They say he missed two years, but he lost in the semifinals of the Eastern Conference.”
Understandable that Olajuwon would come down on that side of the debate. Even hypothesizing that Jordan’s Bulls could have completed an ‘eight-peat’ is inherently dismissive of Olajuwon’s Rockets, which won both the titles that separated the Bulls’ three-peats. In the feature, Kenny Smith added his voice to Olajuwon’s, saying unequivocally that Houston had the better team that year.
And they have a point: Jordan did return in advance of the 1994-95 playoffs and led the Bulls to a 13-4 finish to the regular season before falling in six games to Orlando – led by a young Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway – in the Eastern semis.
Some might attribute that show of mortality to Jordan still finding his footing back in basketball. Jordan’s adversaries have no reason to address that argument, and rightfully so.
But even one of his old teammates, Steve Kerr, seems to agree.
Said Kerr to The Athletic:
“Sometimes people say to me, ‘If Michael had stayed, you guys would’ve won eight in a row.’ That’s the most preposterous thing I have ever heard. People have no idea how emotionally draining it is for a team to keep winning.”
“To me, the reason we won the second three was because he got away and recharged his batteries… He needed it, desperately. And that’s why he left. He was just burned out. There were all of these theories: Did David Stern tell him you can’t play? Like, yeah, that would be very smart – the greatest player ever and we’re going to punish him for gambling or whatever? What are we even talking about? That’s dumb. All of those conspiracy theories were dumb. Bottom line was, he was fried. Going through a lot with his father’s death. Just getting away for two years, recharged his batteries and got him ready for the next three.”
Pretty airtight case, especially coming from Kerr. Not only did he know Jordan personally as a teammate, Kerr again experienced the rigors of sustaining a dynasty as coach of the Warriors in the mid-2010s.
With the experts all aligning, perhaps we can put this age-old debate to bed, and appreciate what we did get from Jordan: A still unprecedented run of dominance, and a lifetime of memories.
Could the ’90s Bulls have completed an eight-peat? Steve Kerr says no originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Read the original article at https://sports.yahoo.com/could-90s-bulls-completed-eight-154358510.html?src=rss.