ESPN’s The Last Dance has been hailed by critics and sports fans alike for its thorough examination of one of the greatest dynasties in the history of professional sports: Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. But it’s also been criticized for its unfavorable depiction of former general manager Jerry Krause, who died in 2017 and is unable to defend himself against the onslaught of personal attacks and accusations found in the film.
Thankfully, prior to his death, Krause was able to reflect on his tenure with the Bulls in an unpublished memoir—and the excerpts, courtesy of NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson, don’t disappoint. If anything, they provide a deeper understanding of his relationship with one of the greatest teams ever assembled.
On Michael Jordan, per Bleacher Report:
“Personally, despite our problems off the court, he was great to deal with on the court, where it counts. He wanted to win as much as I did, and we both were driven by winning again and again, looking for any edge to keep it going. Despite his quote about “my supporting cast” early in his career, he knew deep down that no individual was good enough to win in this game without being on a team that could win.
“ ... Were we good for one another? I think we turned out to be a great match. We were both stubborn, strong-willed competitors, proud of our ability and wanting to carve out our own niche in the game’s hierarchy.”
Despite how ugly it all ended, it’s hard to argue with the results. Can you name another team that won six championships in eight years? I’ll wait.
Jordan’s recollection of how his broken foot was handled in 1985 is also a point of dispute. In The Last Dance, His Airness points to the injury and how he was treated as the beginning of the end of his relationship with Krause, but Krause maintains that Jordan isn’t exactly telling the truth.
“Now comes the disputed statement. I remember saying, ‘Michael, you are a player, not a medical doctor. I have to do what’s right for the team and as a result I’m not going to let you play.’ Michael has told people who were not at the meeting that I told him he was an employee of the franchise and as a result would do what the franchise told him to do or else. He says he knew that moment that loyalty in the NBA between teams and players was non-existent and it changed his outlook on the game and on me.
“Now do you think I’m dumb enough, in front of the owner and within the ears of prominent medical people from all over the nation, to tell a young star that he was an ‘employee?’ I don’t think so.”
Jordan would use the situation as fuel, return later that season on a minutes restriction and take the Bulls to the playoffs for the first time.
Krause also had some thoughts on Dennis Rodman, the eccentric rebounder who burned bridge after bridge in the NBA, but who took the Bulls to another level after joining the team in 1995.
From CBS Sports:
If God gave me the ability to construct the perfect rebounder, I’d want quick feet on a tall, wide-shouldered frame, strong-legged, good hands, quick jumper and a mean streak that never shut down...In other words, I’d want Dennis Rodman, the best rebounder I’ve ever seen. Sure, I’d look at Paul Silas first and then Charles Oakley. But eventually I’d settle on Rodman and then put him on the floor for 45 minutes a game for a bunch of years and enjoy.
If you’re a skeptic, you’ll say, ‘Rodman was nuts, a showman, not a player, a disgrace to the game, a non-scorer who only could rebound, a player who habitually wore out his welcome and moved on.’ If you’re an optimist, you’ll say, ‘He was a little goofy but in a positive way, a master at a skill that’s crucial to winning games, a guy who learned to play the team game.’
Krause then went on to praise Rodman’s ability to defend all five positions and note that he was a “kind, giving person” who was misunderstood and “never hurt anybody but himself.”
Dennis is basically a simple person, with few real wishes and desires. Give him love and affection, be honest with him, provide him with some security and give him enough room to roam and he’ll go to war for you. Hurt him by not showing him you care and he’ll rear back like a cornered animal, trying not to hurt you but to get away from you and go off someplace and heal his wounds...The tattoos and the hair color and the cross-dressing stunts are not the real Dennis I know. They were just a way for him to separate from the pack. To me, he was simply one of the most fundamentally sound players I’ve ever been around.
Unlike, Pippen and Jordan, Rodman never butted heads with Krause because he steered clear of any involvement with the front office. Their relationship was always cordial, which Rodman reiterated during a recent interview on ESPN’s First Take.
“Jerry Krause, it’s a difficult thing. I never got involved with the front office at all,” Rodman said. “I never really got into the politics of it, I never asked Michael or Scottie, ‘What is the reason you guys are so bitter towards management?’ I never asked those guys that, but after a couple of years, I figured out where it all came from.”
He continued, “For me, I was just more there for the ride, pretty much. I wanted to win championships with these guys. I would go to war for these guys any time of the day...It was just sad that we could have come back and won a fourth championship very easily.”
Considering Krause’s memoir was unfinished at the time of his death in 2017, it’s unclear if there are plans for it to ever see an official release. But with the immense popularity of The Last Dance, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the world finally gets to hear Krause’s side of the story.