It is one of the unanswerable questions in the aftermath of the Michael Jordan documentary “The Last Dance.”
Would the Bulls have won their seventh overall NBA championship and fourth in a row had Jordan not retired after the 1998 season?
The answer is a resounding no, according to former Spurs point guard Avery Johnson.
Johnson tweeted Sunday after the documentary’s final episode aired on ESPN that the 1999 Spurs championship team would have beaten Chicago even had Jordan returned.
..... 1999 @spurs win championship in seven games. No doubt. 👏🏽 15-1 in the playoffs. #OutstandingTeam Love the #LastDance #MJ23 Is the GOAT ! #Respect @DavidtheAdmiral @SteveKerr @marioelie1 @seanelliott_32 @DuncanRelief @adaniels33 @Will_Perdue32 @MalikRose— Avery Johnson (@CoachAvery6) May 18, 2020
Jordan stated his case in the documentary for keeping the team together and returning in the strike shortened ’99 season.
He said he would have been willing to sign another 1-year deal, but it was clear head coach Phil Jackson was not going to return due to to his ongoing issues with the Bulls front office.
Scottie Pippen was also in line to get a new deal and there was no indication Chicago was going to give him a large contract for past performance. Pippen was ultimately traded to Houston.
Dennis Rodman was released that offseason and there was no high-profile free agent available that would have given Chicago Rodman’s production for the price.
Steve Kerr was also traded that offseason from Chicago to San Antonio.
In the 1998 Finals, Jordan and the Bulls defeated a Utah Jazz team with aging stars. The Spurs were an up-and-coming team in 1999 and would have posed an entirely different challenge.
In only his second season, Duncan had already become a dominant force in the league. He averaged 27.4 points and 14 rebounds a game in the ’99 Finals against the New York Knicks.
But here is the case for Chicago returning to the Finals. The Eastern Conference was not very competitive that season.
The Knicks advanced to the Finals as an 8-seed so it would have been very feasible for the Bulls to get a chance to win their fourth straight.
Plus, it’s Michael Jordan and even an aging MJ would have found a way to get the Bulls at least to the finish line. He was 6 for 6 in the NBA Finals.
It’s revisionist history, but the bottom line is the Spurs would have been the better overall team with a dominant front court, and San Antonio most likely would have had home court advantage. It was the first of five San Antonio championships.
Johnson tweeted that Jordan is the greatest of all-time and he loved the documentary, but believes San Antonio would have beaten Chicago in seven games.
“No doubt,” Johnson tweeted.