Rozner: Chicago Bulls' Jordan the ultimate franchise-wrecker

Updated 6/5/2018 7:55 PM
  • Daily Herald File Photo, 1998Michael Jordan is surrounded by the media after the Bulls win game 6 against the Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals for their sixth NBA championship, June 1998.

    Daily Herald File Photo, 1998Michael Jordan is surrounded by the media after the Bulls win game 6 against the Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals for their sixth NBA championship, June 1998.

Michael Jordan didn't just reach six NBA Finals.

He won every one of them and returned home each time with the MVP trophy.

While a hero in Chicago, he was a nightmare for the rest of the NBA. Once he figured out how to finish, in the process he finished many a franchise.

That led me to an unforgettable moment before Game 6 in Utah 20 years ago, as the Bulls were about to collect their sixth title in six tries. It was a brief conversation with Isiah Thomas on the court before the last contest of the season.

It was no secret that the retired Pistons star was a sworn enemy of Jordan, and that the two men had no use for one another. But working as an analyst for NBC, with four years out of the game and two years away from the Hall of Fame, Thomas was surprisingly honest about what Jordan was about to do to Utah, and what he had done to so many other teams.

"Had my franchise ruined by Michael Jordan," said Thomas with a contradictory grin. "Been there, done that."

So he had little sympathy for the Jazz.

"Michael Jordan is a franchise-wrecker," Thomas said with zero emotion. "He ruins teams. He ruins people. He ruins lives. He ends careers. He's a killer. A coldblooded killer on the court."

Thomas described it without a hint of admiration, but with complete understanding that only another ultracompetitive person could possess.

Thomas was no less interested in destroying opponents -- especially the Bulls -- when the Pistons were on top of the NBA, which is where they were with consecutive NBA titles before Jordan put a stop to it.

"Look at what he's done to NBA teams," Thomas said. "We won two straight titles in Detroit and he ended that (in 1991) and we broke up the team.

"The Lakers faced them in the Finals (in 1991) and that was the end of that team.

"You never heard from Portland again after he beat them (in 1992).

"Phoenix was done after he beat them (in 1993).

"Seattle hasn't been heard from since '96 when Jordan beat them, and now Utah's getting old, waiting for Michael to go away. This might have been their last shot, too, because that team has some age on it."

He didn't mention Cleveland, which had a chance to do some damage before "The Shot" in 1989. The Bulls took them out in '88, '92 and '93.

Maybe the best example is the Knicks, who might have been the second-best team of the '90s. The Bulls swept the Knicks in 1991, beat them in seven games in '92 and in six games in '93, when the Knicks had the best record in the East and held a 2-0 series lead and homecourt advantage.

Game 5 in New York will always be fondly remembered here as the "Charles Smith Game," with Smith missing four game-winning layups in the final seconds, stripped once by Jordan under the bucket and blocked three times by Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen.

Just for good measure, after Jordan returned for a second three-peat, the Bulls defeated the Knicks in five games in '96.

"There's people all over the NBA going, 'When do I get my chance.' But people get old waiting for that to happen," Thomas said that night in 1998. "If Michael hadn't left, there's no doubt in my mind that they would have won eight straight, and you'd have the people in Houston (which won in '94 and '95) saying the same things. They'd be walking around the streets mumbling to themselves about Michael Jordan and what he's done to their lives."

People in Chicago are still walking the streets in Jordan jerseys and grateful that he wound up here instead of Portland, becoming not just the face of a franchise, but the face of the NBA, while carrying the hopes and dreams of a city to heights no one ever imagined.

Yes, the decades pass in an instant, but the memories remain so alive. And even if your VHS tapes are cracking and brittle, there's always YouTube.

Just make sure you have four or five hours free before you disappear back into your dreams.

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.