Rozner: Jerry Reinsdorf is many things, but heartless is not one them

  • Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, here when Michael Jordan announced his retirement in October 1993, has been exceedingly generous with many players over the years.

    Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, here when Michael Jordan announced his retirement in October 1993, has been exceedingly generous with many players over the years. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 5/15/2020 3:27 PM

While "The Last Dance" continues to be an enthralling mix of sports, soap opera and -- at times -- pure hatred, it also paints a picture of Jerry Reinsdorf and Jerry Krause that occasionally strays from reality.

This was to be expected, especially with Krause no longer here to defend himself, but there is the continued theme that the Bulls were cheap and remain so, at the behest of a stingy Reinsdorf.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Never mind that he paid Michael Jordan a total of $63 million his final two seasons with the Bulls, both record NBA, single-season deals at the time, though one could argue Jordan was worth twice as much.

This came after Jordan's eight-year deal worth $25 million had expired, a contract Reinsdorf had suggested Jordan probably shouldn't sign when he did, knowing his value would be considerably more than that.

Jordan didn't gripe about it because his endorsements were approaching $50 million a year during that decade.

Reinsdorf, by the way, continued to pay Jordan his NBA salary -- $4 million a year -- while Jordan was on sabbatical and playing baseball. Reinsdorf said it was because he felt he owed Jordan for being underpaid all those years.

Maybe it was Reinsdorf suspecting all along that Jordan would return to basketball.

And there's the exhausting drama surrounding Scottie Pippen's contract, another deal Reinsdorf said the player should not sign.

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Of that six-year, $18 million contract, about $8 million was front-loaded so when the deal quickly became obsolete, Pippen spent years blaming the Bulls for mistreatment.

You can understand a young Pippen -- who grew up dirt poor -- wanting the cash and needing to take care of his family, removing the risk of injury and losing it all, but it was nevertheless his decision.

When the title run ended and everyone sprinted for different corners of the universe, Krause could have merely let Pippen walk into free agency, and Houston could have given Pippen no more than $45 million.

Instead, Krause put aside all the abuse he had endured and created a sign-and-trade that landed Pippen a guaranteed $67 million over five years, with incentives pushing it to $82 million.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

That's an extra $37 million Krause netted Pippen and sent him to a playoff team, albeit one that was knocked out in the first round. After one year, the Rockets traded him to Portland after Pippen asked out of Houston.

The cheap Bulls brought him back at the end of his career and paid him $10 million for two years, though he played only one season (23 games) before retiring.

Even after everything Pippen had said about Reinsdorf and Krause, Reinsdorf again gave Pippen a job as a team ambassador in 2010, paying him to sit courtside and shake hands during games when Pippen needed a job.

That lasted 10 years, Pippen again taking shots at the Bulls on the way out the door, no good deed going unpunished.

Throughout his time as Bulls and White Sox owner, the narrative has persisted that Reinsdorf is miserly, and during the 2014 NBA Draft it was Bill Simmons on national TV repeating his charge, saying Reinsdorf is a businessman who watches every last dollar and didn't believe the Bulls would pay Carlos Boozer $16 million to go away.

A month before that draft, Simmons had written in his column that the Bulls operate as if "they're stuck playing in Indiana or Milwaukee. Keep getting dem checks, Jerry."

The Bulls did amnesty Boozer and ate the $16 million, later reduced by $3 million when he signed with the Lakers. In all, the Bulls paid Boozer $71 million to play four years in Chicago.

There were other buyouts, like Eddie Robinson for $10 million, and millions more to Tim Thomas and Rip Hamilton, not to mention eating $8.5 million for Jeff Keppinger on the South Side, to name just one baseball player.

There were the many personal gifts bestowed upon Pippen when he needed them, during and after his playing days, and Reinsdorf gave Randy Brown a job as an assistant GM a few years after he was forced to sell his championship rings in a bankruptcy auction.

Jay Williams busted his contract when he busted his leg in a motorcycle accident, but instead of releasing him they paid Williams in full the next season. When the Bulls bought out Williams the following year to gain roster flexibility, the Bulls sent Williams a check for $3 million.

Still, this spectacular ESPN series has missed nary a chance to crush the two Jerrys, with Spike Lee among the many blasting them as the 1998 campaign drew to a close.

Make fun of his loyalty, question his decisions and even call him a failed owner after six NBA titles and a World Series victory, but to say Reinsdorf has been cheap calls into question the thought process behind such an accusation when it is demonstrably unfair.

"The Last Dance" has thus far done nothing to betray that narrative.

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