Kanye West performed at Chicago’s United Center on Wednesday night, working in his former hometown of Chicago and in the same building where Michael Jordan won three of his six NBA championship rings.
Following his retirement in 1999, Jordan went on to become part-owner of the Washington Wizards in 2000, along with taking on player personnel decision-making duties, and a player for the team from 2001-03. Following a disastrous stint as both player and ostensible general manager (the title technically had to be stripped from Jordan, along with minority ownership, when he suited up), Jordan went on to become the GM and eventually the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats in 2006 and then 2010. The results during his seven-year term, despite a surprisingly mediocre start to the 2013-14 season, have not been good.
Kanye West, in a NSFW and auto-tuned rant from Wednesday, decided to fall back on the easy conceit that Chicago Bulls ownership somehow made it so Michael Jordan “had” to play for the Wizards. Despite things being much more nuanced and deeper and not stupidly simple than that hook. Here’s a clip from the show:
As with a lot of things related to Mr. West, this rant was more than a little misguided.
Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf and former general manager Jerry Krause had the right intentions heading into 1997-98 – tie up the Bulls’ dynasty with a bow and one final championship, then use cap space and sign-and-traded former Bulls (Scottie Pippen, or the Luc Longley sign-and-trade that netted Chicago the draft pick used on Ron Artest) and a losing record and eventual lottery picks to rebuild. It’s a plan that is being copied to this day, for the right reasons.
The problem was execution, post-Jordan’s retirement, and the ham-fisted way the organization led up to the breakup of the champs.
Reinsdorf and Krause especially made life so untenable for Jordan (despite the $31 million contract he enjoyed in his final year as a player), Phil Jackson and Scottie Pippen that they all wanted out heading into the 1997-98 season. To varying degrees, of course – Jordan had misgivings but his competitive zeal (and that contract, and the chance to top Magic Johnson in total NBA championships) brought him back. An injured Pippen issued a trade demand just a month into the 1997-98 season, though, and Jackson was quick to beat everyone to the punch to trump up his team’s “Last Waltz” after signing a one-year deal.
The combination of elements, along with a massive 1998 (which then was moved to 1999) free agent class and the NBA lockout that knocked the league out of business until January of 1999 all seemed to tie things up quite neatly. Jordan, somewhat bowing to what seemed predestined, announced his retirement soon after the NBA lockout ended, citing timing, his willingness to try new things, and (seriously) a badly mangled right index finger that he slashed while using a cigar cutter.
Nearly a year later, an anxious Jordan joined the Washington Wizards as a team president, while purchasing a small percentage of the team. Just two years into the formation of his own brand with Nike, he didn’t have the capital to take over as full owner.
This is where Kanye, as is his custom, goes daffy. Jordan didn’t have the cash to buy the Chicago Bulls in 1999, and owner Jerry Reinsdorf was certainly under no obligation to sell his team to Jordan, much in the same way the New York Yankees didn’t “deserve” to become Babe Ruth’s team some 65 years before. That’s insanity. That’s Kanye West, we’ve come to learn.
Both Reinsdorf and Krause botched both the lead-up, the tear-down, and the rebuilding – even going as far as to pathetically beg both Jackson, Pippen, and Jordan back during the press conference to introduce Tim Floyd as a member of the team’s front office (sure) in the summer of 1998 after giving every indication that 1997-98 would be the last run. They also made life pointlessly miserable for the champs, and had they handled things more delicately and not been so paranoid about things it’s possible that all factions could have eventually gotten what they wanted.
Which, if we’re honest, is what Jordan, Jackson, Pippen, and the Chicago Bulls organization all seemed to acquire as they willingly moved on to different things in the winter of 1999.
“Let him be an owner,” Kanye said. It’s a ridiculous assertion made by someone who clearly wasn’t paying close attention years ago.
And it’s appropriately, annoyingly, auto-tuned.
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