In 1999, Michael Jordan sounded comfortable walking away from basketball for a second time.
More than 20 years later, in the 10th and final episode of “The Last Dance” on Netflix, Jordan said leaving the Chicago Bulls when he felt he was still capable of winning at least one more title has gnawed at him since.
When “Last Dance” director Jason Hehir asked Jordan whether it was “satisfying” to leave at the peak of his powers, the 6-time NBA champion said that wasn’t the case.
“It’s maddening, yeah, because I felt like we could’ve won seven. I really believe that. We may not have, but, man, just not to be able to try, that’s something that I just can’t accept,” Jordan said.
“For whatever reason, I just can’t accept it.”
In his retirement speech on January 13, 1999, Jordan said: “This is a perfect time for me to walk away from the game. I’m at peace with that.”
But he did say at the time that “Physically, I feel great” and that “The desire (to play) is always going to be there.”
He unretired in 2001 to play two seasons with the Washington Wizards.
In the same documentary, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf said it would’ve been costly to have kept his 1998 Bulls roster together for the 1999 season, the reason why the team headed for a rebuild.
But Jordan suggested that the front office could’ve structured the players’ contracts to make another run possible because, Jordan said, his teammates’ desire to continue on was there.
“If you ask all the guys who won in 98, Steve Kerr, Jud Buechler, blah, blah, blah . . . We give you a 1-year contract to try for the seventh, you think they would’ve signed? Yes, they would’ve signed,” Jordan said.
“Would I have signed for 1 year? Yes, I would have. I’d been signing 1-year contracts up to that. Would Phil have done it? Yes.”
But after that scene where Jordan makes his case to chase title No. 7, Hehir cuts to Jackson saying the Bulls after the 1998 season were done.
“This is a good time to go,” Jackson said of ring No. 6. “It’s a great run, we’d had a wonderful time. Good team. Time to go.”
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