The Last Dance is appointment viewing for basketball fans and, in the first four installments, the vast majority of consumers have likely enjoyed the product. However, former Chicago Bulls general manager Jerry Krause isn’t painted in the best light during ESPN’s documentary, with the backstory setting Krause up as a significant villain and the central figure in bringing the dynasty to a close.
While there has already been some level of push-back on the notion that Krause was solely to blame for the unraveling of the legendary roster, a prominent figure came to Krause’s defense this week and, in doing so, shifted the focus instead to Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
In visiting with The Dan Patrick Show, Barkley indicated that it would be “asinine and absurd” to think that Krause was the impetus for the breakup, instead saying that Reinsdorf was the reason, citing financial reasons.
“The notion that [Jerry Krause] broke up the Bulls is asinine and absurd… Jerry Reinsdorf broke up the Bulls because he didn’t want to pay anybody.” -Charles Barkley
— Dan Patrick Show (@dpshow) April 29, 2020
Along the way, Barkley cites Horace Grant leaving the Bulls in free agency as evidence of Reinsdorf’s unwillingness to pay top dollar and, even with the backdrop that Jordan was making unprecedented money in 1998, he asserts that the super-human shooting guard was only making that kind of money for a short period of time. Throw in the fact that Scottie Pippen was on a massive bargain and the chips seemingly fall into place.
Of course, Barkley is anything but shy about expressing his opinions, and the reference to Reinsdorf as a “silent assassin” in this case is a good example. It is also crucial to point out that Krause is not able to defend himself, passing away in 2017, while Reinsdorf was interviewed for the film and, of course, Jordan himself had a say in what made the air. Still, it is fair to point out that money is (very) often involved in high-profile decisions like this and, even if the Bulls were in the middle of a fantastic run, it is at least conceivable that Reinsdorf didn’t want to write the big check to keep Jordan, Pippen, Rodman, Phil Jackson and others on board for 1999 and beyond.