The Chicago Bulls held their long-awaited inaugural Ring of Honor ceremony on Friday night to honor key figures from the franchise’s six NBA championship teams in the 1990s. However, the event was marred by controversy and drama stemming from ongoing feuds between Michael Jordan and the late general manager Jerry Krause.
Michael Jordan and Other Key Figures Absent in Protest
In a stunning move, Michael Jordan and other key players from the championship Bulls teams skipped the ceremony in protest. Jordan was joined by fellow Hall of Famers Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman in boycotting the event:
“I cannot in good conscience attend a celebration of our championship teams that fails to properly honor the architect of those teams, Jerry Krause,” Jordan said in a statement released hours before the ceremony.
Jordan remains bitter over his relationship with Krause, whom he blames for the Bulls dynasty breaking up in 1998. The two clashed frequently over personnel decisions and Krause’s failure to provide long-term contracts to players and coach Phil Jackson.
Other absent former Bulls included Steve Kerr and Luc Longley. Their solidarity with Jordans stance cast a pall over what was meant to be a joyous celebration of the Bulls glory years.
Fans Boo Late GM Jerry Krause, Reducing Widow to Tears
Incredibly, when the late Jerry Krause was announced to the United Center crowd as an inductee, fans mercilessly booed the former Bulls GM. The hostile reaction reduced Krause’s widow, Thelma, to tears as she stood in for her late husband.
Bulls broadcaster Stacey King angrily chastised the fans during the ceremony:
“I’ll tell you right now, as a former player, this is the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life. We’re honoring the people who put these championships together, played a part in it. And for you to boo Jerry Krause, who put this team together, his wife had to sit up there and hear that. I know a lot of those fans weren’t probably even born yet. But still, common sense should tell you that you don’t boo.”
Others who did attend like Toni Kukoc and Phil Jackson also expressed dismay at Krause’s treatment. Coach Jackson said, “Jerry was the architect of the greatest team achievement in basketball history. He deserved to be honored properly for that.”
What Led to This Ugly Spectacle?
Krause was the Bulls GM from 1985 to 2003 and the architect of their six titles in the 90s. But he clashed frequently with players and coaches over control of personnel decisions. His strained relationships with Jordan and Jackson created an atmosphere of mistrust.
The snubbing by Jordan and others stems from Krause’s decision to break up the championship core after their last title in 1998. With Jordan, Pippen, Rodman and Jackson all poised to leave after that season, Krause chose a full rebuild. This earned him lasting enmity from the players.
Here is a summary of the key events leading up to the drama:
|Jerry Krause becomes Bulls GM
|Krause drafts Scottie Pippen
|Krause hires Phil Jackson as assistant coach
|First 3-peat (Jordan, Pippen, Grant core)
|Jordan returns from retirement, starts feud with Krause
|Second 3-peat (Jordan, Pippen, Rodman core)
|Krause announces Jackson will not be re-signed, initiates rebuild
|Jordan announces second retirement, ending Bulls dynasty
Fallout From the Debacle
The ugly incidents have marred what should have been a celebration of the Bulls’ proudest era. It also threatens to damage the franchise’s reputation with fans.
Bulls CEO Michael Reinsdorf said “The behavior of our fans toward Jerry Krause and his family was unacceptable. Regardless of past disagreements, he contributed enormously toward our success and deserves to be recognized respectfully.”
Reinsdorf vowed internal discussions to plan a future ceremony that properly honors Krause. But the bitter feelings may be difficult to overcome. Jordan shows no signs of reconciling with the late GM.
The snub also indicates Jordan’s ongoing strained relationship with the Bulls organization. It remains to be seen if fences can be mended to avoid continued controversy.
For Jerry Krause’s legacy, the shameful treatment by Bulls fans has sadly become an ignominious footnote for the executive who helped create the greatest modern sports dynasty.
What Next for the Bulls and Their Former Stars?
The Bulls had hoped to start a new tradition honoring past glory. Instead, old wounds were reopened on a night filled with anger and regret. It demonstrated the franchise still has not come to terms with how the dynasty ended.
Reinsdorf must somehow rebuild bridges between the club and Jordan, Pippen, Jackson and other integral figures. Otherwise, the team risks continued alienation from the roster that delivered six titles and global fame.
As for the players, extending an olive branch first may be the bigger person move. But Jordan’s pride and Krause’s shadow still loom large over the organization.
The Ring of Honor was envisioned as a celebration of the 90’s Bulls teams for new generations of fans. After the embarrassing scenes, the franchise must reflect deeply on how to properly honor its past heroes while reconciling bitter divides. Their legecy depends on it.
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