What Led to the Collapse of Chicago Bulls After Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen’s Exit?

Published 01/19/2021, 7:30 AM EST
Chicago Bulls # 23 Michael Jordan sitting next to Bill Cartwright on the bench during the Chicago Bulls vs New York Knicks game on May 14 , 1993 at Madison Square Garden. (Photo by Tom Berg/WireImage)


The Chicago Bulls ruled the league for over a decade. Just as the 60s belonged to the Celtics and the 80s to the Lakers, the 90s were definitely about the Bulls. Michael Jordan, under the coachmanship of legendary Phil Jackson, pulled the Bulls out of misery and placed a diamond crown over their head. 

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However, it all had to come to a tragic end after the 1998 season. Ever since the beginning of the season, the Bulls GM Jerry Krause had clarified that it will be the last for the head coach, even if they go 82-0. This was enough to force MJ to claim that he’ll not play for any other coach. One thing led to the other, and the entire team got dismantled.

What happened to the Chicago Bulls after Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen left?

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Chicago Bulls # 33 Scottie Pippen and Chicago Bulls # 23 Michael Jordan courtside during Chicago Bulls vs New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. (Photo by Tom Berg/WireImage)

The Bulls team for the 1998-99 season was unrecognizable. Scottie Pippen joined the Houston Rockets, Dennis Rodman left for the Los Angeles Lakers, Steve Kerr for the Spurs, and MJ was soon to become the Head of Basketball Operations for the Wizards. 

The shortened 1998-99 saw the Bulls beginning their season with a loss at Utah Jazz’s (arch-rival back then) hands. They finished the year with 13-37 and missed the first playoffs in 15 years. Their condition was such that the bench guys like Dickey Simpkins and Randy Brown became regular starters for them. In April 1999, the Miami Heat defeated them 82-49 to further humiliate them. Brent Barry (Heat) was their only good signing that year, but he too left for the Supersonics.

Jerry Krause and a series of poor decisions

Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman during Air Jordan Celebrates 20th Anniversary with Sneak Peek of Air Jordan XX to Kick Off Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational at Atlantis in Paradise Island, Bahamas. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage for Bragman Nyman Cafarelli)

Jerry was simply amazing at scouting. It was he who built the right team to support MJ all those golden years. However, it all soon changed. In 1999, Jerry picked Elton Brand overall #1, and that was one great signing.

In the following year’s drafts, the Bulls picked Marcus Fizer as the overall fourth. Now, the fact that he played at Elton’s position made the equation complex. As a result, even as Elton averaged 20.1 points in two seasons with the Bulls, Jerry traded him to Clippers for the rights to rookie Tyson Chandler. 

Also, Mr. Krause let go of the unsung hero of the Bulls team, Ron Harper, in 1999. Ron later joined the Lakers with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal to win two more rings. The defamed scout also traded vet forward Toni Kukoc in the 1999-00 mid-season. These moves ensured that none of the vets from the Jordan era were left on-board. 

A never-ending series of hits and misses

From being the bully of the league, the Bulls became the baby team. They brought in another talented rookie in Jamal Crawford to fill for Kukoc, but he too left in 2004. In Feb 2002, Krause sent Metta World Peace, Brad Miller, and Ron Mercer to Pacers, for Jalen Rose (who later left in 2003).

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As luck would have it, in 2002, they even missed out on drafting Yao Ming, and instead, got Jay Williams. The latter’s NBA career came to a tragic end after a motorcycle crash forced his retirement in the rookie year. 

In the middle of all this chaos, Bill Cartwright joined as the coach and Charles Oakley was called back into the team. Next up, Jerry Krause vacated his position, citing health issues. Former franchise player John Paxson filled his position and started working on the rebuilding. As a result, the Bulls finally after six years in 2005. 

Fast forward to today, the Bulls are still far from the glorious days and still looking for that 7th championship win.

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Read also – What Makes NBA Legend Michael Jordan the Golden Man of Successful Businesses?

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Sourabh Singh

1123 articles

Sourabh Singh is an NBA sports analyst for EssentiallySports, who has been working with the site since May 2020. Prior to this, he functioned as Managing Editor at WittyFeed, followed by a stint at Decathlon. The Sports Management graduate leads an active lifestyle, veering to the mountains for off-trail adventures.

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