As usual Jerry Reinsdorf failed to read the room. The Chicago Bulls are looking at a second-consecutive appearance in the Play-in Tournament, rounding out yet another rebuild on its disappointing last leg. Now is not the time to force more nostalgia on the fans, reminding them of an era many of them feel ended prematurely. Seeing who many still blame for the destruction of the Bulls’ dynasty—former general manager Jerry Krause — was not going to end well.
On Friday night the Bulls debuted their Ring of Honor. The Dallas Cowboys have the most famous one, because they induct players and other legendary members of the franchise into it as opposed to retiring numbers. The Bulls already have four retired numbers—Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Bob Love and Jerry Sloan—along with banners that honor Phil Jackson and Krause.
This new ring is more like Chicago’s Hall of Very Good. The initial inductees are everyone with a banner, from Chet Walker, Artis Gilmore, Dennis Rodman Toni Kukoč, Tex Winter, Dick Klein, to the entire 1995-96, 72-10 NBA championship team. When the late Krause’s name and image appeared on the scoreboard a chorus of boos erupted. The full ugliness of the moment came into focus with live footage on the scoreboard, and television broadcast, of Ron Harper comforting Krause’s widow who was in tears.
Of course it’s a bad look for fans to boo a dead man in front of his widow. The ‘90s Bulls are not walking through that door. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen literally didn’t even show up to the United Center for the ceremony. However, the honoring of Krause did not go well the first time. After the team pleaded in advance with Chicago fans in 2003 to not boo when they had a ceremony dedicated to only him and raised his banner, he received a mix of applause and jeers.
That was when fans’ wounds were fresh from the breakup of the Jordan-led Bulls, and also the team had still not returned to the playoffs five seasons later. In 2024, Bulls fans’ most recent memories of Krause are Jordan, Pippen, Jackson, and Reinsdorf throwing him under the bus throughout a 10 hour documentary. A whole new generation who did not read the sports section of the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune in the summer of 1997, wondering if the Bulls would remain intact, were influenced to dislike Krause.
So 25 years after the Bulls’ last championship, once again Reinsdorf leaves Krause to take all of the arrows. Reinsdorf took the credit in The Last Dance for convincing Jackson to return for another season and also discussed how enamored Krause was with who would be the team’s head coach for the 1998-99 season, Tim Floyd.
That is how the documentary began. What follows is Scottie Pippen acting unprofessionally at the time because of his hatred of Krause, and Jordan vowing to destroy any player who the Bulls GM ever paid a compliment.
The doc aired during the COVID spring of 2020, giving it a captive audience of locked-down sports fans and making it beloved. It will forever be the public’s lasting memory of the man who constructed two rosters of players who best played alongside Jordan and won three-peated, twice. In the wake of that, Reinsdorf came up with an ode to the past that nobody asked for, and invited Krause’s wife to sit front and center in what he had to know would be hostile territory.
Guess who was not inducted into this new ring of honor: Jerry Reindsdorf. The MC of the ceremony was beloved former play by play announcer Neil Funk. Reinsdorf lit the fuse from the sideline and watched it burn.
Fans cannot be controlled. There are thousands of them in an arena drinking alcohol and bonding over their irrational love of a logo, arrangement of colors and civic pride. Stacy King can say on the broadcast that Bulls fans are better than those who booed Krause’s image, but I recall being in the United Center during the Heatles era. Dwyane Wade came up gimpy on a play, and fans cheered.
All that can be done with them is throw them out for offensive language, unacceptable conduct in the stands, and any attempt to engage with the players other than a high-fives, and requests for an autograph and/or selfie. What good leadership is supposed to do is to have forethought.
Reinsdorf knows what he, Jordan, Jackson and Pippen said about Krause in a documentary that millions of people watched. He should also be well aware of how Chicago sports fans currently feel about the franchises that he owns.
Instead, Reinsdorf did not even appear before the fans at the ceremony and a widow was forced to endure the jeers, many of which were directed at him as well as his deceased human shield. It’s another awful example of the type of leadership that Reinsdorf has brought to Chicago for more than 40 years.