Bulls hit low: Aftermath of ‘The Last Dance’

Delfin Dioquino
Bulls hit low: Aftermath of ‘The Last Dance’

Getty Images/AFP

While 'The Last Dance' gave Michael Jordan and his crew a storybook ending, it also saw the beginning of a grueling decline the Bulls had to endure

MANILA, Philippines – “The Last Dance” marked the end of an era as Michael Jordan and several key players of the dynastic Chicago Bulls left the franchise. 

While “The Last Dance” gave Jordan and his crew a storybook ending to their time with the storied franchise, it also saw the beginning of a grueling decline the Bulls had to endure for seasons to come. 

Here are moments that followed the Bulls’ breakup: 

Major revamp

The core of the Bulls’ second three-peat went their separate ways after their 1998 title, paving the way for general manager Jerry Krause to push through with the rebuild he had planned years before. 

Michael Jordan retired from the NBA for the second time, Scottie Pippen, Luc Longley, and Steve Kerr were traded, Dennis Rodman was released, while Phil Jackson took a break from coaching. 

The only players left from that 1998 championship team were Toni Kukoc, Ron Harper, Bill Wennington, and other role players.

Jackson was replaced by Tim Floyd, the former Iowa State Cyclones head coach Krause had courted a year ago. 

As the Bulls underwent a major revamp, they gradually plunged to obscurity. 

From securing the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference a season ago, the Bulls finished with a 13-37 card – the third-worst record in the league – in the lockout-shortened 1998-1999 campaign. 

The silver lining to that poor campaign was the Bulls winning the lottery in the 1999 NBA Draft as they acquired future All-Stars Elton Brand and Ron Artest with the No. 1 and No. 16 picks, respectively. 

Brand won Rookie of the Year in the 1999-2000 season with averages of 20.1 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks, while Artest made the All-Rookie Second Team with norms of 12.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.7 steals.

However, the two rookies’ impressive numbers did not translate to team success as the Bulls wound up with a 17-65 slate – the second-worst record in the NBA just above the Los Angeles Clippers. 

It can be argued that the Bulls had a worse campaign in the 1999-00 season than the previous one considering they played 32 more games but ended up with an inferior win percentage of .207. 

Two years since their last title, the Bulls either released or traded other members of their championship team in Kukoc, Harper, and Wennington.

Slight improvement

After the Bulls hit a new low following the 2000-2001 season that saw them compile a franchise-worst 15-67 record, Krause made moves in the offseason. 

The Bulls traded Elton Brand to the Los Angeles Clippers to acquire the rights to No. 2 pick Tyson Chandler and used their No. 4 pick on Eddy Curry – two big men who went directly to the NBA from high school. 

An aging Charles Oakley returned to the Bulls, the team that drafted him in 1985, while 2000 Most Improved Player Jalen Rose joined the struggling franchise in the middle of the 2001-2002 season through a trade. 

Rose posted a career-high 23.8 points on top of 5.3 assists and 4.1 rebounds in 30 games that season, but the Bulls barely improved and missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year with a 21-61 record. 

Adding drama to their dreadful year, Floyd resigned in the middle of the season and was replaced by Bill Cartwright, a member of the Bulls’ first three-peat.

The Bulls saw a glimmer of hope in the 2002-2003 season as they hiked their record to 30-52 for 12th place in the Eastern Conference – the first time in 5 years they did not finish at 15th and last place. 

Jay Williams, the Bulls’ No. 2 pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, proved to be a promising guard after posting 9.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.6 rebounds in his rookie year, while Rose remained the main offensive threat. 

Young guns Jamal Crawford, Curry, and Chandler all raised their numbers from previous seasons with the Bulls. 

The Bulls were expected to head to another direction with John Paxson – the Bulls’ point guard during their first 3 title runs – taking over as general manager following the resignation of Krause. 

Freak accident

Williams had a budding NBA career ahead of him, but his life was dealt a mighty blow after he suffered multiple injuries from a motorcycle crash. 

Torn ligaments on his left knee left Williams unable to walk on his own, and in result, the Bulls drafted point guard Kirk Hinrich with their No. 7 pick in the star-studded 2003 NBA Draft that was headlined by LeBron James. 

Williams missed the entire season and never played in an NBA game again despite his efforts of a comeback. 

Chicago icon and six-time NBA champion Pippen returned to the Bulls for his last year in the league during the 2003-2004 season, but not even his presence could revitalize the franchise. 

The Bulls sacked Cartwright after an unimpressive start and replaced him with Scott Skiles, the NBA record-holder for most assists in a game with 30. 

For the sixth straight season, the Bulls missed the playoffs after amassing a 23-59 record for 14th place in the Eastern Conference. 


Under a new leadership, the Bulls turned their fortunes around in the 2004-2005 season as they ended their playoff drought with the acquisition of rookies Ben Gordon and Luol Deng in the draft. 

The Bulls nabbed Gordon with the No. 3 pick and agreed to a trade with the Phoenix Suns for No. 7 pick Deng. 

Gordon won the Sixth Man of the Year that season with per game counts of 15.1 points and 2.6 rebounds, while Deng normed 11.7 points and 5.3 rebounds as they helped the Bulls compile a 47-35 record for 4th place in the East. 

Paxson cleaned house in the next two seasons by trading Curry and Chandler – transactions that helped the Bulls reach the conference semifinals in the 2006-2007 season, where they lost to the Detroit Pistons in 6 games. 

However, a Paxson move that was criticized seasons after was his decision to trade seven-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, the Bulls’ No. 2 pick in 2006 NBA Draft, to the Portland Trail Blazers for Tyrus Thomas and Victor Khryapa. 

The team made it right in the 2007 and 2008 NBA Drafts by drafting Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose, respectively, as they helped turn the Bulls into an Eastern Conference powerhouse. 

Rose went on to become the youngest player in NBA history to win the Most Valuable Player award at 22 years old, while Noah captured the Defensive Player of the Year plum in 2014. 

The Bulls also had a solid supporting cast in Deng, Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Taj Gibson, and Omer Asik, among other. 

However, the Bulls – despite finishing within the top two in the East from 2010 to 2015 – failed to clinch the ultimate prize no thanks to Rose succumbing to injuries and LeBron James ruling the East. 

After reaching the conference finals in the 2010-2011 season, Rose suffered a torn ACL and the Bulls never lived up to their potential. (READ: The Lost Dance: How Chicago missed out on its 7th NBA title) – Rappler.com

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.