The Chicago Bulls went from world beaters to NBA cellar-dwellers after General Manager Jerry Krause had his wish fulfilled and the franchise underwent a rebuild.
After securing their sixth NBA championship in eight years, the team was dismantled with Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson stepping away from the game as Scottie Pippen, Steve Kerr and Dennis Rodman were moved on.
The stunning fall from grace saw the Bulls finish the shortened 1998/99 season with the third worst record in the league and they've remained in the NBA abyss for a vast majority of the time since Jordan hung up his famous shoes.
Aussie Chris Anstey found himself in Chicago ahead of the 1999/00 season after being traded from the Dallas Mavericks and opened up on life in the post-MJ era as well as detailing a story from when the GOAT returned and put a rookie in his place.
Anstey said the season with the Bulls felt like he was “wading through a demolition site” as the franchise struggled to move past the countless years of success.
“The Michael Jordan era was amazing, and its’ shadow loomed over the Bulls franchise for years after he cleared his locker for the final time,” he wrote on Facebook.
“When it comes to a house, you either renovate or rebuild … the thing is, people rarely demolish beautiful, sound homes. In my year at the Chicago Bulls, I never felt that I was a part of a rebuild. I felt like I was a part of a team that was wading through a demolition site.
“The actual team felt as temporary as a site manager’s portable office on that site.
“Everyone was given an opportunity to stand out, myself included, but it was often done at the expense of others, not in alignment with them, and at the expense of the group. If players did not improve, they were replaced, not developed.”
The Bulls haven’t tasted success since the MJ BullsSource:Getty Images
The Bulls for the second straight season failed to record over 20 wins as they slumped to 17-65 and once again last in the Eastern Conference standings.
Despite the lowly finish, Anstey says he grew throughout the season.
“There are few highlights that come from a 17-65 year, but there were lessons. Plenty of lessons,” he wrote.
In all of the ups and downs however, the biggest lesson Anstey learnt came on the training court at the hands of arguably the greatest player of all time. As the team struggled without leadership, second year player Corey Benjamin assumed the MJ role and wasn't afraid to let everyone know just how good he was.
“We started the season 0-5 and Benjamin had logged very few minutes. Not only was he vocal in his belief he deserved more minutes, he went as far as to say that he could beat anyone in the world 1-on-1, including Michael Jordan,” Anstey wrote.
“Word got back to Jordan that a young kid on the team had been running his mouth.
“We had just finished a training session after returning from a road trip, and in strolls Michael Jordan. Basketball in hand, he walked straight up to Benjamin who was shooting on a side rim: ‘I heard you’ve been running your mouth. You and me, let’s go.’”
Jordan had been out of the game for over a year when he decided to walk into the gym and despite having 15 years on Benjamin, the GOAT's aura rattled him.
“Corey Benjamin is an incredible athlete, and an exceedingly confident human being. At that moment, he was the furthest thing from it. ‘Um, shoot for it?’” Anstey wrote.
“‘Look around you. What do you see? See all those championship banners? They’re mine. It’s my ball.’ And it was.
“Michael Jordan, wearing long sweat pants and a cut off T-shirt, proceeded to give Corey Benjamin a clinic as our team and staff watched on.
“He scored in so many ways even after being out for over a year.
“His trash talk was as good as his game.
“‘You reach, I teach’ as he shot a turnaround jump shot. ‘Come on down here with me’ as he maneuvered Benjamin to the block.”
Jordan let Benjamin know he shouldn't overstep his mark with one final ruthless sledge: “'Don’t call me out of retirement for that garbage again’”.
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