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Sunday, January 14, 2024

Classless Chicago Fans Tarnish Bulls' Inaugural Ring of Honor Ceremony by Booing Jerry Krause

On Friday night, the Chicago Bulls held their inaugural Ring of Honor ceremony, inducting Artis Gilmore, Johnny "Red" Kerr, Dick Klein (the team's first owner and general manager), Bob "Butterbean" Love, Jerry Sloan, Chet "The Jet" Walker, Jerry Krause, Tex Winter, Phil Jackson, Toni Kukoc, Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen, and Michael Jordan. What should have been an event brimming with joyful nostalgia was tarnished when Chicago fans booed lustily after Krause's name was announced. Krause's widow Thelma, in attendance to accept the honor, cried at the disrespect, and was immediately comforted by other honorees and retired Bulls players. 

There is a proper time and place to express displeasure regarding Krause's role in ending the Bulls' dynasty, but a ceremony honoring him for his significant contributions to building the Bulls' dynasty is not that time or place, particularly considering that Krause died several years ago and thus his widow felt the brunt of the fans' senseless hatred. I don't want to hear excuses about fans being too young to remember Krause, or fans booing without knowing why just because other fans booed. If other people jumped off of a cliff would you follow them, or would you assess the situation and draw conclusions? Of course, that question presumes that the people who booed have functioning brains, which is far from certain. 

When your team honors the people who gave their blood, sweat, and tears to make your team great, you cheer. This is not complicated.

I have written about Krause many times. I am not his biggest fan, but I respect what he accomplished--and anyone who has any knowledge of basketball history respects what he accomplished. An objective, detached take on Krause's legacy is that he deserves a lot of credit for building the Bulls' dynasty, and a lot of blame for breaking up the Bulls' dynasty, as I explained in my obituary for Krause:  

In 1998, I was furious at Krause for destroying something so beautifully artistic and so competitively fierce.

Nearly 20 years later, I am still puzzled and saddened by what Krause did but I also appreciate what he accomplished--not just with the Bulls but over the span of his life. Those who knew him well say that he was a loyal friend with a good heart. Ultimately, that is how he should be remembered--and, despite his gruff demeanor at times and despite his mistake in breaking up the Bulls, there is no doubt that Krause belongs in the Basketball Hall of Fame. It is a shame that if he ever is inducted he will not be around to enjoy that most deserved honor.

After Krause was inducted posthumously in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017, I assessed his legacy: 

I was as baffled and upset as anyone by Krause's haste and glee to break up the Bulls so that he could try to build another championship team from scratch but Krause deserves a lot of credit for hiring Phil Jackson as coach and for acquiring key players Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, B.J. Armstrong, Bill Cartwright, Toni Kukoc, Ron Harper and Dennis Rodman. An NBA executive's job is to win games and championships; by that standard, Krause is one of the most accomplished executives in pro basketball history.

"The Last Dance" told the story of the Chicago Bulls' dynasty from Michael Jordan's perspective, and to a large extent made Krause a villain for a generation of fans too young to remember the 1990s. Krause resigned from the Bulls in 2003 after his post-dynasty plan failed woefully, but it should never be diminished or forgotten that Krause's Chicago teams won six NBA titles (1991-93, 1996-98). Jordan did not win a playoff series as a player before Krause arrived in Chicago, and Jordan did not win a playoff series in his two years playing for the Washington Wizards; in 18 years as an owner/executive, Jordan's teams only made the playoffs three times, and did not win a single series. Jordan's 2011-12 Hornets went 7-59, setting the NBA record for worst single season winning percentage. Obviously, being a successful NBA executive is not quite as easy as Jordan thought when he mocked Krause during the Bulls' glory years. Krause's critics say that anyone could have built a championship team around Jordan, but Jordan himself proved for nearly two decades that he was neither capable of finding a great player nor capable of even putting together a team that consistently qualified for the playoffs.

The Bulls' classless fans should be ashamed of booing Krause and tarnishing what should have been a great moment.

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posted by David Friedman @ 11:17 PM



At Monday, January 15, 2024 12:28:00 AM, Blogger JAB128 said...

I don't think it was just Krause. I heard that owner Jerry Reinsdorf didn't want the dynasty to linger on for 10-12 years like the 60's Celtics.

Both were wrong, and they should have let it run it's course, but Krause still was responsible for bringing in the right players around Jordan (and the right coach). MJ doesn't win many titles (if any) without Krause.

At Monday, January 15, 2024 2:08:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


You are correct that both Jerrys share the blame for ending the Bulls' dynasty prematurely, but Krause is the one who made a public comment that "organizations win championships," and Krause is the one who seemed to relish the opportunity to prove that Tim Floyd would be the next Phil Jackson instead of being satisfied with finding and retaining the original Phil Jackson.

If Krause had wanted to keep the team together, I don't think that Reinsdorf would have objected.

Krause felt unappreciated, but the sad reality is that if he had kept the team together--or at least not expressed such unrestrained glee about breaking the team up--he would be thought of much more fondly today. His statement that he would not bring back Phil Jackson even if Jackson went 82-0 is an asinine remark by an otherwise intelligent person.

At Monday, January 15, 2024 5:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Krause's widow deserved better, to be sure, but sports fans tend to be more forgiving of braggadacio in athletes, like, we can stand bragging from the men who actually perform in the arena. We don't mind so much the Muhammad Ali's and Deion Sanderses of the world, men who boast and yet back up every word. Indeed, we get vicarious thrills from their athletic peacocking.

But braggadacio from a little dumpy white guy nicknamed "Crumbs" who wants to take the credit for those six Bulls championships?! FOH! We all know that those championships, every single one, were due to one man more than any other, a man who was there before Jerry Krause got there, one Michael Jeffrey Jordan.

It's unfortunate that Mrs. Krause bore the brunt of fans' resentment of her husband's mismanagement of the Bulls at the end of the 1990s. But Bulls fans' resentment was merited, if classlessly displaced onto the wrong target.

Yeah, Krause was a Hall-of-Fame general manager who put a great coach and team around Jordan. But make no mistake. Jordan was the centerpiece. Bottom line is he was the pivot of those six championships, and yet we all know that in a team sport like basketball, no single man can win six championships alone.

Krause had said "organizations win championships."

Even so, to quote another braggadacio ballplayer who backed up every boast, Jordan was the straw that stirred that six-time championship drink.

A drink which Krause, in the end, spoiled because of hubris. He deserved those boos, but they shouldn't have been directed at his widow.

At Monday, January 15, 2024 7:44:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Jordan's record in playoff games without the supporting cast that Krause built is 1-9.

Jordan had a nearly two decade run as an owner/executive without winning a single playoff series.

I understand your points, and I have made similar points about Krause, but Jordan and his fans/supporters should look at the big picture: Krause played a major role in the Bulls' championships, and he deserves credit for that despite the unseemly way that the dynasty ended. Also, Krause has been dead for several years, so a Ring of Honor ceremony attended by his widow is not the time or place to rehash old grievances. It's not like the Bulls have built anything worth watching since Krause left, so if the Bulls' fans feel like booing then they can boo the sorry product that the organization is putting on the court now instead of booing the widow of the man who built the Bulls' only championship teams.

At Monday, January 15, 2024 10:31:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, Jordan was obviously the best player on those Bulls title teams, but he only wins 1-2 titles at most if that without Krause likely. Without Krause, Jordan wouldn't be considered a top 10 player all time possibly, especially if he wins 2 titles or less. Krause messed up after 1998, but it's always easy to say that in hindsight. Any resentment Bulls fans might feel is primarily because Krause set up the team to win 6 titles in 8 years and that led to unrealistic expectations after that. Bulls fans are delusional overall if they're booing him especially at a celebration and especially since he's dead.

Unfortunately or fortunately depending how you look at it, it's an or all nothing society we live in often. If you win even one title, you're forgiven of everything and/or get a pass for any mistakes you make. I don't subscribe to that theory. And we also have to remember each season is different and not the same in difficulty as other seasons. But there's also exceptions, and I guess Krause is that exception. He did amazing things, but is viewed very poorly overall.

At Wednesday, January 17, 2024 9:14:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

without Krause, MJ still wins as many championships as Dominique

At Wednesday, January 17, 2024 11:00:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good one. It's speculation obviously and not that we expect anyone to win a title without a good cast around them, but if Pippen doesn't develop into an AS-caliber player and Krause isn't able to bring in another player of similar caliber if he doesn't, it's hard to see Chicago winning more than 1-2 titles during the years they won 6 titles, and that's probably generous and definitely not a given. Jordan's fans and probably Jordan himself even moreso are so arrogant and protective of Jordan they can't admit this and want to protect Jordan's legacy at all costs.

At Wednesday, January 17, 2024 6:18:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Same Anonymous who spoke of braggadocio and our vicarious thrills.

I think that Bulls fans have a right to be resentful of Krause, sort-of like how Mavericks fans should be pissed off at Mark Cuban for busting up their championship-winning team after 2011. I think that Krause and Cuban share a similar hubris. Cuban was made stupid by so-called Analytics.

Instead of leaving well enough alone, Krause and Cuban both thought that they could do better than Jordan plus supporting cast on the one hand, Novitzky plus supporting cast on the other. Of course, we must give Cuban and Krause credit for putting together champions, the one as owner and the other as GM. But just as Cuban should have allowed that 2011 team to defend their title, basically intact, so should Krause (and Reinsdorf) have allowed their six-time champion for fight for a seventh.

Cuban deserves boos for denying Novitzky the right to repeat, again, with that 2011 roster intact for 2012. Krause thought he could make lightning strike twice. The fool deserved every boo he got. But I say again I feel sorry for his widow who was the wrong target.

At Wednesday, January 17, 2024 9:43:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I stand by my point that booing the widow of the man who built six championship teams is classless. I agree that Bulls' fans have some reason to be upset with how Krause broke up the team, but that was over 25 years ago, he has been dead for several years, and the Ring of Honor ceremony is not the time or place to express those feelings of being upset.

Regarding Cuban, I agree with you that he has not been as great of an owner as his press clippings suggest--but media members love him and he expresses popular political opinions, so he is always going to receive positive coverage. That being said, if the Mavericks some day place him in a Ring of Honor it would not make sense to boo him (or his family, if he is no longer with us) on that occasion.


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