Like Jordan, Dan Majerle knew Bulls GM Jerry Krause loved him
Michael Jordan found a way to hate each of his opponents. The Phoenix Suns were no different.
The sixth episode of “The Last Dance,” which aired Sunday, covered the Suns’ meeting with Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the 1993 NBA Finals, and Jordan revealed what he used as personal bulletin board material heading into the matchup.
That material came easily thanks to Jordan’s and fellow Bulls star Scottie Pippen’s distaste of their own general manager.
“I knew (Bulls GM) Jerry Krause loved Dan Majerle, and just because Krause liked him, that was enough for me,” Jordan says of the Suns guard in the latest episode. “You think he’s a great defensive player? OK, fine. I’m gonna show you that he’s not.”
Majerle can confirm Krause had a thing for him.
The former Suns guard caught the latest episode of “The Last Dance” on Sunday, and he knew he might become Jordan fodder in the virtual space, nearly three decades after losing to the Bulls in the NBA Finals.
“I was nervous,” Majerle told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta. “He dogged a few people, and I hoped he wasn’t going to find a way to dog me and he did. He proved himself right.
“I couldn’t guard him. I didn’t need help from Jerry Krause, so that was a problem.”
Jordan averaged 41 points per game as the Bulls used a John Paxson three to bury the Suns in Game 6, and that mark stands as the all-time record for an NBA Finals series.
How did Majerle get the sense Krause was a fan of his?
A star at Central Michigan, Majerle was invited to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament before the NBA Draft. The event for lesser-known players, like those at smaller schools, was a chance for Majerle to showcase his skills in front of NBA scouts and executives.
“Before that tournament, it got to me that Krause kind of wanted me to tank the tournament and not play well for me to be available in the later rounds for Chicago to pick me up and draft me,” Majerle recalled. “That was the thing that I had gotten from him.
“I went out and ended up being the MVP in Portsmouth and played really well — one of the reasons why I got drafted really high (14th overall) to the Suns.”
Krause’ apparent infatuation with Majerle turned up in the news cycle years later. In 1995, in what turned out to be one of the last chances for the Suns to make a deep postseason run with a similar core, trade rumors linked Majerle to the Bulls’ disgruntled star, Pippen.
The whispers hit a high point during All-Star weekend, which happened to be in Phoenix. Pippen, who was unhappy with the Bulls and trying to force Chicago’s hand, threw gas on the fire by mentioning Majerle’s name and the rumors to reporters.
“I just remember that whole weekend there were all these discussions about trades and Scottie Pippen,” Majerle said. “It kind of ruined my weekend.”
No trade ever came up between the two teams. Phoenix never got over the hump after the 1993 series against Chicago, falling to the eventual-champion Houston Rockets in the 1994 and 1995 playoffs.
As for the 1993 finals series, Majerle didn’t get the sense that Jordan was using Krause’s crush on Majerle as motivation.
Jordan was always playing with a sharp desire to destroy his opponents, and that’s why Majerle holds him in the highest of regards.
“He was motivated to play well,” Majerle said. “Obviously, that three-peat was obviously something he wanted very bad. He was that type of player.
“That’s why I’m so glad this documentary has come out. Everybody talks about LeBron and Kobe, who are unbelieveable, but to me Jordan was the best player to play. When he put his mind to something and he wanted to take over a game, he did it and there wasn’t anything anybody could do.”