Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen shared a nemesis: Bulls general manager Jerry Krause.
Jordan and Krause spent years jostling for control of the Bulls and credit for their their success. Unhappy with his contract, Pippen clashed with Krause.
Yet, there’s no easy way to best your own general manager.
So, Jordan and Pippen channeled their resentment for Krause toward other players.
Most infamously, while playing for the Dream Team, Jordan and Pippen aggressively defended Toni Kukoc during the 1992 Olympics. Chicago had drafted Kukoc two years prior, and Krause talked up the Croatian prospect.
Jordan and Pippen also targeted Dan Majerle.
In the 1993 NBA Finals, Jordan attacked the Suns guard.
Jordan in “The Last Dance” documentary on ESPN:
I knew that Jerry Krause loved Dan Majerle. And just because Krause liked him was enough for me. He thinks he’s a great defensive player, but OK, fine. I’m going to show you that he’s not.
I put it in my mindset that, if I don’t do this, then they’re going to consider him on the same level as me. And that motivated me to attack.
Did Krause actually like Dan Majerle? Maybe. Krause was often looking ahead. Majerle was a talented two-way player.
But this also sounds like the type of thing Phil Jackson would play up. A master motivator who had his own issues with Krause, Jackson knew how to reach Jordan and had no qualms painting Krause as the villain.
Always eager to form and hold a grudge – whether over something real or imagined – Jordan torched Majerle. Jordan won his third championship and Finals MVP.
Two years later, Pippen used Majerle, perhaps again playing on Krause’s supposed fondness for the Suns guard.
Upset by trade talks outside his control, Pippen demanded a trade. During the 1995 All-Star Weekend in Phoenix, a rumor emerged Pippen could be dealt to the Suns for Majerle and Wesley Person.
Meeting the press that Friday, Pippen said playing for the Suns would be “paradise,” with Charles Barkley adding, “I’d take Scottie in a minute.”
“I’ve heard the rumors like all of you,” Pippen said to the press on the Friday before the All-Star Game. “People here today were saying Majerle and Person. But I don’t have any substantial evidence.”
The next night, during All-Star Saturday, Pippen went on TNT and practically begged any Western Conference team to trade for him.
Majerle was allegedly so upset by the trade rumor that Suns owner Jerry Colangelo had to personally assuage him.
Majerle, via Richard Evans of the Deseret News:
“It just kind of brought me down for a little bit, because I wanted to concentrate on the All-Star Game and have a fun time, and all the questions I was fielding were mainly about a trade going on. That just took away from the whole All-Star atmosphere for me.”
A week later, the source of the Pippen-Majerle talks was revealed.
“I started it,” Pippen said, as reported by Lee Shappell of The Republic in a column on February 19. “I’ve been kind of stuck with a lot of rumors and speculation all year and I tried to have some fun with it.”
Poor Dan Majerle.
He caught all that grief just for maybe being liked by Jerry Krause.