The Last Dance spoilers follow (and certain facts may be covered in later episodes of the documentary).
Zero interest in basketball is no barrier to enjoying The Last Dance, a documentary about the majesty of Michael Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls.
The Netflix miniseries, which airs weekly, charts both the rise and dominance of MJ during a golden era for the Bulls, and the key individuals around him who enabled the NBA legend and, in turn, the team, to thrive.
Millions watching will already be well acquainted with all of the on-court drama and the various rumblings behind the scenes. But for those who have a limited knowledge, there are certain strands of the story which will undoubtedly pique your interest more than others.
Jerome Krause, known to everyone as Jerry, falls into that category.
He was the general manager of the Bulls from 1985 to 2003 and was responsible for creating the perfect alchemy of players and coaching staff that would enable the team to win, and then win some more.
During his time at the Bulls, the team stormed to six NBA championships in eight years.
Krause did that by building the team around Jordan, who arrived at the Bulls a year prior to him, drafting in the likes of Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, who both feature prominently in the documentary, among others.
Krause was also the one who brought in Phil Jackson as assistant coach in 1987, before promoting him to head coach in 1989.
But despite the part that he played in the Bulls’ success, all we’ve seen of Krause so far is archive footage, in contrast with the other central figures included in the series.
So, what happened after the cameras stopped rolling?
In March 2017, Krause passed away, aged 77, leaving behind his wife Thelma, his two children Stacy and David, and four grandchildren.
Jerry Krause, GM of the Bulls for their six title teams, passed away this afternoon at age 77, a member of the family told the Tribune. RIP
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) March 21, 2017
The Chicago Tribune reported that he had been struggling with osteomyelitis – a painful bone infection – and other health issues.
«Jerry was a key figure in the Bulls’ dynasty and meant so much to the Bulls, White Sox and city of Chicago,» said Jordan in a statement. «My heartfelt condolences go out to his wife, Thelma, his family and friends.»
Before his time at the Bulls, Krause scouted for NBA organisations and Major League Baseball teams, including the Chicago White Sox, which is also owned by Bulls’ owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
It was his work there which landed him the job as general manager.
In statement to Trib, MJ on Krause: «Jerry was key figure in the Bulls’ dynasty and meant so much to the Bulls, White Sox & city of Chicago»
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) March 21, 2017
Former Bulls’ coach Phil Jackson described him as «a man determined to create a winning team in Chicago», going on to say that he was «known as «The Sleuth» for his secrecy, but it was no secret that be built the dynasty in Chicago».
During his time at the Bulls, Krause also won the NBA’s Executive of the Year on two occasions, and in 2017, the year he died, he was a finalist for the Basketball Hall of Fame.
He was included in the class posthumously.
He retired as GM of the Bulls in 2003, just five games short of the end of that season.
«The rigours and stress of the job have caused me some minor physical problems in the past few years,» he said in team statement. «Those problems can be eliminated if I lessen my load for a while and concentrate on overcoming them.»
But the team had struggled to hit winning form following the departures of Jordan, Pippen and Jackson, indicating to many that his departure was a tactical directive from the top.
In The Last Dance, Krause is positioned as the villain of the piece, a ruthless executive who didn’t wobble in the face of confrontation if it meant getting results. You’d think, then, that Jordan would have liked and identified with him given that he, too, was driven to win at all costs.
But the pair clashed. One particular comment from Krause – «Players and coaches alone don’t win championships; organisations win championships» – rubbed Jordan up the wrong way.
Krause was given the nickname «crumbs» by Jordan and the rest of the team, not meant as a term of endearment, but a comment on his fondness for doughnuts, designed to mock his physical appearance.
Pippen, too, felt disrespected by Krause following the GM’s repeated attempts to trade him, and Jackson also didn’t appreciate Krause’s efforts to move him on and rebuild the team under a new coach.
But Jason Hehir, director of Last Dance, argued (via NBC Sports) that Krause shouldn’t be perceived as the big bad.
«I think that he was the architect of this, and like him or not, he’s polarising, but he was the architect of these teams. Every single piece that was put in place besides Michael was put there by Jerry Krause. Anyone that felt that we were deliberately vilifying him is absolutely wrong.
«It’s just really tough because we tried to use as much archival from him as we had, and Jerry passed away four months before we started shooting. He was first on my list, literally, to interview because he was so vital to this entire storyline, but he’s not there anymore.»
He added: «I do feel like he doesn’t get enough credit. As the series goes on, I am confident that he gets his due by the time we end episode 10; that people will recognise what a great GM he was.
«But yeah, that’s something that does hurt me when people say that because that was our intention. We were just giving the facts as they were at the time.»
The Last Dance is available to stream now on Netflix.
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