An excerpt from an infobox titled Is There Life After Mike? from an old Sports Illustrated circa 1993:


Yes, the Michael Jordan-less Chicago Bulls will still field a team this season, but if the history of other superstar retirements is any guide, they could be in for a fall.


Bill Russell, Celtics

Final Season: 48-34, Won Championship
Postretirement Season: 34-48, Missed playoffs


Wilt Chamberlain, Lakers
Final Season: 60-22, Lost NBA Finals
Postretirement Season: 47-35, Lost first round


Julius Erving, 76ers
Final Season: 45-37, Lost first round
Postretirement Season: 36-46, Missed playoffs


Magic Johnson, Lakers
Final Season: 58-24, Lost NBA Finals
Postretirement Season: 43-39, Lost first round


Larry Bird, Celtics
Final Season: 51-31, Lost second round
Postretirement Season: 48-34, Lost first round


LeBron James, Cavaliers
Final Season: 61-21, Lost second round
“Postretirement” Season: 19-63, Missed playoffs


Michael Jordan, Bulls
Final Season: 57-25, Won Championship
Postretirement Season: 55-27, Lost second round


Join the conversation! 7 Comments

  1. The only thing I will say about the Jordan Postretirement season is look at who the Bulls added when Jordan left. Chicago added Toni Kukoc, Bill Wennington, and Steve Kerr while retaining their Championship team. When Lebron left, multiple players left and/or were injured. Cavs lost Big Z, Shaq, and Delonte West. They added Baron Davis but he only played 15 games. When Hickson and Jamison are your best players, you’re not going back to the ECF. I like Lebron, but I hate when people use this “fact” out of it’s proper context to assess the value and contribution of Lebron when he left the Cavs vs Jordan leaving the Bulls.

    • Kukoc, Wennington and Kerr? None of them were more than average in 1993-94.

      Chicago’s “Big 3” that season was Pippen, Grant and Armstrong – all three of which were All-Stars that year.

      But, of course, the Bulls in 1993-94 were mostly about Scottie Pippen putting up a season only put up by 4 other players in NBA history (Bird, Wilt, KG and Oscar Robertson).

      22 PTS, 8.7 REB, 5.6 AST, 2.9 STLS on 49.1 percent shooting and a 23.2 PER.

      So the point is that Scottie played like a superstar, so he could carry a team like one even without Jordan. And, of course, LeBron never had the luxury of such a capable teammate in Cleveland.

      To approximate the impact of losing James, Chicago would’ve had to lose both Jordan & Pippen. That’s how much LBJ does for his teams – when you lose him you lose your best scorer, your best passer, your best defender and sometimes your best rebounder. When Chicago lost Michael, they only lost their best scorer (it’s debatable if MJ was a better defender than Pippen at that stage of his career).

  2. […] is an addition to a previous installment (v0.2: Bulls After MJ). It was inspired by a comment below it left by a reader, […]

  3. I’m not debating that Pippen carried the team that year. I’m not debating that Lebron was BY FAR their best player in multiple statistical areas. My only point of contention is that the info presented in the original post paints a picture of ONLY Lebron leaving and the entire team has been in ther crapper ever since. The first year after Lebron left, the Cavs were effectively dismantled. When Jordan left the 1st time, the Championship team was mostly intact. It is not even debatable that “Pippn’s” Bulls were a more complete and better coached team than “Lebron’s” Cavs. What did the 1999 Bulls look like? That is a more accurate comparison.

    • Why does that matter? How different do you think their record would’ve been if 37 year old Shaq and 35 year old Big Z stayed? 22 wins instead of 19?

      You made my point exactly by bringing up the 1999 Bulls. In order for Chicago to end up like the 2010-11 Cavs they had to dump Jordan, Pippen, Rodman and Jackson.

      In order for the 2009-10 Cavs to end up like the 1999 Bulls they only had to dump LeBron.

  4. *Sigh* Oversimplification. “only had to dump Lebron” Ok. Let’s ignore that Mo Williams played less than 40 games. Varejao played less than 35 games. Jamison only played 56 games. Baron Davis played 15 fricking games. Shaq avg’d 12pts, 6.7reb and had the 2nd highest PER on the Cavs. Again, I’m not debating the Greatness of Lebron (He is the best and has been for some time) but it is still misleading to simply say that the Cavs “only” lost Lebron. The team was dismantled, decimated by injuries and tanked to get high draft picks. 1994 Bulls were not dismantled. They were not decimated by injury and they were mostly intact from their championship run. Not the same thing.

    • Listen. First of all, Mo Williams played 58 games. Varejao played 31 games. The Cavs were 8-23 with Varejao in the lineup to start the year.

      Cleveland was already well into their infamous losing streak with both Mo and Varejao in the lineup. They were 8-27 when Varejao went out for the last time. And during that time their main 5 wasn’t much different from a lineup you’d see on the floor from the Cavs from the year before, except instead of LeBron they had Jamario Moon.

      PG – Mo Williams
      SG – Anthony Parker
      SF – Jamario Moon (LeBron James)
      PF – Antawn Jamison/JJ Hickson
      C – Andersen Varejao

      And they also brought over Ramon Sessions.

      That team really didn’t start to fall apart personnel-wise until after it already started to become obvious that they were going to be historically bad.

      But you’re kind of missing the point, which is that LeBron had the ability to take a team without any of those guys to the NBA Finals. No Mo Williams, no Shaq, no Jamison. His #2 and #3 guys were Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden.

      So, again, IT DOESN’T MATTER WHO WOULD’VE STAYED ON THE CAVS – they weren’t getting anywhere remotely close to the 60+ wins they had with LeBron the year prior. They could’ve brought in Kevin Durant and they still wouldn’t have come within 2 wins of the previous year’s record (like Pippen and co. did in 1994).

      Yes, James, essentially, was responsible for elevating them to an elite level by himself.

      Why can LeBron do that and not Michael Jordan?

      Because Jordan couldn’t physically do as many things on the basketball court. He wasn’t big enough or strong enough. He can’t be the best big in the game on command. He can’t turn into the best Power Forward in the game on one possession and then transform into the best Point Guard in the game on the next. In some games LeBron is often the best player at every single position – depending on who he’s playing he can be the best PG, SG, SF, PF and C on the floor, offensively AND defensively. That is not an exaggeration.

      In other words, James can absolutely carry a team very far by himself because he does absolutely everything from point guard to center – any hole a team has, he can fill it.

      Michael Jordan is not that guy. He could not carry teams far by himself. He could not step in at PF if Horace Grant went down.

      Michael Jordan could not win 60 games with any of the teams LeBron had in Cleveland.

      Michael Jordan could not win 50 games with the team LeBron had in 2007.

      LBJ doesn’t need a Pippen and a Jackson to win 60 games or go to the Finals… he just needs guys that he has a good rapport with – they don’t even have to be that good.

      So the Cavs were in fact “dismantled” the moment LeBron uttered “take my talents to South Beach.”

      So I will say it again… James leaving – just him – is the equivalent of Chicago losing Jordan, Pippen, Grant/Rodman because teams end up relying on LeBron to cover all of those bases by himself, because he does.


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