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Luc Longley is an engaging speaker on many topics, but he has always been guarded when talking about Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the other big personalities he played alongside for three championships at the Chicago Bulls.
While he is always cautious to avoid having his quotes on those Bulls luminaries turned into clickbait headlines, there is a brief moment late in a new documentary series about Longley’s pioneering basketball career that puts his time at the Bulls in context.
A new documentary is about to be released, charting Luc Longley’s career in the NBA, in particular his time alongside Michael Jordan at the Chicago Bulls.Credit: Jason South/AP
Over four parts, Luc Longley: Foundations provides a perspective that was sorely missing from The Last Dance; the documentary series that became a world phenomenon in 2020, but failed to feature Longley, an omission Jordan later apologised for.
In his typically considered way, Longley explains why he believes now-deceased Bulls general manager Jerry Krause was “vilified to a certain extent” by the way he was depicted in Last Dance as the man who broke up the Bulls and denied Jordan and co the chance to chase one more title.
Krause was the man who recruited, drafted and traded for the majority of Chicago teams that won three NBA titles in the early 1990s and three more during Longley’s years in the late 1990s.
In The Last Dance, Jordan, Pippen and coach Phil Jackson – who all feuded with Krause during their years at the Bulls – blamed him for the team breaking up after their last title in the 1997-98 season.
“Here is what I will say – I think Jerry did an amazing job of putting that group together and keeping that group together, and he has been vilified to a certain extent, and I don’t support that,” Longley said.
“He always did, what I thought, was the right thing by me and by most people. I understand everyone’s circumstances are different.
“I think what would have ruined the Bulls is to limp through the next season with a carcass of who we were and not play beautiful basketball.
“For me, to end on such a crescendo [was ideal]. No, I don’t think Jerry Krause ruined the Bulls, I think the timing was perfect.”
Luc Longley and Michael Jordan pictured in 1997.Credit: Reuters
Given his reputation as one of the fiercest competitors in basketball history, it’s unsurprising that Jordan would think he and his Bulls teammates from 1997-98 could have found a way to push for another title if they’d been allowed one more season together. But there’s also an argument that the group was exhausted and, irrespective of Krause’s intervention, would have succumbed to the ravages of time, fatigue and the lure of bigger contracts elsewhere.
Where The Last Dance introduced millions of NBA fans to the feats of the Jordan-era Bulls and the follow-up on ABC TV’s Australian Story re-introduced Australia to Longley, Foundations is a tightly edited sprint through the Australian’s beginnings and his NBA years with a stack of highlights from his early years in Minnesota and his Bulls years. Some of those early highlights may have never been seen in Australia and are a treat to watch.
After taking time away from basketball when his career ended because of ongoing ankle issues, Longley has found the perfect legacy role in the game, first as an assistant coach of the Australian Boomers under previous coach Andrej Lemanis and now in his current role as an advisor and part-owner of the Sydney Kings, who have won the past two NBL championships and sent several players to the NBA.
His experience at the Bulls remains an engrossing tale, even 25 years after the last title and more than three years after The Last Dance swept the world.
Luc Longley: Foundations will premiere on the NBA App and NBA.com on Wednesday morning.
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