From the rib shack owner to the 7ft trailblazer who spent $3,000 to name a SHRIMP after his daughter… the world was transfixed by Netflix’s ‘The Last Dance’, but where are Michael Jordan’s team-mates from that final iconic 1998 season now?
- The Chicago Bulls dynasty ended in 1998 after Michael Jordan and Co broke up
- A rebuild was plotted without Phil Jackson but they have not won a title since
- Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman were the stars of that 1998 squad
- With that in mind, what are the 15 players on the 1998 Bulls roster doing now?
To this day it remains one of elite sport’s great injustices.
Fresh off completing a second three-peat, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls had to accept that the ride was over, it was time to get off and go their own way. Coach Phil Jackson called it ‘The Last Dance’ at the start of the season after being told he could win all 82 games and he still wouldn’t carry on.
And so the champions, the greatest team in the game, were disbanded the moment Michael Jordan appeared to freeze time in Game 6 against Utah Jazz to drill home a trademark shot in what became one of the most iconic images of his esteemed career to win his sixth title.
Michael Jordan (left) raises the 1998 NBA Finals trophy alongside head coach Phil Jackson. It was a season dubbed ‘The Last Dance’ as following the title, the team was then disbanded
But while Jordan was a key focus in the recent ESPN/Netflix series ‘The Last Dance’, it raised many questions as to what the rest of the squad are up to these days, more than two decades on.
One is a regular on TV talk shows, others have turned to collegiate-level coaching while another paid almost $3,000 to name a newly-discovered species of shrimp.
Here, Sportsmail looks at where the rest of Jordan’s 1998 Bulls are now…
Michael Jordan – Charlotte Hornets owner
Far and away the best player on the Bulls throughout their two three-peats, it was no coincidence that it was Jordan who sunk the clutch shot against Utah in Game 6 to win the 1998 title.
Since retiring, Jordan has used his millions – it is now billions – to become owner of NBA franchise Charlotte Hornets – they were the Bobcats back in 2006 when the Bulls icon got involved as an investor. He became owner in 2010 having played collegiate basketball in the same state.
They have been to the play-offs just three times in his reign – twice since he became majority owner and have gone out in the first round on every occasion – and his dismal record as an owner has drawn criticism from peers such as Charles Barkley.
Back in March 2012, Barkley said: ‘I think the biggest problem has been I don’t know if he has hired enough people around him who he will listen to. I love Michael, but he just has not done a good job.’
Jordan has never forgiven him and if ‘The Last Dance’ taught viewers anything, it is that the Bulls legend sure knows how to hold a grudge.
In 14 years in Charlotte, Jordan, who reminded viewers of his inability to accept anything other than perfection as a player, has overseen his team put on 464 wins and 651 defeats in the regular season. Ouch.
Michael Jordan was often perfection on court as a player but it is a different story as an owner
He has had the title of owner in Charlotte for 10 years but they have struggled for success
Scottie Pippen – ESPN analyst
While the 1998 Bulls team had the feeling of being shifted out of town, Pippen is one of the few who have been given the boot twice.
Pippen, who saw his No 33 jersey retired by the Bulls, was working for the franchise in an ambassadorial role until earlier this year – but he revealed in April that he was ‘fired’ due to a conflict of interest with his burgeoning media opportunities.
‘I got fired this year,’ Pippen, who was traded to the Houston Rockets after the 1998 season, revealed on the Thuzio Live & Unfiltered podcast. ‘I didn’t really want it to be in the public, but I’m no longer employed by the Bulls.’
It was suggested that his regular appearances on ESPN talk show ‘The Jump’ alongside Rachel Nichols compromised his ambassador role.
It is somewhat ironic that Pippen is now such a prominent face in basketball media having been reserved and quiet with his media duties as a player, at least early in the Bulls’ dynasty.
He grew into his opinion by the 1998 Last Dance but these days, Pippen can often give damning verdicts – sometimes on the Bulls’ – on some of the game’s current top players. It seems as though he certainly didn’t hold back with his opinion of the last dance, either, reportedly being left ‘beyond livid’ at his portrayal in it.
Scottie Pippen (right) was not particularly cosy with the media during his time in Chicago
But Pippen (right) is now an analyst on ESPN debate show ‘The Jump’ with Rachel Nichols (left)
Dennis Rodman – Unofficial ambassador to Kim-Jong Un and CBD advocate
One of the stars of the show thanks to his monstrous defensive performances and even more eye-catching outfits, Rodman certainly didn’t fade into the background – and that has continued in his life away from the court too.
He hit the headlines back in 2013 when he made his first visit to North Korea and its notorious leader Kim Jong Un, a relationship he has maintained to this day.
Rodman also courted controversy in 2006 when he made a guest appearance for the Brighton Bears BBL team. It was unclear whether he held the correct work permit, along with other Americans in the side, but Rodman did impress.
Guildford coach Paul James said: ‘He cemented them defensively and maybe we showed too much respect.’
Dennis Rodman’s (right) wild lifestyle and party culture shone through in ‘The Last Dance’
In more recent times, Rodman has made himself available for personalised messages on the platform Cameo. Asking him to record a birthday greeting or another brief snippet as a gift will set you back £415.
Rodman also went on Mike Tyson’s podcast recently, when he discussed doing karaoke with Kim Jong-Un. ‘He says, “Dennis, we’d love for you to come back. We enjoy your company. So, we’ll have dinner tonight. We’ll have a little karaoke, have some f*****g vodka, hot toddies,”‘ he claimed.
‘We’re getting drunk as s***, stuff like that. He gets up, starts singing karaoke, have no clue what the f*** he’s talking about. Everyone’s clapping.
‘He has this 18-piece women’s band. I mean, these f*****g girls are f*****g hot-hot, and the whole time they played one f*****g song, one song. It was the f*****g theme from Dallas.
‘I go, ‘What the f**k? What is this all about, right?’ I said, ‘Theme from Dallas?’. He said, ‘That’s all we know.”
He has also become an advocate for CBD products at various stages.
Since retiring, he has done a mix of things, including visiting North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un
Steve Kerr – Golden State Warriors head coach
In terms of tangible success since leaving Chicago in ’98, nobody on the entire squad can even come close to competing with Kerr.
The 54-year-old had a brief spell as a General Manager with the Phoenix Suns, working with current Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni and New Orleans Pelicans’ Alvin Gentry, but he has been the Golden State Warriors head coach for six years.
Under his predecessor Mark Jackson, the Warriors were on the cusp of success but Kerr transformed them, led by Stephen Curry and then Kevin Durant, into an unstoppable juggernaut.
Five straight finals appearances – and three wins – has significantly enhanced his legacy to one of the all-time top five coaches in NBA history. He is still hunting for more, too, after a season with his main stars hamstrung by long-term injuries.
He may have been a role player, an ‘overachiever’, with the Bulls but Kerr took his three championships in Chicago, added two more in San Antonio and got three more from the bench with the Warriors. A real success story.
Steve Kerr (right) described himself as an ‘overachiever’ but was key to the Bulls’ Last Dance
These days, Kerr has elevated himself into the pantheon of all-time great coaches with the Golden State Warriors having had five straight trips to the NBA Finals, winning three of them
Keith Booth – Podcaster and ex-High School coach
Booth was fired as a coach at Baltimore’s Dunbar High School in February following ‘an altercation’ between two students and is not in a role currently.
The ‘incident’ between two students, which Booth did not become aware of for weeks, ultimately cost him his role on the Varsity team and a statement on his Twitter page revealed he was ‘deeply saddened and upset’ by his dismissal.
Booth got the title of the youngest player on the 1998 squad having been a first-round draft pick rookie out of Baltimore. He only played a couple of games that season but is not bitter about how The Last Dance panned out for him.
The 45-year-old runs a podcast called ‘Inside Keith’s Booth’.
Until earlier this year, Booth (left) worked as head coach at Dunbar High School, Baltimore
Ron Harper – Charity work with people who have impediments
The first thing to note, and it didn’t really get the coverage it deserved in The Last Dance, is that Ron Harper was a very fine player in his day.
A five-time NBA champion, his early years title in Cleveland as ‘a poor man’s Michael Jordan’ was over-the-top. He had a brief spell as an assistant coach with the Detroit Pistons for two years between 2005-07 but it is charity that has stood Harper out among peers.
One of the more interesting sides to him is that he battled against a speech impediment throughout his career and now spends his time helping those less fortunate.
Harper is an ambassador for Starkey, a foundation which helps people with hearing issues. He also works closely with the Stuttering Foundation and wants kids battling it to embrace it, rather than shame it.
‘It made me stronger,’ he told the foundation. ‘It made me deal with more than most kids do.
‘Till this day I’ve had young kids come and talk to me about their stuttering, and “how did you do it?” I just tell them that everybody ain’t the same. It’s just who I am. I’m not going to go hide.’
Ron Harper (middle) finished his illustrious playing career as a five-time NBA champion
Scott Burrell – Head coach of Southern Connecticut State
While Toni Kukoc, who was wholly underrated in the league while on the Bulls, got recognition and praise in ‘The Last Dance’ for his contributions, particularly in clutch situations, Burrell continually appeared to be on the end of Jordan’s goading, refusing to rise to it or stand up to the team leader like Kerr or Will Perdue had done before him.
One of ‘the nicest men on the planet’ was the assessment and no matter what was berated at him, Burrell kept his cool and that has served him well ever since.
He only spent one season with the Bulls, that final one in ’98, and so he arguably had to work harder to prove to Jordan he was able to ride the rollercoaster all the way to the title.
Burrell has an accomplished CV as a player and is now putting his knowledge of the game to use as a college basketball coach in Connecticut. He grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, and so has an affinity to the state which has never gone away, no matter where he went and played.
He has been the head coach of the Owls at Southern Connecticut State University for five seasons and 73 wins over his first four years made him the college’s most successful basketball coach ever.
Scott Burrell was the subject of many taunts from Jordan during his one season with the Bulls
Nowadays Burrell uses his knowledge as head coach at Southern Connecticut State University
Jud Buechler – New York Knicks assistant coach
What is it with role players from the 1998 side and major coaching positions today?
Shaquille O’Neill said that he doesn’t ‘even know who that is’ when he was quizzed on which former Bulls players could have guarded him at his peak. Jud Buechler is a three-time NBA champion in Chicago and so for Shaq to say that, it shows just how unselfish Buechler was in his role.
Having spent some time away from the game when he retired in 2002 after a season with the Orlando Magic, the 51-year-old was eventually a moth to a flame when it came to the orange ball.
Buechler spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers between 2016-18 before switching over to the same role for the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Currently holed up with his family in San Diego, California, for the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, Buechler has been able to park his coaching hat down and become a fan again as he re-lived the second three-peat in the series.
Jud Buechler (left) seen alongside Jordan (middle) and Kerr (right) after winning the ’97 Finals
Buechler (right) is an assistant coach for the New York Knicks inside Madison Square Garden
Randy Brown – Out of work
‘What time is it?’
‘GAME TIME’ came the response from team-mates.
That was Brown’s role in the team, the pre-game hype man, the loud voice viewers heard time and time again during the pre-game huddle that became a Bulls ritual.
He was a peripheral figure in the 1998 play-offs, however, featuring in 14 games, and just twice in the finals against Utah Jazz.
Despite winding down his career with the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns, Brown was drawn back to Chicago in 2009 as a player development coach, a role he held for two seasons.
Four years later he was the assistant general manager as his stock in the Bulls’ front office soared. In 2015, Brown became an assistant coach under Fred Hoiberg but it all unravelled when he was fired in 2018.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the former Bulls point guard resigned after being asked to take a reduced role amid some tension with players.
Joe Kleine – Co-owner of Corky’s Ribs & BBQ
Look, as much as basketball brought this team incredible success during The Last Dance, throwing themselves into coaching, scouting, media or ownership is not for everyone.
It certainly isn’t for a veteran of that 1998 team – Joe Kleine. He had a stint as a movie star in the film ‘Eddie’ in 1996, playing himself, but it is a much more mouthwatering affair for him now.
These days he is more focused on BBQ ribs and loaded fries as restaurant co-owner of Corky’s Ribs and BBQ.
Kleine is one of three owners, along with Vince Shalamberg and Tommy Hilburn, but is undoubtedly the most decorated.
His Bulls memorabilia adorns the walls of the Little Rock, Arkansas, branch and they now have a second home in Missouri having expanded. Kleine revealed in a recent interview that working in the food business has been on his find since 1996, long before he retired in 2000 as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers.
A mutual friend ran a business called ‘Backyard Burgers’ and had great success.
‘God laughs when you’re playing, but 20 years ago when I was playing I never saw myself running restaurants,’ he told the Torg & Elliott podcast recently.
Joe Kleine (right) was a wily veteran that spent three years with the Bulls from 1997-1999
These days the 6ft11 former center is a co-owner of Arkansas restaurant Corky’s Ribs and BBQ
Toni Kukoc – Special advisor to Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf
There was a lot of anger around Kukoc from Jordan and Pippen heading into the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, but he went on to be a key part of the titles in the second three-peat.
He was an elite shooter, won three championships. (all in that second three-peat) and wrapped up his playing career with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2006 following runs with. the Philadelphia 76ers and the Atlanta Hawks.
Golf, like it was for Jordan and many others on that Bulls squad, went from a hobby to an obsession for Kukoc and in the end he actually found a way to succeed.
In 2011, the former Bulls forward won Croatia’s national amateur championship.
Toni Kukoc became a key player for the Bulls despite early animosity from Jordan and Pippen
The Croatian now lives in Chicago full-time with his family and works in an advisory role for Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf, son of owner Jerry, who appeared in the documentary.
He was brought back by the Bulls in 2015 and was in the same role as Pippen. These days it is just Kukoc and Horace Grant – who, while not being part of The Last Dance squad, last week labelled Jordan ‘a snitch’ as their feud continues.
Given the fact the Bulls have not won a title since the lights went out on The Last Dance in 1998, how the franchise could do with some Kukoc buzzer-beating magic to lift them from 22 years of mediocrity.
Rusty LaRue – Restaurant executive for Dairi-O Restaurants
What do NBA Hall of Famers Jordan, Pippen, Karl Malone and John Stockton have in common? Well, other than being among the best ever to play the sport, they all played with the much lesser known Rusty LaRue.
Now, yes, we’re into the territory where the names become a lot less familiar to casual observers of the Bulls but LaRue was part of the 15-man squad to win that 1998 championship as a rookie.
LaRue wasn’t interviewed for the documentary – more than one member of the side didn’t get spoken to, in fairness – and so his stock among the audience will not have been enhanced amid the series’ incredible success.
He actually stuck around at the Bulls for two more seasons despite the MJ circus leaving town before moving on to CSKA Moscow in Russia. Spells with Utah Jazz and then Golden State Warriors followed before he finally called it a day.
LaRue was struck by tragedy in 2015 when his oldest son Riley was killed in a car crash at the age of 19.
In 2018, LaRue stepped away from basketball and coaching to become the COO of restaurant chain Dairi-O and the former Bulls rookie boasts eight franchises in North Carolina.
Rusty LaRue was a rookie in the Last Dance season and was a peripheral figure in the squad
LaRue (left) now works as chief operating officer for restaurant chain Dairi-O in North Carolina
Luc Longley – Assistant coach on Australian national basketball team
Like LaRue, Longley, who has a dedicated legion of fans if social media is anything to go by, was not interviewed for the documentary. When this was raised, the fact the former Bulls starting center is based in Australia and the expense it would have required, the decision was made not to interview him.
The 7’2 Aussie was a trailblazer, a history maker as the first Australian in the NBA and was a key – and underrated – part of that second three-peat – not that Longley is one for nostalgia.
‘I don’t need that stuff,’ he said, when asked by The Australian where he keeps his three championship rings.
‘I don’t value it. I’ve given most of it away. I had a house fire in 2007. A lot of stuff burned in the fire. The rings were in a safe, which was lucky. Two of them are in a museum somewhere. I don’t actually know where they are. I should try to track them down because I wouldn’t mind them back.’
Luc Longley (right) was the first Australian in the NBA and was key for Bulls’ second three-peat
While others like Burrell, Pippen, Rodman and Harper have been giving interviews alongside the documentary’s release, reports in Australia revealed Longley even changed his mobile phone number to ward off any interview requests. He isn’t interested one bit.
While the documentary did not touch on it, Longley had his fair share of run-ins with Jordan, as he revealed in his book ‘Running with the Bulls’.
‘I’d have to say after he came back [in 1995], I really didn’t like the guy,’ Longley wrote. ‘I found him difficult to be around and he and I obviously didn’t see eye-to-eye. We were at each other’s throats in practice and that was a case of frustration from both of us, mostly from him.’
As many others from the squad have done, Longley’s experience in the game saw him become sought after and he now works as the assistant on the Australian national team, known as the Boomers.
But for all his exploits on the bench, rather than the court, these days, the best story of Longley’s post-playing days is his successful bid on an eBay auction to name a new species of shrimp back in 2009.
He randomly paid $2,900 to name the new and opted to name it after his daughter Clare Hanna – known in the world of marine biology as Lebbeus clarehanna.
Aside from naming a new species of shrimp in 2009, he has worked as an assistant coach to the Australian men’s national basketball team – helping current NBA stars like Ben Simmons
Dickey Simpkins – Founder of Next Level Performance Inc and Washington Wizards scout
Dickey Simpkins thought it was just his luck that Jordan had retired a month before he made his debut in 1994 as a rookie. In the end a sensational return after quitting baseball brought Jordan back to Chicago and for a short time, the two were team-mates.
Simpkins remains one of the last names fans will recall from the great team of 1998 having been traded mid-season for Burrell to the Golden State Warriors. The Bay Area side waived him in March and he returned on the end of the Bulls’ bench to help pose as Karl Malone, the main threat on the Utah Jazz, during practice.
His 1998 play-offs stat sheet may leave fans scratching their heads as to how he was not cut – in 13 games he averaged 1.2 points per game, 1 rebound, 0.2 assists, and 0.2 steals.
Simpkins (left) had a small role in 1998 but now works as a scout for the Washington Wizards
Simpkins eventually left a dwindling Bulls in 2000 and bar a brief stint in Atlanta with the Hawks in 2001, he spent the remainder of his career in Europe.
He retired in 2006 after playing professionally in regions including Germany, Greece, Lebanon, Lithuania, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Russia and Spain. A serious globetrotter.
A three-time champion, Simpkins has remained in the game in some capacity, setting up a basketball development company called Next Level Performance Inc in 2006 to help high school and collegiate-level players with ‘apparel, mentoring, sports nutrition, and motivational speaking’.
His unlikely friendship with Jordan saw Simpkins worked as a scout for him with the Hornets from 2010-18. He now works as a scout for the Washington Wizards.
Bill Wennington – Bulls radio commentator
The first thing to note about Bill Wennington is that unlike Rodman, you can get a far more affordable personal video message from the charismatic and funny former Bulls center.
On his Cameo page, Wennington will give shoutouts for $41.50. But, back to what the Canadian is doing these days, he remains intrinsically linked to the Bulls as a broadcaster during games.
It does feel somewhat of a missed opportunity that he didn’t follow LaRue or Kleine into the food industry. After all, in his playing days as a Bull, he had a ‘Beef Wennington’ burger named after him by McDonald’s. Fans were lovin’ it.
The 7ft former center retired with the Sacramento Kings at the turn of the millennium and has spent 15 years as a colour commentator for the Bulls.
Away from life in Chicago, Wennington was elected into the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005.
Wennington is still involved in Chicago as he now works as a broadcaster during Bulls games
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