If you are a fan of the Chicago sports scene, you either love or hate Jerry Reinsdorf. Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago Bulls and White Sox, has been a sports icon since he bought the White Sox for $19 million in 1981.
Two years later, Reinsdorf oversaw a White Sox team that made the MLB playoffs.
In 1985, Reinsdorf purchased the Bulls. That transaction cost him $16 million.
Fast-forward to the year 2013; over three decades and seven championships (six NBA titles and one World Series) later, Reinsdorf has earned the recognition of his peers as a potential basketball Hall of Famer.
Regardless how you feel about Reinsdorf, he deserves the enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 7, 2013
The news about Reinsdorf making the list of 31 finalists for the Hall as a contributor should not catch many by surprise. During his time as the Bulls owner, Reinsdorf himself was honored. In a recent blog from the Chicago Bulls’ team website, he took the time to share his feelings.
I am both surprised and humbled by the nomination. To be even mentioned in the company of current members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is an honor.
It was a rare moment for Reinsdorf. Seldom does he address the media as, usually, he may speak once or twice a year about the status of one of his teams. This time, Reinsdorf had to speak of his own status.
With all of his accomplishments, the multiple division titles in both basketball and baseball, the league Championships, is it easier to judge him now?
Depending on how old you are, or how long you have followed either team, you may only see the negative point of view.
After all, it was Reinsdorf, along with then-Bulls general manager Jerry Krause, who decided to disband a team that had just capped off a third consecutive NBA Championship win in 1998. Krause defended the decision by saying, "Players and coaches don't win championships; organizations win championships."
Krause infamously made this statement after several Bulls players and fans voiced their displeasure about the dismantling of their team. In a New York Times article published in 2003, Krause, while working for the New York Yankees organization, clarified his remarks.
In siding with Krause, Reinsdorf lost the favor of a Bulls fanbase that had previously given him the benefit of the doubt on many topics.
Reinsdorf is a frugal executive. As long the Bulls or White Sox are contending, fans of either team will look past the fact that he has never paid the NBA luxury tax or had an MLB payroll of more than $128 million.
Reinsdorf will not spend money just for the sake of spending money. He will make an addition if he believes that it puts his team over the top.
For instance, during the 2010 NBA free-agency period, Reinsdorf was willing to pay whatever it took to bring LeBron James or Dwyane Wade to the west side of Chicago, to play in a Bulls uniform. He wound up with Carlos Boozer instead, but the attempt to attract two of the NBA’s best players is noteworthy.
This was not the case in the 1990s when NBA salaries were not out of control.
During the Bulls’ title runs, Reinsdorf constantly feuded with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant over their contract demands. This eventually led to the premature departure of Grant, and left Jordan and Pippen with a bad taste in both their mouths.
When it was over, Jordan signed the richest single-season contract in sports history. The $30 million deal will be surpassed by the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant and his $31.5 million in the 2013-14 NBA campaign.
Pippen also received the money he sought, though it didn’t come from the Bulls directly. Pippen was involved in a sign-and-trade deal with the Houston Rockets in 1999, before being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers in the following year.
Perhaps it was not Jerry Reinsdorf but Jerry Krause who was the problem in the Bulls' front office during their dynasty. We will never know for sure. What we do know is that Reinsdorf has had a history of taking care of his athletes, current and former players alike.
His loyalty to his former players is magnified by the fact that several of them have roles in both the Bulls and White Sox organizations.
Of the former players, John Paxson and Randy Brown have executive roles in the Bulls’ front office. Stacey King and Bill Wennington are television and radio analysts, while Kendall Gill works for the Bulls’ pre and postgame shows. Of the White Sox, Reinsdorf has employed several former players also. This includes White Sox manager Robin Ventura and team executive vice president Kenny Williams.
Love him or hate him, Jerry Reinsdorf is one of the most important sports figures in history. His contributions go unnoticed because he keeps a low profile. How he has assisted the NBA and MLB, we will never know. One thing is clear: The sports that we all know and love would not be the same without his helping hand.
Before we judge Jerry Reinsdorf, we must decide if we can judge him fairly.