And here we are.
We’ve gathered on our couches each of the last 5 Sunday’s to watch The Last Dance and this past Sunday we did it for the last time.
Now we stare into the sports abyss.
Let’s get into our recap of the final 2 episodes of the documentary and see what we learned.
Right off the bat Episode 9 talks about the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals where the Bulls beat the Pacers in 7 games.
It is amazing how eager players from that era are to talk about how much better Michael Jordan was than them.
When guys who may say something negative about Jordan aren’t chosen to be interviewed for the documentary and/or refuse to be a part of it then it stands to reason that the people we do hear from are complimentary to, “Black Jesus” as Reggie Miller let us know Jordan called himself, but it is still a bit much.
Jordan captured the imaginations of his peers more than LeBron has that’s for sure.
I don’t see a future where Kawhi, KD, or Steph sit down for a LeBron documentary and wax poetic about how much better at basketball LeBron was than them.
Reggie’s game-winner against the Bulls in Game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals has always been one of the coolest NBA highlights ever.
Just flat-out shoving Jordan and then sprinting to the sideline to hit a fading 3-pointer is incredible.
Larry Bird being the coach of the Pacers makes perfect sense while also looking very strange.
The documentary brings us back to the 1997 NBA Finals between the Jazz and the Bulls and brings up the famed “Flu Game” that Jordan played in Game 5.
I have no clue what to believe about the “Flu Game” at this point.
Jordan’s trainer Tim Grover and his best friend George Koehler spin a tale about ordering a pizza to Jordan’s hotel room the night before Game 5 and having 5 guys show up to the room to deliver the pizza while peeking inside to try and get a glimpse of Jordan. Then Grover claims he expressed concern over the pizza, with Jordan then eating the whole thing by himself.
Are we supposed to believe that?
But if it wasn’t the flu and it wasn’t food poisoning then what was it?
The obvious answer is a hangover, but we know Jordan was/is a vampire who would play 36 holes of golf the day of a Finals game after staying up all night the day before drinking and smoking cigars, and then show up to the arena as good as new.
So why would the night before Game 5 in the 1997 Finals be any different?
This was the one time in his entire career that Jordan drinking and smoking cigars with his buddies caused him to be insanely hungover?
What a weird story. And if it was a hangover why wouldn’t Jordan just come out and say, “Yeah I got way too drunk and smoke way too many cigars and this one the one time it actually came back to bite me in my career. Didn’t matter we still won”?
The reaction to that would have been praise of Jordan and would have added to his legend.
The doc returns to the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals and we see Jordan guaranteeing that the Bulls will win Game 7 which was badass and a moment that doesn’t get discussed enough in discussions of Jordan’s career.
During this time the doc shows us that Gus Lett, one of Jordan’s security guards, was battling with lung cancer. It was cool to hear from Gus’s wife Tisher that sometimes Jordan would call Gus late at night and Jordan would be crying about his father’s death and Gus would get up to go comfort him.
That was a cool moment, as was Jordan explaining that Gus had become a father figure to him in the years after his father was murdered.
As for the basketball, the Pacers, and Jalen Rose in particular were way too dismissive of themselves.
They lost Game 7 88-83 and yet Rose describes the Pacers as, “a 9th grade JV team that had no shot.”
As for the 1998 NBA Finals against the Jazz I liked the off-the-court scenes they showed of Jordan shaking Karl Malone and John Stockton’s hands after Game 3 in the bowels of the arena.
They had a similar scene between Reggie Miller and Jordan during the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals, and by the time they showed Malone coming on to the Bulls’ team bus after losing the 1998 Finals, the “back in my day players weren’t friendly” nonsense had been murdered beyond belief.
One great quote from Jordan during the 1998 Finals against the Jazz was before Game 5 when Tex Winter was ribbing him about sliding around in a new pair of sneakers and Jordan responded with, “I’m gona slide a ring on your hand tonight Tex that’s all you need to know.”
Then after they won Jordan saying, “They can’t win ‘til we quit” was legendary.
Hearing Jordan admit that Pippen coming in and out of Game 6 with a back injury “scared the shit out of me” was a rare unguarded moment from him.
As with some other parts of this doc we have discussed, it’s representation of how and why the Bulls didn’t run it back in 1999 leaves me with more questions than answers.
Jerry Reinsdorf flat out says it would have been, financial “suicidal” to bring back Steve Kerr, Ron Harper, Pippen, and Dennis Rodman. He goes on to say that he had asked Phil Jackson to come back for another year and Phil turned him down.
Phil confirms this saying it was the right time for him to step away.
Jordan said it was, “maddening” for him to step away from the game at his peak.
He wanted to run it back and said everyone except maybe Pippen, who ended up getting a 5 year $67.2 million contract offer from the Rockets, would have been willing to sign 1 year deals, including himself.
Reinsdorf responded to the documentary, and Jordan’s quotes on the end of his and the Bulls’ run after the final episodes aired:
He says that he and Jordan had conversations after the 1998 season where Jordan admitted that they would not be able to put together a championship team the following season.
Even if Pippen left, couldn’t they have signed some free agents?
And why was Phil was adamant about being done coaching the Bulls? Was it really because as he said, it would have been “unfair” to Jerry Krause for Phil to come back for another year? Doubt it.
Just so much BS to try and parse through with all these half-truths and so we probably will never know the full story.
The ending of Bulls’ run, where Phil gathered the players and asked them to write down what made the 1998 team special to them, with Jordan writing a poem!!!, and all of the players putting their papers in a coffee can and lighting them on fire in a dark room, was classic Zen Master Phil.
Overall I thought the The Last Dance was awesome.
It was a welcome distraction from our no-live-sports quarantine existence. It was a lot of fun to learn more about such an iconic athlete in Jordan, and a transcendent team in the ‘90’s Bulls.