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Breakdown of Episodes 1 and 2 of the Documentary “The Last Dance”
“The Last Dance” is a ten part docuseries airing on ESPN and Netflix that covers Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls 1997 – 1998 NBA season. The first two episodes debuted on Sunday, April 19th, 2020, and there will be two episodes broadcasted every Sunday through May 17th, 2020. This documentary shows never seen before footage as well as interviews from many different people that were close to Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 90’s.
The first two episodes were primarily focused on the background of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. It reveals how the Chicago Bulls were constructed by their former general manager, Jerry Krause, and how players and coaches had various disagreements and disputes with Krause over the future of the historic franchise. Below are some of the key components, highlights, and major storylines from the first two episodes of “The Last Dance”.
The beginning of the first episode shows highlights from the Chicago Bulls first 5 NBA championships. They introduced players such as Jordan, Pippen, Dennis Rodman, the head coach Phil Jackson, the owner Jerry Reinsdorf, and the general manager Jerry Krause. After winning the first 5 NBA titles they discussed the issue of whether or not to keep the team together or to begin a rebuild of the Chicago Bulls for the future.
Jordan explained that they were winning, and the front office should not dismember the team until they lose. Krause wanted to prove his value to the Chicago Bulls by rebuilding with the hopes of remaining successful in order to demonstrate his contributions, and to get the credit he thought he was owed for Chicago’s dominance on the court.
Making Fun of Krause
The documentary shows various times that Jordan would tease, mock, or make fun of Krause mostly for being short and fat. Many people interpreted MJ as being a jerk or a bully, but in my opinion he was just playing around and having fun with his controversial general manager.
Should Phil Jackson remain the head coach of the Bulls?
Krause and Jackson had tensions with one another as Jackson wanted to be better compensated while Krause thought that Phil could be easily replaced by another head coach and the team would still produce the same results. Jordan stated to the media that he would not stick around for the rebuild if Jackson was not the head coach of the Chicago Bulls. Krause wanted to replace Jackson with Tim Floyd. Ultimately, they resigned Jackson to a one year contract, but Krause made it crystal clear that Phil would not be coming back to coach the Bulls following the 1997 – 1998 NBA season.
The Bulls Travel to Paris
In the summer of 1997, the Chicago Bulls traveled to Paris, France. This showed just home much international fame Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls had acquired world wide. The people in France treated and spoke about Jordan like he was a god. Jordan was more popular than the pope or the president of the United States of America.
Jordan and the University of North Carolina
This segment of the series produced an interaction between Jordan and his mother while Jordan was attending college and playing basketball at the University of North Carolina. Through written correspondence Michael asked his mother for money as he said he only had $20 left in his bank account, he apologized for the phone bill, and asked his mom to send him stamps. This goes to show how Jordan began his basketball career as a poor college student only to become one of the richest and most famous athletes of all time.
Michael’s head coach at UNC, Dean Smith, described Jordan as one of the hardest working and most competitive players he had ever coached. He goes on to describe how much MJ improved through his work ethic and dedication to the game of basketball. The Tar Heels assistant coach at the time, Roy Williams, tells a story of how Jordan told him he was going to be the best player as well as the hardest working guy they have ever had at the prestigious basketball powerhouse school.
They covered the NCAA championship game between North Carolina and Georgetown led by Patrick Ewing. They explained how Jordan made really big plays and very huge shots throughout the contest. The game was extremely close, and with Georgetown up by one point with only 32 seconds left coach Smith called a time out. They drew up a play for the freshman Jordan to take the deciding shot. Michael revealed how his opponents had no idea he was going to take the game winning shot, and of course he hit that basket (nothing but net) to put North Carolina up and win the NCAA National Championship.
Entering the 1984 NBA Draft
After his junior year Jordan was planning on returning for his senior year, but coach Smith urged Michael to enter the 1984 NBA draft as he truly felt that he was ready to go pro. The show depicted how the Houston Rockets selected Hakeem Olajuwon with the first overall pick in that draft, and even the Bull’s general manager at that time, Rod Thorn, said he would have made that same decision. Olajuwon being the first overall pick has never been criticized as a bad move as Hakeem brought two NBA championships to the Rockets organization, and he was named one of the greatest 50 players of all time by the NBA.
The Portland Trail Blazers had the second overall selection, and because they already had superstar, Clyde Drexler, who played the same position as Jordan they chose to take Sam Bowie. The Chicago Bulls obviously took Jordan with the third overall draft pick in hopes of turning around the struggling Bull’s franchise.
The Bulls Traveling Cocaine Circus
The funniest highlight from the first two episodes occurred when Jordan admits that he came from a clean program at North Carolina, and that he was never really around the party scene. The interviewer asks him about, “One of the articles I read, they called it the Bulls traveling cocaine circus,” and Jordan immediately begins laughing extremely hard as he clapped and slapped his knee in full amusement.
Michael goes on to explain a time during his rookie year in his NBA when his team was in a hotel in Peoria, Illinois. He knocked on a teammates door and told them it was MJ, and when they let him in the room he explains that he saw things that he had never seen before in his life. Jordan says, “You got your lines over here, you got your weed smokers over here, you got some women over here, so the first thing I say is that I’m out.” He continues to state that if the room got raided, he would be as guilty as everyone else was in that room. At that point he realized he was on his own as he wanted to be clean on focus on winning while his teammates wanted to party hard.
Jordan’s Immediate Impact
It did not take long for Jordan to let the world know how good and special he was. He was putting on a show on the court, and his impact on the Chicago Bulls and the NBA was noticed immediately. Before he joined the Bulls, the franchise couldn’t sell tickets to their games, but once he arrived the stadium began selling out every night Chicago played. Jordan easily won the Rookie of the Year award following the 1984 – 1985 NBA season.
The Last Dance
The first team meeting for the 1997 – 1998 Chicago Bulls was held at their practice facility, the Berto Center. Phil Jackson handed out the team handbook and on the cover it was titled, “The Last Dance”. Jackson made sure to let his team know how important it was to stay together, play hard, and focus on winning because this was their last chance to win together.
Episode 2 Mainly Focuses on Pippen
Scottie Pippen came from a small town in Arkansas, and he attended the University of Central Arkansas. He began there small in stature playing guard at 6 foot 1 inch tall, but he grew 5 or 6 inches in college filling out to a 6 foot 7 inch forward. His game greatly improved and he had great ball handling and passing skills from his time playing guard as well as outstanding dunking and scoring ability attributed to his time playing the forward position.
Pippen was selected in the first round of the 1987 NBA draft with the fifth overall pick by the Seattle Supersonics. The Chicago Bulls traded for him the night before that draft so although the Seattle Supersonics drafted him, he was immediately sent to the Chicago Bulls. Pippen was amazing on the court, and he made a name for himself right from the start of his illustrious NBA career.
In 1991 Pippen sign a 7 year contract for $18 million. At the time he thought it was the best decision for him as the deal provided him with long term security in case he was injured and not able to provide for his extremely large and very poor family. This agreement quickly proved to under value and under appreciate what Scottie brought to the table each and every day for the Chicago Bulls.
Pippen’s Injury Situation
Pippen had suffered a ruptured tendon in his ankle during the playoffs of the 1996 – 1997 NBA season. Due to the fact that Krause and the Chicago Bulls wouldn’t restructure his contract to better compensate him for his value to the team, Pippen decided to put off getting surgery on his foot during the offseason. His frustration from being undervalued and under rated caused him to wait until the 1997 – 1998 regular season started to have his operation performed. Pippen said publicly, “I decided to have surgery late because I was like, you know what, I am not going to fuck my summer up trying to rehab.”
This decision had major implications for the Chicago Bulls as they struggled to score and win games without him on the court. It caused Jordan to become frustrated and angry as well. Michael was very vocal lashing out on his teammates to play harder and want to win more because they were underperforming without Pippen in the line up. Jordan said, “Scottie was wrong in that scenario. He could’ve got his surgery done as soon as the season was over and be ready for the season. What Scottie was trying to do was trying to force management to change his contract. And Jerry [Reinsdorf] was never gonna do that.”
Jordan’s Broken Foot
In the third game of the 1985 – 1986 NBA season Jordan went up for a lob, and when he landed, he came down flat footed which resulted in a broken left foot. This caused him to miss a large portion of the season as that injury takes a lot of time to heal. After being on the Bull’s bench for a while he convinced his team to allow him to go back to college. Without the Bull’s knowledge he was playing basketball at North Carolina, and when he returned to Chicago he felt ready to get back to game action. Doctors claimed there was a 10% chance that he could suffer a career ending injury by playing on it at that time.
“I said to Michael, ‘You’re not understanding the risk-reward ratio. If you had a terrible headache and I gave you a bottle of pills, and nine of the pills would cure you and one of the pills would kill you, would you take a pill?’” the Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf expressed in the documentary.
Jordan’s response was, “Depends on how fucking bad the headache is.”
The Chicago Bulls and Jordan agreed upon a compromise allowing MJ to play 7 minutes each half of the game which was timed on a stop watch. Jordan tells the Bulls head coach at that time, Stan Albeck, to play him the most important 7 minutes each half of very game. The Bulls began winning games and made it back in to the playoff picture toward the end of the season. Chicago gets to pivotal game against the Indiana Pacers on April 3rd, 1986 which the Bulls needed to win to have a chance at making the playoffs. Albeck was informed that if he played Jordan one second over the 14 minutes per game limit he would be fired on the spot.
Jordan went off like crazy during his 14 minutes of playing time putting the Bulls in position to possibly win this very important game. Jordan’s time limit expired just as Chicago was down one point with 31 seconds left in the basketball game. Michael was furious that management wouldn’t allow him to finish that game. The Bulls front office looked at it as they didn’t care to make the playoffs as they wanted a better draft pick while Jordan wanted to win and make the playoffs at any cost. Fortunately, John Paxon hit a lucky one handed game winning shot, but Jordan’s relationship and trust with the Chicago Bulls front office ownership and management was forever soured due to this incident.
The 1986 NBA Playoffs
Jordan’s late season resurgence enabled the Bulls to make the playoffs following the 1985 – 1986 NBA regular season. Chicago had to face the all mighty Boston Celtics with one of the greatest teams of all time. That Celtics team was loaded as they had four hall of fame players on it. They faced the Bulls who went 30 and 52 that year making them the team with the worst record ever to ever make a playoff spot. This best of 5 first round playoff series proved to be historic for Michael Jordan. Despite Jordan’s 49 points the Chicago Bulls lost game one of the series with a final score of 123 to 104.
The day before game 2 of this series Jordan played golf with Danny Ainge of the Boston Celtics. Michael didn’t play particularly well that day on the course, and Ainge ended up taking some money off of Jordan in golf. They were talking a lot of trash back and forth and as Ainge was being dropped off Jordan says to him, “Hey tell your boy DJ (Dennis Johnson) I got something for him tomorrow.” Jordan went ballistic in game 2 against the Boston Celtics. He ended up scoring 63 points in this double overtime thriller which is the all time record for the most points in an NBA playoff game. Jordan averaged 43.7 points per game which is also an NBA record for the highest average for a player in a single postseason.
“Michael Jordan”, basketball-reference.com, April 20, 2020.
“Scottie Pippen”, basketball-reference.com, April 20, 2020.
Written by: David Green