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Breakdown of Episodes 5 and 6 of the Documentary “The Last Dance”
Episodes five and six of the captivating ten part docuseries, “The Last Dance”, covered topics such as Michael Jordan’s gambling habits, the 1992 Dream Team, Kobe Bryant coming into the league, MJ’s last NBA All Star game, the Chicago Bulls wrecking the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1992 NBA Finals, and Jordan’s endorsements especially with Nike. The documentary definitely doesn’t disappoint, and it seems to keep getting better as it progresses from week to week.
The 1997 – 1998 NBA All Star Game
Jordan and the other members of the Eastern Conference All Stars discuss Kobe Bryant, and how he doesn’t let the game come to him he goes out and takes the game. Michael mentions how Kobe likes to go one on one, and how he was going to take it to Bryant in the All Star game as many people suspected this being Jordan’s last All Star game appearance. Bryant attributes a lot of his game from Jordan, and he goes on to explain how Michael taught him so much about the game of basketball especially when he was young in his NBA career.
The highlights from the battle tested rivalry of the Eastern and Western Conference All Stars was highly entertaining. Michael Jordan of course won the 1997 – 1998 NBA All Star game MVP award. Jordan finished his illustrious NBA career with three of those honors (1988, 1996, 1998).
First and Last Game at Madison Square Garden: “Gotta be the Shoes”
Jordan has always considered Madison Square Garden in New York city the Mecca of basketball, and he has and always will express his love for playing there throughout his time playing in the National Basketball Association. So, on March 8th, 1998 when the Chicago Bulls visited Madison Square Garden to take on the New York Knicks, Jordan had a special tribute to the Garden. Michael believed that was the last time he would ever play there.
MJ arrived at M. S. G. with a pair of 14 year old “Chicago Air Jordan 1’s” that he originally played with in his first game ever there. He is seen lacing those bad boys up in the locker room of the basketball arena prior to the much anticipated contest between the Bulls and their hated rivals in the Knicks.
Jordan went on to post 42 points in the game and had this to say, "By halftime my feet are bleeding, but I'm having a good game, I don't want to take them off. I couldn't take those shoes off fast enough, and when I took the shoe off, my sock was soaked in blood." Typical MJ coming up big time on the court when the moment mattered to him.
Air Jordan is shown from back in the day before signing with Nike that he actually liked Adidas shoes, and he was close to agreeing to terms with them on his first big shoe deal. Unfortunately for Adidas they were dysfunctional at that time, and they could not fulfil Jordan’s shoe deal which obviously was a huge mistake for their organization. Jordan did not want to even fly out and meet with the Nike executives on their campus out west, but his mother, Deloris Jordan, convinced him that he had to at least go out there and take that meeting at Nike. Nike offered him a contract that he simply could not refuse, and that is how the Air Jordan shoe line was born. They sold $126 million in the first year of selling Air Jordan shoes.
Jordan advertised for and was under contract with so many large corporations such as McDonalds, Wilson Sporting Goods, Gatorade, Hanes, Coca-Cola, Chevrolet, Wheaties as well as other various large brands.
The Difficulty of Repeating as Back to Back NBA Champions
Jordan now had learned how to incorporate his teammates, and he simply just knew how to win games. He didn’t try to do everything on his own, and he knew that he had to just and delegate to his supporting staff of players to help him and the Chicago Bulls win championships in the National Basketball Association.
The 1992 NBA Finals
The Chicago Bulls faced off against the Portland Trail Blazers which were the two best teams in the NBA throughout the course of the 1991 – 1992 NBA season. The night before game 1 Michael was playing cards with Magic and Jordan said to him, “You know what’s going to happen tomorrow…I’m going to give it to this dude (Clyde Drexler).”
MJ straight up went off hitting incredible three point shots. He hit an NBA Finals record of 5 three pointers and another NBA Finals record of 33 points in one half. He did his famous shoulder shrug while looking over at Magic Johnson who was calling the game for NBC. The Chicago Bulls won the 1992 NBA Finals 4 games to 2 games to win their second consecutive NBA championship.
The 1992 Olympic Dream Team
This segment revolved around the NBA sending their best players to compete in the Olympics after being disappointed and losing in previous Olympic years. The whole idea that Jordan did not want to play with Isiah Thomas on that team was not entirely true as many of the other NBA stars did not like Thomas either.
The 1992 Dream Team consisted of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Clyde Drexler, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin, and Christian Laettner. Besides Christian Laettner all of the members of this team have been or will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The practices were the Dream Team played against each other were intense and often better than then any of the actual Olympic games in Barcelona during the 1992 Summer Olympic Games. Jordan really took over at this time as the number one player in the NBA over the other greats before him such as Magic and Bird. Air Jordan made it known he was the king of the castle in the National Basketball Association.
The Dream Team led by Jordan and Pippen decided to really take it to Toni Kukoc in spite of Jerry Krause who was saying that Kukoc was the future of the Chicago Bulls. They embarrassed him in the first match up, but Kukoc actually rose to the occasion in the gold medal game. The United States of America easily won the gold medal that year in basketball with their star studded line up of the Dream Team.
Sneakers vs. Politics
In the early 90’s Jordan became a cultural icon and the biggest sports star of the era by far. His popularity helped sell the NBA as well as a variety of other products and of course sneakers. Jordan became highly criticized by many for not backing the African American candidate for the North Carolina senate race by using his platform to help Harvey Gantt defeat the racist and bigoted Jesse Helms.
“Republicans buy sneakers too,” was the infamous statement Jordan publicly made in response to this political issue. Michael wanted to make it clear that the he made that remark in jest around his teammates, and that he did not want to endorse someone he didn’t know anything about (Gantt). This caused the African American community to lose credibility in Jordan, but Michael was who he was and didn’t wish to get involved in politics.
In episode six of “The Last Dance” Jordan was often criticized for his serious gambling habits as well. Michael attributes his heavy gambling to his extreme competitive nature, and that he has the money to back up his bets and friendly wagers. In his mind he wasn’t an addict, but it was a hobby of his for personal entertainment purposes.
The Jordan Rules
Sam Smith’s book “The Jordan Rules” was a little controversial for portraying Jordan and the Chicago Bulls as a basketball team filled with inter – turmoil and conflict. The book described Michael as being too hard on his teammates, and how MJ got into verbal and even sometimes physical altercations with other players on the Chicago Bulls.
Players surrounding Jordan were have said to have leaked personal and private details to the media and more specifically Smith who then in turn wrote about in his best selling book. Horace Grant was the scapegoat in this situation. He took the blame for revealing the intimate details of the Chicago Bulls to Smith, but in this documentary Grant vehemently denies divulging any such information to the sports writer. B.J. Armstrong backs up and supports his former teammate, Grant, by explaining that all the content could have not all been from Horace.
The New York Knicks
The documentary goes into detail about how the New York Knicks were a huge and hated rival of the early 90’s for the Chicago Bulls. The Knicks led by outstanding players like Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason, Doc Rivers, and others. The show chronicles the playoff battles between these two powerhouse teams of the Eastern Conference.
These games were extremely physical and intense, and many basketball fans and analysts considered the playoff match ups between the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks in the early to mid 90’s as better than the NBA Finals during those times. Jordan’s competitive drive never allowed the Bulls to get knocked out by those greatly hated Knicks teams of that era.
The 1993 NBA Finals
As the Chicago Bulls neared closer to achieving their first three – peat they had to surpass the loaded Phoenix Suns team in the 1993 NBA Finals. The Suns led by superstar players including Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, Danny Ainge, Cedric Ceballos, and others were the only thing left in the way of the Chicago Bulls winning their third NBA championship after the Bulls dominated the Eastern Conference of the league.
The MVP of the 1992 – 1993 NBA season Charles Barkley had this to say, “In game 2 I played as well as I could play…and Michael just out played me. That was probably the first time in my life that I felt like there was a better basketball player in the world than me to be honest with you.”
The series was a rollercoaster and highly contested by both incredible teams. Chicago went up three games to one, but the Phoenix Suns fought with everything they had in an attempt to extend the NBA Finals season and the Sun’s dreams of winning an NBA championship. Phoenix ended up beating Chicago 108 to 98 in game 5 as the Suns lead the majority of the way that match up. The Suns pushed the series back to Arizona for game 6 with all the momentum going their way.
On the flight to Phoenix prior to game 6, many of the Chicago Bulls players were dreading having to travel for a tough road game after failing to close out the series at home in Chicago Jordan asked to address the team and he said, “Look man I don’t know about you guys, but I am only packing one suit. We are going back to win one game I am not going there to play two games.”
Game 6 all came down to the fourth quarter with the Phoenix Suns up by two points with only 14.1 seconds remaining on the game clock as the Chicago Bulls gathered for a time out in order to game plan for the next critical possession to determine the outcome of the game.
The Bulls inbound the ball to Jordan. Michael passes to Pippen near half court, and Scottie dumps a pass down low to Horace Grant in the low post. Grant pivots and chest passes the ball to the wide open John Paxon with only several seconds left in regulation. Paxon rises up and hits the biggest shot of his life and one of the biggest in Chicago Bulls history. That 3 pointer put the Bulls up by one, and that was the first time anyone besides Jordan scored for Chicago in the entire 4th quarter. The Chicago Bulls win their third consecutive NBA championship and prove to the world they were better than everyone else throughout the star studded league. The Bulls were the first team in this era of basketball to three – peat!
Episodes 7 and 8
The next two episodes (episodes 7 and 8) air on ESPN this Sunday, May 10th, 2020 at 8:00 pm CST. They are said to be nothing else but spectacular, and I can’t wait to watch them in my hometown of Chicago, IL.
“Michael Jordan”, basketball-reference.com, April 28, 2020.
“Scottie Pippen”, basketball-reference.com, April 28, 2020.
“Dennis Rodman”, basketball-reference.com, April 28, 2020.
Written by: David Green