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Breakdown of Episodes 7 and 8 of the Documentary “The Last Dance”
Episodes 7 and 8 of the ten part docuseries “The Last Dance” were phenomenal, and I found them to be the most emotional as well as the most interesting of all the episodes so far in this critically acclaimed documentary. Some of the major topics covered were the murder of Michael Jordan’s father, MJ’s early retirement, Jordan playing professional baseball, Jordan’s return to the NBA, and the 1996 NBA Finals.
Winning the 1993 NBA Finals
After the Chicago Bulls won the 1993 NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns, Michael Jordan seemed exhausted. He celebrated in the locker room with his father, but he claims he knew that was going to be his last NBA basketball game. He was very tired of all the scrutiny from the media and the NBA regarding his gambling, and he was ready for a new chapter in his life.
James Jordan is Murdered
In the summer of 1993 MJ’s father, James Jordan, went missing for approximately three weeks. Originally, he was down in Hilton Head, South Carolina playing golf, but when he did not show up for one of Michael’s charity events his family started to worry. At first, they thought he may have gone to visit friends in Wilmington, North Carolina, but the longer he was out of contact the worse the feelings his family had concerning his whereabouts.
His red Lexus was then found stripped and battered near Fayetteville, North Carolina. He supposedly stopped off the road to take a nap as he was tired from driving. On August 13th, 1993 the body of James was finally found in a creek between the border of North and South Carolina. He was shot once in the chest, and he was obviously pronounced dead at the scene.
Rumors Began Forming
Following the tragic death of James, the media began formulating rumors that Michael’s father may have been murder on account of MJ’s gambling habits. This was absolutely devastating to Michael, but he knew it wasn’t coming from his loved ones, but instead it came from the people that MJ said, “You had people that were throwing darts who wanted to hurt me anyway.”
Air Jordan Retires from the Game of Basketball
Prior to game 1 of the ALCS between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Chicago White Sox on October 5th, 1993 Michael was scheduled to throw out the first pitch at Comiskey Field in Chicago Illinois. Jordan threw out the first pitch, and then he went up to a private box with his family. The story of Jordan retiring from the NBA leaked out that night prior to the scheduled press conference the Chicago Bulls had set for the following day on Wednesday, October 6th, 2020. That is when Jordan officially announced his retirement from the game of basketball. He hinted at possibly coming out of retirement one day if he needs that challenge, but he seemed very happy with his decision.
Jordan Decides to Play Baseball
Jordan was offered an invite to the Chicago White Sox training camp in Sarasota, Florida for the spring of 1994. Jordan was then assigned to the AA Birmingham Barons a minor league affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox would have started Jordan out in single A ball, but the media press facilities there were inadequate to handle the attention that he was guaranteed to receive.
Michael started out his first season playing AA baseball with a 13 game hitting streak, but then the minor league pitchers he faced started to figure out they needed to throw his a steady diet of breaking balls to get him out at the plate. Sports Illustrated called him a disgrace to the game of baseball, and from that point on Jordan never spoke to Sports Illustrated again. People who knew anything about baseball said that he would have made it to the major leagues if he stayed with baseball, but his true love for basketball seemed to have gotten in the way of that goal.
Hard on his Teammates
Michael had to push his teammates in order for them to get to the level of determination that he possessed. Jordan was often criticized for being a bully to other players on his Chicago Bulls team, but they were all appreciative of him pushing them in the end when it resulted in NBA championships.
The Chicago Bulls without Jordan
The first season without MJ the Chicago Bulls won a lot of games despite many people doubting they could effectively run the triangle offense without Jordan on the team. Once they made it to the 1994 Eastern Conference Semi Finals against the hated New York Knicks the Bulls quickly found themselves down 2 games to 0 in the series.
In game 3 Patrick Ewing hit a big shot late in the game to tie the contest at 102 points each with just over one second left on the game clock in regulation. During the timeout huddle head coach Phil Jackson called a play for Toni Kukoc to take the last shot which offended Scottie Pippen as he was their best player. Pippen was so mad he decided to not reenter the game for that last possession. Kukoc hit the game winning shot to win the match up, but all of the focus in the Bulls locker room was on Pippen.
Scottie’s teammates couldn’t believe he had quit on them for such selfish reasons. That was the only moment throughout Pippen’s outstanding career that he had let his team down, and it will never be forgotten. The Chicago Bulls ended losing that series to the New York Knicks ending their dreams of winning an NBA championship without MJ.
Michael Jordan decides to return to the Chicago Bulls at the end of 1994 – 1995 NBA season. He wore number 45 (Jordan’s first number he played with in high school), and although MJ had spots of greatness upon his return to the Bulls, he was not fully in basketball shape. He lost his first game against the Indiana Pacers in overtime, but it was evident he was a man on a mission.
On March 28th, 1995 when Jordan and the Chicago Bulls visited the New York Knicks at one of MJ’s favorite all time arenas in Madison Square garden it was on! This game was labelled “The Double Nickel Game”. Michael dominated the ball game by scoring 55 points as well as leading the Chicago Bulls to a 113 – 111 win over their hated rival in the New York Knicks.
The 1995 Eastern Conference Semi Finals
In this match up the Chicago Bulls played the big and bad Orlando Magic. The Magic led by Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson, and of course the Bulls former teammate, Horace Grant. Game 1 ended by Jordan getting stripped just before being able to take a game winning shot as the Bulls lost the first game of this best of 7 series.
Jordan went back to number 23 and he just went off in game 2 of the dramatic series. Michael hooped for 38 points in game two. Jordan didn’t have the endurance to finish the season off in optimal shape. The Orlando Magic tore out the hearts of the Chicago Bulls as they won the series to move on to the NBA Finals while Jordan and Chicago fell just short.
In the summer of 1995 while Jordan was shooting Space Jam with Warner Bros. Pictures MJ demanded that they set up a court for him outside the filming studio. Michael invited some of the best players in the NBA at that time to join him for summer pick up games there after he finished shooting the movie each day. Jordan also found the time in his busy schedule to weight life and strength train as well. MJ was fully focused and worked his ass off to come back at his 100% prime for the 1995 – 1996 NBA regular season.
The 1995 – 1996 Chicago Bulls
The season began for real when Michael and his teammate Steve Kerr both flew off the handle and they got into a fight during practice. Steve hit Mike in the chest, and Jordan punched Kerr in the face. Michael apologized after that, and both players were then ready to go to war together that season in the National Basketball Association. With the help of the newest member of the Chicago Bulls, Dennis Rodman, the Bulls went on to go 72 and 10 during the 1995 – 1996 NBA regular season. This was the best record of all time during an NBA regular season. The Bulls dominated in the postseason defeating the Miami Heat, the New York Knicks, and the Orlando Magic in the 1996 NBA playoffs.
The 1996 NBA Finals
The 1996 NBA Finals between the Chicago Bulls and the Seattle SuperSonics brought back so many late childhood memories for me. The Finals began in Chicago at the United Center. The Seattle SuperSonics had amazing players on both the offensive as well as defensive sides of the ball including Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp.
During the NBA Finals Ahmad Rashad went out to eat dinner with Michael Jordan and they spotted the head coach of the Seattle SuperSonics, George Karl, in the restaurant. Coach Karl who had an extensive relationship with Jordan as a coach at the University of North Carolina did not come over and speak to his friend in Jordan in the restaurant. This made it personal for MJ. Michael come out full steam ahead and wrecked Seattle in the first three games of the series.
As Chicago enjoyed a commanding 3 games to 0 lead in the series Karl decided to finally put his best defensive player, Gary Payton, on Jordan for remainder of the 1996 NBA Finals. The SuperSonics then turned up the heat and pressure on the Chicago Bulls after such a slow start in the Finals. Payton defended Jordan as best one could, and Seattle won the following two basketball games to bring the series to 3 -2 as they headed back to Chicago.
At this point in the documentary the production staff provided Jordan with a tablet to watch Payton say that he didn’t back down to Mike. Gary “The Glove” Payton went on to say you just have to tire him out, hitting him and banging him, hitting him and banging him, it took a toll on Mike, you just have to wear him down and mess with him. He claimed that when he did that to Jordan the series turned completely around. While hearing these comments on what looks to be an iPad, MJ began laughing hard as hell at what Payton was saying. Jordan looked to the camera and stated, “The Glove, I had no problem with the Glove.”
Game 6 of the 1996 NBA Finals so happened to fall on Father’s Day. This day was special to Michael for obvious reasons. The Bulls killed it this game six. With huge performances by Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman the Chicago Bulls demolished the Seattle SuperSonics to win their 4th NBA championship. Jordan fell to the ground emotionally as he hugged the basketball while crying immediately following the game.
The First Round of the 1998 NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs
The Chicago Bulls faced the New Jersey Nets in the first round of the 1998 NBA Eastern Conference playoffs. The first game against the inferior and injured Nets took overtime for the Bulls to barely escape the United Center with a win. The Chicago Bulls did end up sweeping the NJ Nets 3 games to none.
The Second Round of the 1998 NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs
The Chicago Bulls then faced the Charlotte Hornets in the second round of the 1998 NBA Eastern Conference playoffs. This time around B.J. Armstrong was playing against his former team in the powerful Chicago Bulls. Jordan led the Bulls to an easy game 1 win. Armstrong took over in game 2, and B.J. even hit the nail in the coffin shot to ice the contest as the Hornets tied the series at 1 game to 1 game.
Although the Charlotte Hornets and Armstrong won that match up, B.J. decided to look at Jordan as well as the rest of the Bulls bench after hitting his huge shot to seal the game. That was all the motivation MJ needed to come completely alive and take over the series. It does not take much to set off Jordan and his competitive nature. His Airness and the Chicago Bulls came back to take care of knocking out the Charlotte Hornets the next two games in order to advance to the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals.
The 1998 NBA Eastern Conference Finals
The Chicago Bulls faced off against the Indiana Pacers in the 1998 NBA Eastern Conference finals. To be continued…
Episodes 9 and 10 of “The Last Dance”
The final two episodes (episodes 9 and 10) air on ESPN this Sunday, May 17th, 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