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Breakdown of Episodes 9 and 10 of the Documentary “The Last Dance”
Now that the ten-part docuseries “The Last Dance” has concluded here is the analysis and highlights from the final two episodes of this groundbreaking ten-hour long documentary. Some of the main focus points in episodes 9 and 10 include the dismantling of the 90’s Chicago Bulls dynasty, Michael Jordan’s “flu game,” and the extensive coverage of the actual basketball played by Jordan and the Chicago Bulls amongst others.
Jordan and Reggie Miller’s Relationship
Reggie Miller claims to have not feared Jordan as the majority of the National Basketball Association. Throughout their tense match ups against each other when the Chicago Bulls faced the Indiana Pacers there were multiple times that these two superstars locked horns and became physical with one another especially in the NBA playoffs. They both talked a lot of trash to each other throughout their illustrious careers. Miller reveals one of my favorite MJ quotes by saying that as Jordan walked off the court he turned to Reggie and said, “Don’t ever talk trash to ‘Black Jesus.’” Although they disliked one another on the court during serious competition, they respected and appreciated the other player and what they were capable of.
The 1998 NBA Eastern Conference Finals
The 1998 NBA Eastern Conference Finals featured the Chicago Bulls hosting the Indiana Pacers to begin action for game 1 of the best of 7 series. Although the Bulls had faced the likes of their hated rivals in the Eastern Conference such as the New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, and the Miami Heat the Indiana Pacers gave the Chicago Bulls all they could handle during the 1998 NBA Eastern Conference Finals. In my opinion this was the Bulls’ hardest roadblock on their way to any of their 6 NBA championships.
The Indiana Pacers had amazing talent up and down their line including players like Miller, Jalen Rose, Rick Smits, Mark Jackson, Chris Mullen, Travis Best, Dale Davis, Antonio Davis, Derrick McKey, and Fred Hoiberg. Not only was the 1997 – 1998 Indiana Pacers team loaded with talent and experience, but they matched up extremely well against the Chicago Bulls squad of that same season. That Pacers team was big, tough, physical, and they had plenty of offensive fire power to score points fast and furiously.
The Chicago Bulls won the first two games of this heated and intense series at the United Center, but things changed when they went on the road to play the Indiana Pacers at the Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana. Game 3 of the series was won by the Indiana Pacers with the final score of 107 to 105. After the win Miller stated, “You know Chicago is never going to go away as long as the black cat is out there anything is possible.”
Game 4 was a back and forth contest that came down to the very end. With the Chicago Bulls up by one point there was only 6.4 seconds remaining on the game clock in the fourth quarter of this pivotal game. The Pacers inbounded the ball and it was stolen by Scottie Pippen, but he was fouled immediately and missed both of his free throws. With now just 2.9 seconds left in regulation Miller shoved Jordan aside to make some space and Reggie hit a huge three-point shot. Jordan had a chance to hit a last second shot game winning bucket, but it bounced out as the Indiana Pacers escaped with a huge win. In the press conference after game 4 MJ made his historic statement saying, “You still have to come through Chicago.”
The Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers traded games with Chicago winning game 5 and Indiana winning game 6. This ultimately led the crucial game 7 at the United Center. Jordan predicted and guaranteed a win prior to the finale in which the winner would advance to the 1998 NBA Finals. Even though this was another tight battle, many people thought the Pacers would prevail as they out played the Bulls throughout the first few quarters of game 7, but Chicago never gave up and fought their asses off to stay in this match up. The Chicago Bulls won the game 88 to 83, and this was believed to be their most difficult playoff series throughout their dynasty in the 1990’s.
Fifth NBA MVP Award
For Jordan’s exceptional play and strong team leadership he won the Most Valuable Player Award of the National Basketball Association for the 1997 – 1998 NBA season. This was the fifth time in Jordan’s unbelievable career he won the coveted NBA MVP honors. The late former commissioner of the NBA, David Stern, awarded the trophy to MJ on the floor of the United Center where the Chicago Bulls made history at home throughout the mid to late 90’s. Prior to the United Center the Bulls played their home games right across the street at the old Chicago Stadium located on the West side of Chicago, Illinois. The old Chicago stadium was a basketball arena well known for being extremely loud and energetic.
The 1997 NBA Finals
This dramatic series featured the Chicago Bulls from the Eastern Conference and the Utah Jazz from the Western Conference. The Utah Jazz had outstanding all around players including Karl Malone, John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek, Antoine Carr, Byron Russell, Greg Ostertag, Shandon Anderson, and Howard Eisley. Karl “The Mail Man” Malone had just won the 1996 – 1997 NBA Most Valuable Player Award, and Jordan being the ultimate competitor thought he should have won the MVP that season. MJ used this as fuel to ignite his fire that he played with throughout this intense NBA Finals match up against the Utah Jazz.
Game 1 was extremely close, but once again Jordan proved to be a basketball god as he hit another huge game winning shot. The Chicago Bulls were now up one game to none against Utah. The Chicago Bulls proceeded to blow out the Utah Jazz with the final score of 97 to 85 in game 2 of the 1997 NBA Finals. The series then headed to Salt Lake City, Utah for the next two contests.
The Utah Jazz win games 3 and 4 to tie the series up at two games apiece. Then Jordan had one of his most memorable performances ever by leading the Bulls to a much-needed win in what has been labeled “the flu game” which is highlighted below. Game six came down to another close battle, and with the game tied and only several seconds remaining on the game clock the Bulls had a timeout. Jordan knew he would be doubled teamed as Chicago looked to take the lead. Michael leaned over to Steve Kerr, and he told him to be ready. As Jordan was doubled teamed by the Utah Jazz back court guards, he found Kerr with a pass leading to a prefect shot that he drained putting the Bulls up to 2 points. The Jazz inbounded the ball which was stolen by Pippen and then tipped over to Toni Kukoc for an easy dunk. The Chicago Bulls won game 6 of the 1997 NBA finals to give them their fifth NBA championship.
“The Flu Game”
The night prior to game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals MJ was staying at the Marriott in Salt Lake City, Utah. Jordan got hungry around 10 or 10:30 p.m., but there was no room service available at that time. Michael ordered a pizza from the only place in town that was open to deliver him food. Jordan ate the pizza all to himself as no one else wanted to eat the food, and some recall having a bad feeling about that particular pizza. Michael wakes up around 2:30 a.m. as he is sick as a dog throwing up left and right from the pizza he ate earlier that night. MJ got an extremely horrible case of food poisoning.
Even though MJ was sick as hell, but he decided to play even though he was absolutely ill and didn’t get any sleep the previous night. Jordan wanted to win so badly that he fought through the pain. At the end of the game Jordan was carrying the team by hitting big time baskets. Air Jordan ended up playing 44 of the 60 minutes in this contest, and he scored an amazing 38 points leading the Chicago Bulls to another victory. Once the game ended Pippen had to basically carry Michael off the court as he was completely physically as well as emotionally drained from this heroic performance.
The 1998 NBA Finals
The 1998 NBA Finals was a rematch from the previous season as the Chicago Bulls faced off against the Utah Jazz. Both of these teams were pretty much the same, but the Utah Jazz seemed to be stronger, better, and more confident and focused on winning the series. This time around the Utah Jazz had home court advantage, and the Chicago Bulls were running on fumes as they just finished an exhausting 7 game series against Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers.
Game 1 was highly contested, and the match went into overtime at the Delta Center located in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Jazz ended up winning 88 to 85 in game 1. The following game was won barely by the Bulls with the final score of 93 – 88. Game 3 relocated to Chicago, and it was a dominating effort by the Bulls as they blew out the Utah Jazz 96 to 54 as the Bulls enjoyed a 2 – 1 lead in this best of 7 series. The Chicago Bulls win Game 4 with the help of a gutsy performance by Rodman who hit crucial free throws down the stretch to help his team seal the victory in Chicago.
The stage was set for the Bulls to win Game 5 and the 1998 NBA Finals, but the Utah Jazz did not back down and concede a loss. The series headed back to Salt Lake City for game 6 with the Bulls up three games to two games. Pippen was suffering from a sore back, and he was not able to contribute much in game 6 for Chicago as he left the court and heading into the Bulls locker room during the first quarter of this huge Finals game. This allowed Malone to score more freely and the Bulls were just hanging on at this point. Scottie did return to the game, but he was mostly used as a decoy on the floor as he was in immense pain.
Game 6 was a battle throughout the fourth quarter, and it looked as if the series would head to a final game 7. Michael Jordan dominates the last minute of the contest both offensively and defensively. Jordan brought the ball up the court as Byron Russell guarded him cautiously. MJ drove to his right and stopped to pull up for an uncontested shot, and he nailed it. This put the Chicago Bulls up for good as this big time bucket became known as “the shot”. The Chicago Bulls won game six of the 1998 NBA Finals to win their sixth NBA championship in 8 years as they completed their second three peat of the decade. Jordan of course won his sixth NBA Finals MVP as well.
Dennis Rodman Leaves the NBA Finals to Wrestle
The next day as the Chicago Bulls practiced, they were without one of their key players in Dennis Rodman, and his absence was unexcused by the Chicago Bulls organization. Rodman decided to take a detour to wrestle with Hulk Hogan in the N.W.O. wrestling federation during the 1998 NBA Finals. This was just another instance of Dennis being Dennis. Although the Bulls were not happy with this choice by Rodman, he was fined by the franchise and he returned to the Bulls for game 4 and found himself in their starting line up.
Dismantling the Chicago Bulls Dynasty
With the incredible legacy of this historic franchise left behind by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls of the 1990’s it was obvious that the team was breaking up. Following the 1997 – 1998 team the Bulls would begin a rebuilding period that seems to still be going on here in Chicago to this day.
Phil Jackson retired only to come back coaching the Los Angeles Lakers later on in his career. The Lakers won 5 NBA championships under the great Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal who was there for three of those championships in LA. Jordan retired only to come back and play for the Washington Wizards later on, but it was simply not the same MJ. Scottie Pippen continued his career with the Houston Rockets and the Portland Trail Blazers, but he never won another NBA championship. Dennis Rodman played 2 more seasons in the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers before finishing his career playing basketball overseas. The Chicago Bulls of the 90’s were truly an unimaginable and incredible team to watch, and it will always be remembered of one of the greatest dynasties in the history of the National Basketball Association. “The Last Dance” documentary was very well constructed. It does a great job of both capturing the nostalgia of many sports fans as well as educated the youth about the greatness of Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls teams.
Links to My Analysis of Episodes 1 – 8 of “The Last Dance”
Written by: David Green