4 December 2020

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The Last Dance [RECAPPED]

The highly anticipated documentary about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls aired on April 19th, 2020. The documentary took place during the 1997-98 season when the Bulls seemed to be on the brink of an unnecessary rebuild. The first two parts were aired Sunday as a part of a 10 episode series on ESPN and Netflix.

Episode 1

Entering the 1997-98 season, the Bulls were getting ready to accept their championship ring for the 5th time in 7 years. After the ring ceremony, there were some problems with the front office, primarily with general manager Jerry Krause.

Krause was quotes saying, “Organizations win championships, not players and coaches. The two star players, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen mocked him tremendously for this quote. Not only Jordan and Pippen, but the head coach Phil Jackson also did not have the best relationship with Krause.

The relationship got so bad that when Jackson signed a 1 year, $6 million contract, Krause said that no matter what, this season would be his last. Before we take a look at this dynasty, we should see how it started. Michael Jordan got accepted to the University of North Carolina. Coach Dean Smith loved the attitude of Jordan and pushed Jordan to be the best. There were many times that Jordan showed his competitive spirit.

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In practice, fellow teammate James Worthy got done playing a 5 on 5 and was winded. MJ pushed him back on the court and played 1 on 1 for about an hour or so. Even Worthy said that was the kind of guy that Mike was. During his freshmen season, Jordan was best known for hitting the game winning shot in the 1982 championship game against Georgetown. This lifted his stock as a player coming into his sophomore season. Coaches saw major improvement, as Jordan looked more skilled and was developing nicely an all facets of his game. After his sophomore season, MJ was advised by his coach Dean Smith to enter the 1984 draft.

The infamous words of the 3rd pick in the 1984 draft will always be remembered. Michael Jordan went 3rd overall to Chicago and was determined to bring the city a championship. After the draft, the Olympics also happened to be during this time. Jordan participated and was showing how good he truly was on the basketball court. Once the season started, he realized that he would not be considered the best player and that he had to work at that.

When the second week of the season came along, his teammates agreed that he was the best player on the team. His confidence, his bravado and his swagger were completely unparalleled to the rest of the competition. Eventually, MJ ended up winning the 1984-1985 Rookie of the Year while averaging an insane 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists. Some players in their prime don’t even put up those numbers let alone in their inaugural season to the NBA. After his introduction into the league, we cruise back to the 1997 season. Chicago played a preseason game against the French National basketball team. Teammates Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman were not playing and present, so MJ does what MJ has always done.

He carried the Bulls to the victory against the French team. Howver, Jordan was not pleased with the win and the trophy that came with it. This win did not matter to him, since it was only the preseason. After that game, Phil Jackson had a meeting with all of his players. Jackson said that the 1997-98 season will be “The Last Dance”. Many of the teammates, including Jordan were determined to give it one last run.

Episode 2

How Michael Jordan Would Topple the Warriors - Blazer's Edge
Picture via blazersedge.com

Even though every member of the Bulls were determined to give this season a final go, the robin to the team, Scottie Pippen was not pleased at all. Pippen had a growing resentment with the general manager Jerry Krause for a number of reasons. Krause had made this season Phil Jackson’s last, which infuriated Pippen. Also, he was only the 6th highest paid player on the team, even though he averaged the 2nd most points, rebounds and steals while being 1st in assists.

Scottie Pippen was a phenomenal player, just ask the best player on the team, Michael Jordan. Jordan said “Whenever they speak of Michael Jordan, they should also speak of Scottie Pippen.” Let’s take a closer look at the upbringing of Scottie Pippen. Pippen was an undersized guard when he first arrived to the University of Central Arkansas. He was only 6’1 and 175 lbs at the time. However despite the lack of stature, the skills were not questioned. Once he was done with his freshmen season, Pippen grew to be 6’5 in his sophomore season and then 6’7 in his junior season. Pippen would show his athleticism, defense and versatility on the court. He also had very good passing for a forward.

So then, the Seattle SuperSonics originally selected Scottie with the 5th pick in the 1987 draft. However, a few weeks later he was traded to the Bulls for Olden Polynice and a draft pick. Once he got to the Bulls, Pippen showed how he can fit alongside Michael Jordan harmoniously. After his rookie contract was up, Pippen inked a 7 year, $18 million contract. Many people, including his agent said that he should demand more money.

Pippen refused saying that “he got nervous about gambling for more money on the contract.” Because of this, Pippen was furious when players that are not on his caliber when players were making much more than him. This caused Pippen to wait to have surgery on his ankle and miss the beginning of the 1997-98 season. He had his thumb up his nose to simply prove a point to management that he needs to be paid. Since this incident came unexpectedly, Michael Jordan took matters into his own hands. His competitive spirit lifted the morale of the team and got them out of a rocky start. Michael Jordan has always thrived having competition, even going back to his childhood days.

His two brothers, James Jr. and Larry were always competitive, especially Larry. Michael started to lay the foundations of how competitive he got based off of his brother Larry. When Jordan went to high school, he didn’t make the team his sophomore year which made him disgruntled and heartbroken. However, Michael knew that he had to work. Every day during the summer, he would practice in his driveway until he made the team.

Sure enough in his junior year, he made the team. After his high school run, he went to UNC and eventually got drafted. In Jordan’s second season, he broke his foot. Jordan was devastated. He never had an injury before in his career, not in high school and not in college. When he was injured, MJ asked to go back to UNC. The front office granted this request but had no idea what he was doing. In fact, he was playing scrimmage games with a broken foot and no one in the Bulls organization knew a damn thing.

Once MJ was cleared to play, the Bulls gave him a minutes restriction. He was enraged and just wanted to play. The restriction started with 7 minutes then made its way to 14 minutes. The 14 minute restriction was crucial, as that time frame allowed Jordan to go berserk and get the Bulls into the playoffs. Their competition was fierce as they faced the best team in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics. During this series, Jordan had two spectacular games. One game he had 49 points and thn he had 63 points which is still an NBA playoff record today.

Larry Bird was asked about Michael Jordan and he said “Our whole thing was just do what we can to hold Michael down, but you don’t hold the great ones down.” After this playoff series, the Bulls started building around their player for the future. The acquisitions of Scottie Pippen from the Seattle SuperSonics and Bill Cartwright from the New York Knicks were huge trades to get the franchise towards the championship path.

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