I don’t think I need to go into much of an introduction for The Last Dance. However, if you’ve been living under a rock for the last five glorious Sunday’s in this current sports-free world of ours; the impeccably done 10-part documentary from ESPN/Netflix brought all of us more access into the Bulls dynasty, and more importantly Michael Jordan, than most of us could have ever hoped for.
If I hadn’t been so lazy and got this website off the ground a little quicker, I could’ve blogged episode by episode recaps. Instead, I decided not to summarize everything from each episode, but instead to jot down a few thoughts on one or two things from each of the 10 chapters.
Overall, this thing was obviously great. There was a lot I didn’t know, as the first three-peat happened early on in my life, and the second three-peat was basically when I was just getting into remembering sports memories. Let us reminisce on something that ended less than 24 hours ago, shall we?
We get off to a pretty blazing start in the debut episode with some immediate character establishment, mainly pitting Jerry Krause (aka Mr. Swackhammer) as the ultimate bad guy. Krause infamously told Phil Jackson “I don’t care if you win 82 games in a row, this is going to be your last year here.” Bold strategy, Jerry.
I did find myself feeling a liiiiitle bad for Jerry Krause throughout watching this and subsequent episodes. The guy was physically such an easy target, and as with everything in his life, MJ was just unrelenting on the guy along with a lot of the other members of the team, that Krause was responsible for putting together. Also, the fact that he’s no longer with us to defend himself allows for some potential unfair representation within the documentary that he could have defended himself against. Alright, end Krause rant.
The Scottie Pippen episode. What a story Scottie has, and I didn’t know the extent of it until this series.
The attention grabbing information with Scottie that we got early on in this episode was that despite being the clear cut Robin to MJ’s Batman, Scottie was only the sixth highest paid player on the Bulls, and the ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY SECOND highest paid player in the NBA. For reference, there are 390 active players in a given season. Simply astounding that a player giving his team as much as Scottie did was seemingly so underpaid.
There’s always two sides to every story, of course. We learned that Scottie agreed to a long term contract with a lower amount of guaranteed money (7 years/$18M) early on in his career to secure himself and his family. This was before Scottie became “Scottie.” Our old pal Jerry Krause was infamously known for not renegotiating contracts during his time. Krause remained steadfast in this case, and it lead to some harsh grudge-holding on Scottie’s part leading up to the end of the episode documenting Scottie completely berating Jerry on the team bus. Not a good look, but definite foreshadowing to where things were heading.
Ah Dennis, “The Worm.” This was the one I was really looking forward to. The evolution above could be the subject of it’s own 10 hour documentary.
The relationship between Michael and Dennis was super interesting. Rodman obviously was a guy who plays by his own rules and was going to do whatever the hell he wanted. Phil mentioned in the episode that Dennis gave off a 100% “could give a shit” attitude when asked if he would like to join MJ & the Bulls, and that the guy didn’t even stand up to shake Phil’s hand during their first meeting.
That attitude contrasted with the respect and amount he leaned on MJ as his leader was super interesting to me. The episode talked about a game that Dennis got ejected, one of the many. The Bulls were shorthanded to start with, and MJ was pissed. Michael and Dennis had a sit down after that game, (which would have been incredible to hear); after that chat, Dennis seemed to stay out of trouble (a very relative term, especially when considering we’re talking about Dennis Rodman here).
The episode wraps up with the infamous Dennis to Vegas mid-season trip. Dennis, Vegas, Carmen Electra. All that needs to be said there.
The fourth installment picked up with a continuation of the Dennis/Vegas trip. The best story that came out of this was that when Dennis (eventually) came back to practice, Phil had the team run a very common running drill; one where the team would run laps in a straight line, the whistle blows, and the guy in the back of the line picked up his or her pace to get to the front. If you’ve played sports at any level in your life, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
As the story goes, Michael tells the team to take it slow since…you know, Dennis is coming off of a 50+ hour Vegas bender.
The drill starts, the team eventually gets to Dennis at the back of the line, whistle blows…and Dennis takes off on a dead sprint that the rest of the team couldn’t keep up with. Incredible stuff, all before taking off after practice one a motorcycle with a Miller Lite in his hand (don’t drink and drive, folks).
“In Loving Memory of Kobe Bryant” opened up episode five. I’ll be honest, I was hoping for a little more time spent on the subject. What we got was excellent, but I was hoping they would have gotten more meat off of that bone. One of the great quotes came from Kobe about MJ and his impact on his game and career.
“What you get from me is from him. I don’t get five championships here without him. Because he guided me so much and gave me so much great advice.”
The respect between the two is obvious and palpable. It’s sad to say, but for me personally, there had been enough time since the helicopter crash that Kobe slipped from my mind a little bit. This brought me right back to how I felt on January 26, 2020; it made me incredibly sad, but also appreciative of what we were able to see between the two at the same time during this portion of Episode V.
This episode explored a lot of off-court issues that began to arise for Michael as his seemingly unattainable talent and success continued to skyrocket. Mainly focused on the 1992-1993 season in which the Bulls completed the first three-peat, the season came with plenty of drama. Leaks to the the press and gambling – what could go wrong?!
A book written by longtime Chicago journalist Sam Smith, “The Jordan Rules,” painted a pretty brutal picture of MJ. Verbal altercations with Krause and Phil, physical altercations with teammates, this one had it all. Michael thought Horace Grant, the rec spec king, was doing all of the leaking. This lead eventually to Horace leaving the Bulls for the Magic shortly thereafter.
As for the gambling, I’m impressed they addressed this as much as they did. MJ was, and is, known as world renowned gambler. We can see it in the documentary, the guy will bet on anything from golf to who can throw a coin closest to a wall. The entire gambling segment came to a head with one of the greatest quotes of all time.
“Do you think you have a gambling problem?” – Connie Chung
“No, because I can stop gambling…I have a competition problem.” – Michael Jordan
A *chef’s kiss* response from the GOAT here.
This was by far the best episode for me, and quite possibly had the finest combination of visual, sound, and emotion to end an episode I’ve seen in a sports documentary.
That’s it; that’s all I have to say about that.
Total insanity of a schedule during this episode, starting with a look back on Michael coming back to the Bulls after quitting baseball. He was out of basketball shape and unable to carry the Bulls through the playoffs like he normally would, and fell to an absolutely stacked Magic team with Shaq, Penny, and the aforementioned scape goat Horace Grant.
That following summer, Michael was filming “Space Jam,” but jumped right back into training. Because he’s Michael Jordan, he got a personal basketball court and full gym to practice and exercise when not shooting the movie. We got to see some of the pick up games of all NBA players that would come out and play, which was cool. Why was Shawn Bradley there, though?
A lot of great, emotional content in this episode. Some great stuff from the MJ/Reggie & Bulls/Pacers rivalry throughout the years, Steve Kerr, and Michael’s relationship with Gus Lett.
A few things that I thought were interesting during the Pacers session was that Jalen Rose legitimately thought the Pacers were going to end the Bulls dynasty. Hindsight is 20/20, but what an asinine thing to think at the time. Also, Larry Bird’s meeting with MJ after game seven, with the GOAT lovingly saying goodbye to Larry in the only way he could, with a hearty “You bitch, fuck you.” Another great moment on the long list of things we likely never would have seen without The Last Dance.
A bittersweet symphony, the end of what has been a great run; and I’m talking about the documentary, not the Bulls dynasty. A lot of content to digest here on the final championship against the Jazz.
Another vacation for Dennis, this time IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NBA FINALS, who took a quick trip and a day or two off to wrestle with Hollywood Hulk Hogan and bust a few metal chairs over Diamond Dallas Page’s back. This lead to an incredible look at how the Bulls PR team snuck Dennis out of The United Center past 300 media members. Dennis was in a dead sprint and hopped in an black truck while the Chicago media unsuccessfully attempted to run after him and get any ounce of video or quote they could. Simply incredible.
The series wrapped up incredibly well around game six and the fairy tale ending of Michael having to take the entire team on his back (due to Scottie’s bad back) one last time, predictably ending with “The Shot.”
What was so frustrating at the end was Michael’s display of willingness to come back and try to go for the seventh ring. I agreed with MJ’s notion that if you offered that team a bunch of one year deals, including Michael, that they would have been able to bring everyone back and to make a run at the seventh championship. Michael would have had to do some serious convincing for Scottie, who did and deserved to get his big payday with the Rockets after the sixth finals victory, to come back for a run at seven.
In any event, ESPN/Netflix truly outdid themselves here. I hope we get continued super strong content like this. A truly impressive, yet incredibly difficult story to tell on an equally impressive and difficult time in the entire history of sports.