What time is it?! Time for a letdown week from The Last Dance. Was I thoroughly entertained and glued to my television? Yes. Director Jason Hehir has simply run out of time to fully tell this story. The origin of the Scottie Pippen trade rumors occurred when Jordan was playing baseball. I guess one episode was enough for Pippen. Undoubtedly, the story of Jordan has taken over the documentary.
Besides the opening scene showing a press conference with Jerry Krause, there was little mention of the turmoil with Krause and the players. Krause was talking to the media before the beginning of the 1998 NBA playoffs. Craig Sager inquires about the chemistry of the Bulls going into the playoffs,
With all the backstabbing between you and coach and everything else?
Krause was livid with the question and stormed off. Best line of the episode was another reporter saying, “Way to go, Craig.” I was hoping the rising tension between Krause and Phil Jackson would be highlighted but it wasn’t it even mentioned. Rarely do you see this much emotion from a GM of a professional sports team.
A big problem with the documentary, it has tried to touch on every important moment of Jordan’s career. There are simply too many to cover in 10 episodes. This week was about Michael’s dad, James Jordan. He was an integral influence on Michael’s life. The murder of James Jordan was big news. Even as a 7-year-old, I remember seeing the news reports. Michael did the unthinkable, he chose to retire from basketball and play baseball.
Jordan could have played in the Majors
Jordan playing baseball could have been its own documentary. In fact, it was. Jordan Rides the Bus was an early ESPN 30 for 30 back in 2010. The key missing interview was Jordan, so it felt incomplete. The Last Dance continued the narrative that if it were not for the baseball strike in 1994, Jordan could have made his way to the majors. I was hoping for more insight, but we got quick summary of his experience playing baseball. One moment was unfortunately omitted from the film.
There was an infamous exhibition game between the Cubs vs White Sox with Jordan in the starting lineup (batting 6th in lineup no less). This was before interleague play was introduced in baseball. For non-Chicago fans, this is a heated rivalry among hardcore Chicago baseball fans. You are one or the other. All eyes were on this game. Jordan even managed to hit an RBI double. Is he actually for real?
Ultimately why did Jordan come back to basketball? Apparently, it was as simple as Scottie Pippen pointing to his shoes during a Bulls game. Or was the secret suspension from David Stern over?
The conspiracy theories from retirement and the murder of James Jordan
The obsession with conspiracy theories are baffling. The James Jordan theories have always piqued my interest though. Did Jordan have an unpaid gambling debt? The Last Dance had to address this and if commissioner David Stern secretly suspended Jordan. Fans still to this day believe them. Of course, if you do a little research into the actual investigation of the murder, you can deduce this had nothing to do with Michael’s gambling.
If the James Jordan murder case interests you, I highly suggest checking out the podcast called The Score: Behind the Headlines.
The intense practices with Jordan
When this documentary was previewed, Jordan picking on Scott Burell in practice was described as a shocking reveal to Jordan’s behavior. The behind the scenes footage was tame at best. Jordan knows the cameras were on, so how intense was he going to be? Nothing like punching Steve Kerr in the face.
Jordan has the final say with The Last Dance. He is quick to justify his behavior and carefully crafts his reasoning. I think this is a huge problem with The Last Dance. It is mainly Jordan’s point of view. Past episodes have sorely lacked the other side whether it is Jerry Krause (who passed away in 2017) or former players Jordan trashes. Last week, fully focusing on Jordan felt justified because the theme of the episode was the phenomenal of ‘Be like Mike.’
The 72 win season
This was my favorite part from this week. The 95-96 Chicago Bulls had arguably the best season in NBA history. It all culminated with the Bulls winning on Father’s Day. One aspect of the season I did not realize when it was happening, was the relentless training Jordan did while filming Space Jam. Jordan required he had his practice facility at the studio lot. This is where he got back into real shape after failing the previous year against the Orlando Magic.
Most of the playoffs the film has recapped, has been at a rapid pace. I was ok with speeding through the 96-playoff run. They bulldozed everyone. The memorable moment as a viewer was Jordan crying on the floor in the locker room post victory. I have seen this clip dozens of times in my life. This time I heard it with audio for the first time. It hits so much harder.
The end is near
One more week. What is left? I am hoping for a brief recap of the 96-97 championship run. It is mostly synonymous as the year Jordan played a game with the flu. This week ended with a preview of Reggie Miller, “This is it, you’re gonna retire Michael Jordan.” I look forward to Jordan’s response to Miller’s comments. The final two playoff series in 98 were testing. It was the first time as a Bulls fan where I was not sure if the Bulls would win.
I hope they dive deep on the Pacers and Jazz matchups. I am glad that Reggie Miller is on board. Will Karl Malone also be included? Will they cover Rodman skipping practice to appear on WCW television? Will there be more focus on Jerry Krause dismantling the team? Regardless, it has been a great escape watching The Last Dance. The Bulls story must come to end.