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The Last Dance Parts 1 & 2: 5 Things We Learned

The Last Dance, an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, has finally premiered. As a die-hard Bulls fans throughout the 90’s, I have been salivating for this film. Even with living in Chicago during this era and watching a lot of content about this time period, there are numerous things I learned upon viewing parts 1 & 2.

Check out my preview of The Last Dance here.

Scottie Pippen deliberately didn’t have surgery on his ankle until the 97-98 season started.

“I’m not going to fuck up my summer”

Pippen’s relationship with GM Jerry Krause reached a boiling point. Krause openly conducted trade talks for years but wouldn’t discuss with Pippen in person. He felt betrayed. Teammates said Pippen took it too far on the team bus. Pippen would berate and bully Krause in front of the team.

The documentary points out the tremendous value the Bulls got with Pippen’s 7 year contract that he signed in 1991. By the tail end of the deal, the NBA had blossomed. The league’s cap structure had also evolved. Pippen was one of the best in the league, yet he was 122nd highest paid player. Only 6th highest on the team.

The documentary explores the poor rural family life of the Pippens. Scottie shares his childhood struggles living with his dad and brother both in wheelchairs. When he saw the deal the Bulls offered, he wanted to provide for his family.

Coach Phil Jackson knew Scottie delayed his surgery out of spite for the front office. The team missed a key player for the first few months of the season and struggled mightily out of the gate. Jackson was the Zen mastermind being able to keep all the Bulls egos in check.

Jordan reveals the drug culture of the Bulls team during his rookie year.

“The Cocaine Circus.”

It is no secret that the NBA had a bad image with players being addicted to cocaine during this era. Hearing it from Jordan shines a light to new fans on how rampant it was in the NBA. Jordan tells a story about entering a teammate’s hotel room. There were the cocaine guys, guys smoking weed, and others with women. He carefully didn’t reveal names. Jordan was clean and felt he hadn’t earned his stripes in the league. He knew he had to succeed on his own on and off the basketball court.

The animosity between Jordan and Krause started early.

This wasn’t a relationship that slowly dwindled over time.

In his second season, Jordan came down with a severe foot injury. Jordan being Jordan, he was itching to come back and lead the Bulls to the playoffs. Krause found Jordan had been playing basketball, against doctor’s orders, when he went back to school at North Carolina. The front office implemented a rule that Jordan could only play 7 minutes per half. This frustrated the competitive nature of Jordan.

Down the stretch, Jordan wasn’t allowed to play in the final seconds of an important game. What could 14 more seconds hurt? Understandably, the front office wanted to protect their investment. Sometimes you cannot hold greatness down. Jordan wouldn’t forget it.

A golf game with Danny Ainge fueled the legendary 63-point performance.

Jordan golf stories are infamous. He was a shark when it came to betting on golf. Pippen joked that Jordan bought him golf clubs during his rookie year so he could make money off him. Danny Ainge, shooting guard for the Boston Celtics, beat Jordan in golf the day before Game 2 of the Bulls-Celtics 1986 playoff series. What happens when you beat Jordan? He goes off. Not to mention, he goes off on one of the best teams in NBA history. Jordan’s 63 points set a NBA record for most points in a playoff game. A record that still stands to this day.

Jordan is telling the story his way.

There have been many books, news articles, and YouTube videos about Jordan. This is Jordan’s chance to tell the story his way. From his childhood to bullying other teammates, Jordan gets to share his side unfiltered. I think that’s the main reason why he and teammates wanted to participate this documentary.

Lots to digest from parts 1 & 2 of The Last Dance. The documentary hasn’t even gotten to Dennis Rodman yet. If all 10 parts of this film were released now, I would watch them all in one sitting. Join me next week for more on The Last Dance.

Written by Conor ODonnell

Conor is the editor and co-host of the WCW vs NWO Podcast which reviews WCW PPVs 96-98. He is also the editor for highly acclaimed Arena Decklist Podcast which delves deep into the Magic: the Gathering tournament scene.

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