‘The Last Dance’ for the first time: Week one

The+Chicago+Bulls%27+banners+hang+in+their+arena.+All+six+of+the+Bulls%27+NBA+Championships+were+won+by+Michael+Jordan+and+company.+++

Chicago_Bulls_banners / Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The Chicago Bulls' banners hang in their arena. All six of the Bulls' NBA Championships were won by Michael Jordan and company.

For young basketball players today, Jordan is a shoe brand first, a number second, and a string of highlights third.

For those of us who can ball for more than 15 minutes without reawakening an old knee injury, the true greatness of Michael Jordan is a mystery.

We never got to see him, and I refuse to believe that just because a guy can throw one down from the free-throw line, we should bow down in adoration. 

However, much to my father’s delight, after watching the first two episodes of ESPN’s 10 part docu-series, “The Last Dance,” I have no choice but to admit that this Jordan guy, he’s for real. 

Like out of this world real.

Like greatest of all time real.

But we’ll get to that.

Like most of the sports world, I tuned in with my family to watch the first two installments of “The Last Dance” when it premiered this past Sunday. And man was I blown away. 

As a result of my newfound respect for this man, who I now find to undeniably be the greatest, I feel compelled to represent those of us who feel silly for ever thinking differently. 

And so, over the next five weeks, I look to provide my thoughts and commentaries on a story whose ending is familiar, but whose twists and turns I experience for the first time.

On that note, who the heck does Jerry Krause think he is? This man is the devil! Within the first 20 minutes, I was fully convinced Krause had to be the inspiration for the villain in “Space Jam,” a fact which adds to the sad, comedic dynamic of his relationship with the Bulls and Jordan. 

Still, I find it unbelievable that Krause was actively trying to kill the team, yet never seemed to be close to getting ousted. If a relationship like that occurred today between James and a general manager, you can believe a new general manager would be at the door in an instant, ready to meet James’ every need. 

The lack of a backbone this owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, truly amazed me. Krause made it clear he wanted to break up the team, yet nobody wanted to be broken up! 

Before this earth-shattering news, I had assumed the Bulls’ dynasty fell like the Kobe Bryant-Pau Gasol Lakers or the Miami Heat of the 2010s; you win a few, and then you lose a few, and then you leave and move on — you don’t win three in a row and then decide to rebuild!

I’m sure I’ll gain more understanding with this storyline in the following weeks, although I can’t help but wonder if the Bulls had a few more in them, a thought I’m sure has given many older sports fans countless sleepless nights.

Another piece of history made new to me is that of Scottie Pippen. I knew he was Jordan’s number two, and I knew people considered him to be one of the best in the NBA at the time, but learning the full extent of his story was very new to me. From his humble origins to being drafted from an NAIA school, you can’t help but root for him.

For me, Pippen’s lack of pay was easily the most annoying and tragic part of the first two episodes. It fueled my anger towards Krause, and it deepened my empathy for Pippen. “The Last Dance” mentioned how Pippen’s pay was so low that he was the 122nd highest-paid player in the NBA in 1998, and the sixth highest-paid player on the team.

This instance reminded me of Tim Duncan cutting his salary in half over the summer of 2012, for the sake of his dynasty. Still, Duncan was only sent down to be the 65 highest-paid player that year, a far shot away from number 122. 

I’m excited for this upcoming Sunday, to see mentions of Rodman’s journey to the Bulls, and to see Jordan’s hiatus into baseball told from his perspective. I think there is something profound to be said about experiencing a moment in history for the first time, and I’m sure young athletes around the world are learning a lot as we experience “The Last Dance” for the first time.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email