Last night, we were treated to Episodes Five and Six of “The Last Dance,” ESPN’s 10-part documentary on Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls. Since we have no actual sports to talk about, we’ll be recapping the series each week. If you missed them, here are our recaps of Episodes One and Two and Three and Four.
Kids, always listen to your mother
Last night, we found out that Michael Jordan originally wanted to sign a shoe deal with Adidas and didn’t even want to meet with Nike until his mother made him.
“My mother said, ‘You’re going to go listen. You may not like it, but you’re going to go listen.'”
The rest, as they say, is history. Nike offered Jordan a $250,000 contract, a staggering amount, especially for a rookie, and his own shoe line. Nike hoped to sell $3 million of Air Jordans by the end of year four; they sold $126 million in year one.
Doloris Jordan is the real GOAT.
Jordan wore his original Air Jordans in his final game at Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden is sacred ground, and for his final game there in March 1998, Jordan wore the same pair of Air Jordans he wore in his first game there in 1984. They may have looked cool, but Jordan admitted wearing a pair of 14-year-old shoes was painful.
“By halftime, my feet are bleeding, but I’m having a good game. I don’t want to take them off.” Jordan said. “And when I took them off, my sock was soaked in blood.”
Jordan finished that game with 42 points, eight rebounds, six assists, three steals, and a block. While his feet were bleeding. I throw a fit if I get a blister.
Jerry Seinfeld’s trip to the Bulls locker room was great
Jerry Seinfeld was one of the biggest stars on television in the 1990s, but even he geeked a little bit in the Bulls locker room. I’m not sure what’s better, Michael’s face when Phil Jackson kicks Jerry out, or Jerry pointing to the play on the chalkboard when he leaves.
— Icculus The Brave (@FirenzeMike) May 4, 2020
The Good and Bad from Championship Celebrations
There was one thing players received back in the 90s that are superior to every form of championship celebration: caricature t-shirts. To become a cartoon version of one’s self, it only seems fair that it follows after you’ve earned the title “World Champion.”
What I don’t understand from previous titles: why didn’t they receive the Larry O’Brien trophy in front of fans? The whole point of the trophy presentation is to bestow it to the victors on a grand stage. Instead, David Stern’s stage was in front of the team and a bunch of reporters at a press conference. “Lame” does not properly describe how stupid this previous practice was.
This Looks Miserable
And I thought media scrums in the Kentucky basketball locker room at the SEC Tournament were crowded.
"Michael Jordan never had to deal with the media scrutiny LeBron James has," – is what I've been told for years pic.twitter.com/DSzktRxzfR
— Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres) May 4, 2020
A Surprising Stat
When detailing Chicago’s pursuit for a second consecutive championship, a stat was shared that I could not believe. The Bulls were trying to become just the fourth NBA franchise to win consecutive titles. I felt the need to double-check that stat because surely it was not possible. Of course, they were correct. The Celtics and Lakers were the only others to master the feat before the Pistons’ back-to-back ships led into the Bulls’ dynasty.
Since the Bulls joined elite company, three other franchises have won consecutive titles. Houston went back-to-back in between Jordan’s titles, LeBron did it with Wade and Bosh in Miami and the Warriors accomplished the feat in 2017 and ’18.
Barkley is the Best
“Sports is like a gun fight and we lost to the fastest gun.”
I have a grievance to file with this week’s Last Dance viewing experience. We didn’t get enough of Sir Charles. The Dream Team episode only scratched the surface. If you’ve never seen it before, do yourself a favor and watch NBATV’s hour-long documentary on the best team ever assembled. All of the players are interviewed for the piece and you better believes Charles steals the show. His story about Larry Bird and Budweiser will never not make me laugh.
Kobe Bryant getting things rolling was a gut punch
We knew going into night three of The Last Dance that the late Kobe Bryant would be featured and interviewed, but it still hit me like a sack of rocks when the “IN LOVING MEMORY OF KOBE BRYANT” graphic came across the screen just seconds into the show.
And unsurprisingly, Kobe’s addition to the show was a fantastic one.
Getting things rolling with a behind-the-scenes look of the 1998 All-Star Game, we got to see Jordan and his Eastern Conference teammates sit in the locker room breaking down Kobe’s early presence in the NBA and how he was going to make them work in a relatively meaningless scrimmage.
“That little Laker boy’s gonna take everybody one-on-one,” Jordan said at the time, not even two years into Kobe’s NBA career. “He don’t let the game come to him. He just go out there and take it.”
In true Jordan fashion, he said he was ready for the competition.
ICYMI: "That little Laker boy's gonna take everybody one-on-one."
— ESPN (@espn) May 4, 2020
Talking about their relationship and mutual respect in the documentary, along with everything we know about both individuals, it’s apparent Kobe is the closest thing we’ve ever seen to Jordan from a pure competitiveness standpoint and aesthetically.
“What you get from me, is from [Jordan],” Kobe said.
— Barstool Johnny (@BarstoolJD) May 4, 2020
It still doesn’t feel real.
John Michael Wozniak’s shrug was the highlight of the night
John Michael Wozniak, a retired CPD and US Army Veteran, died of the age 69 back on January 18 after a hard-fought battle with colon cancer. A little over three months later, Jordan’s right-hand man at the United Center became a basketball legend to the public eye.
In a segment highlighting a pregame competition between Jordan and his security team, Wozniak beat the Chicago legend in a quarter-tossing game and then used Jordan’s signature shoulder shrug as he went to pick up the loose change.
Taking MJ’s money and shrugging him off? Prior to a game?
I don’t know how many points Jordan scored that night, but I’m setting the over/under at 50.
On that note, read Complex’s full feature on Wozniak from 2016, which highlights the former bodyguard, his crazy history, and rise to stardom alongside Jordan. It’s well worth your time.
Ho Grant was a snitch?!
Longtime KSR followers know Horace Grant played a pivotal role in my life and my current employment of over 10 years with KSR. I have his Bulls #54 jersey in my closet right now. Big Ho Grant guy here, but now I’m finding out he was snitch, per Michael Jordan, who I have no reason not to believe. “He was telling everything that was happening within the group,” Jordan said of his chatty teammate.
Grant of course denied Jordan’s allegations, but the internet sided with Jordan and now Horace Grant and his Rec-Specs carry a tarnished legacy with the Bulls.
It was a great night for Charles Barkley. Draymond Green, not so much.
Barkley and Draymond Green have beef after Green made some comments suggesting he is the better of the two forwards. It’s complete nonsense, but the younger generation online has been giving some credence to Green’s argument. Then they all saw Barkley on “The Last Dance” last night and now Green is getting clowned from end to end on Twitter. Just type his name in search and you’ll see what I mean.
Former NBA big man Kendrick Perkins chimed in as well:
Draymond bet not fix his lips to say anything about chuck again.
— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) May 4, 2020
“The Last Dance” has been a great history lesson for those who didn’t live through the Jordan era.
Justin Timberlake, you did not cut grass and wait in line outside Foot Locker to buy Jordans.
More like Justin Timberliar.
“I don’t have a gambling problem, I have a competition problem.”
Jordan with an all-time quote.
Last night was the best night so far.
Between the Kobe Bryant angle to open Episode 5, the Dream Team exclusives and the gambling, last night’s two episodes are my favorite for a single night so far.
Next week we get Coach Cal, so it will be a short reign.