If you’re a fan of sports then you have heard of Michael Jordan. Jordan was one of the best, if not the best NBA player in history.
ESPN recently released a documentary titled “The Last Dance” that focuses on the 1997-1998 season of the Chicago Bulls and, mainly, Jordan. During that season the Bulls allowed an NBA crew to follow them around.
With the release of this footage from the NBA, people are getting never-before-seen clips from that time period. The documentary is 10 parts with two episodes releasing every Sunday and, so far, I have watched the first two episodes of the documentary.
Even as an avid fan of basketball, Jordan, and the Bulls, after watching the documentary I still learned some things I had never known about. Namely, why Scottie Pippen decided to wait so long to get his foot surgery, how the team was almost mobbed when they visited Paris, how much tension there actually was in the organization and more.
The first episode starts off with Jordan sitting on a bench staring outside. Text appears on the screen: “Entering the 1997-1998 NBA season, the Chicago Bulls had won five championships in the previous seven years. But as they sought their second three-peat, the future of the dynasty was in doubt.”
Following the text, a preview of what’s to come in the documentary series takes place. After that, the first introductions take place. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Head Coach at the time, Phil Jackson introduced themselves.
Jerry Reinsdorf was the owner of the Bulls at the time.“After the fifth championship, which was 96-97 we were looking at this team and we realized other than Michael, the rest of the guys were probably at the end of their high productive years,” Reinsdorf said. Because of this, the Bulls future was in question.
There was also tension between players and management. While Reinsdorf was the owner and Jackson was the coach, one other key higher up that made decisions was Jerry Krause, the general manager at the time.
Krause was somewhat jealous he wasn’t getting the same credit the players and coaches were. Krause was quoted to have said, “organizations win titles, not players,” but he defended himself saying there was a misquote, and he really said “players and coaches alone don’t win championships and organizations do.”
To Jordan, it seemed like a slap to the face after all the hard work players put in. Jordan knew a basketball team took more than just 15 players on a court, but he also believed that the players were the key component to a team.
And I would find out later in the episode and into episode two that Jordan was not the only one who had problems with Krause. After the Bulls’ last championship win, Reinsdorf resigned Jackson for one year and Krause told Jackson it would be his last year, even if he won 82 games. Krause was trying to look into the future and in his mind, that future didn’t involve Jackson as head coach.
The rest of the first episode flashed back to Jordan’s pre-NBA years. It talked about his family life, work ethic and early doubters of his career.
Episode two is more focused on Scottie Pippen, the Robin to Jordan’s Batman. Jordan himself said he couldn’t have won the championships without Pippen, even saying Pippen was his best teammate of all time.
At the time, Pippen ranked second in scoring, rebounds and minutes played, while ranking first in assists for the Bulls. He was the second-best player on the team, yet the sixth-highest paid. Pippen was drafted in 1987 as the fifth overall pick and signed a seven-year deal in 1991 with the Bulls for 18 million.
However, all that star power from Pippen didn’t seem to matter to Krause, who was very secretive about his ideas of wanting to trade Pippen. Pippen underwent foot surgery and was out for part of the season in hopes of renegotiating his contract. Due to this, the Bulls were losing a lot of their early games, players were frustrated and after starting to publically insult Krause, Pippen demanded to be traded.
The episode left off on the cliffhanger of Pippen demanding to be traded. I’m interested to see what footage the NBA crew captured during that time.
The first two episodes gave me a lot to think about and I’m even more excited to see what the next eight episodes hold in store.