All good things must come to an end and unfortunately, we have reached the end of The Last Dance.
Here are the 5 biggest takeaways from the last 2 episodes.
In his rookie season, Reggie Miller was looking to make a name for himself, so when his Indiana Pacers played MJ and the Bulls, he looked to challenge Jordan. Miller was firing on all cylinders in the first half of the game, prompting him to trash talk Michael right before the half. “You’re Michael Jordan? The guy who’s supposed to be able to walk on water?”
This was only Jordan’s third year in the league, so nobody had informed Reggie yet that there are three things you don’t do.
1. Don’t spit in the wind, 2. Don’t tug on Superman’s cape, and 3. Don’t provoke Michael Jordan!
MJ would outscore Miller 40-2 in the second half, and the Bulls would pick up the victory. Jordan would find Miller after the game and tell him “don’t ever trash talk Black Jesus”.
Apparently, Reggie didn’t quite learn his lesson, as Miller believed in the ’98 playoffs that he was going to retire Michael Jordan. The Bulls and Pacers would have a hard-fought series, that would go 7 games, but in the end, it would be Reggie and his Pacers going home, as Michael and the Bulls were headed to the NBA Finals.
Before the documentary was released, Jordan voiced concern that people would view him as a terrible person, after watching this series. On the contrary, MJ’s popularity is rising even higher. People understand his competitiveness, it’s part of the legend of MJ, that made him into the GOAT and a 6 time NBA champion. But this series has pulled back the curtain on the human side of an icon. For instance Michael’s relationship with security guard Gus Lett.
When Michael’s father was murdered in 1993, Gus took over the role of a father figure to Michael. MJ would often call Gus late at night, sobbing when he missed his father. When MJ retired and went to play baseball, he asked Gus to quit his job as security of Chicago Stadium and work security for him. Gus was who MJ would confide in and seek advice from, it was important to Michael to have him by his side. So when Jordan returned to the NBA, the Bulls would rehire Gus, so he could continue to provide security and be around MJ.
Gus would fall ill, having to have a malignant lesion removed from his brain, and radiation to get rid of a chest tumor, Jordan would pay for Gus’s medical expenses and make sure he was seen by the best doctors. Even as Gus was battling cancer, he made sure to be there for MJ, as he sat behind the Bulls bench for Game 7 vs the Pacers, cheering his friend on to victory. “Gus is a very positive inspiration to me, I enjoy him being around” Jordan would say after the game 7 victory.
The night before game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals in Utah, Jordan was in search of food. At that time of night, there was only one pizza place open. Jordan’s trainer Tim Grover expressed that he “had a bad feeling about this” when five delivery guys showed up to deliver one pizza. MJ would eat the pizza anyway, and in the early hours of the morning, Grover would get a call to come to MJ’s room, as he was vomiting left and right.
Jordan would miss the team’s shootaround that day, and his status for the game that evening looked bleak. Jordan suffering from food possible, but the announcers would state that Jordan was suffering from “flu-like symptoms”.
Neither the flu or food poisoning is something you want to play a game of basketball through, but Jordan’s competitiveness wouldn’t allow him to sit out. Using Karl Malone being named the 1997 NBA MVP as motivation, and knowledge with the series being tied 2-2, the Bulls needed this win.
Jordan would post 38 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assist, 3 steals and 1 block, his 3-pointer with less than a minute left in the game, gave the Bulls a lead that they wouldn’t surrender. The Bulls would defeat the Jazz for their 5th NBA championship in game 6.
The Last Dance
On the first play of game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, Scottie Pippen would aggravate a back injury as he completed a dunk. Pip would be taken to the locker room and worked on my the Bulls training staff. Scottie would tell MJ that he was done, Jordan asked Pippen to remain on the floor as a decoy and do what he could. Scottie would take several trips to the locker room to be worked on, as he would painfully grimace up and down the court. With Scottie’s effectiveness being limited, MJ would have to play extra minutes.
The Bulls were ahead 3-2 in the series, a loss in game 6 would put them in their first game 7 of NBA Finals, in a hostile crowd in Utah, and potentially without Scottie Pippen. But Jordan would will the Bulls to keep the game close, and he would deliver the greatest sequence in NBA Finals history. Jordan would drive to the basket and immediately drop in a layup out of a time out to cut the Jazz’s lead to 1 point. Then on the other end of the court, as Karl Malone was beginning to back down Dennis Rodman, MJ would come over from the weak side and steal the ball from Malone. Jordan would bring the ball up the court where he found himself being guarded by Byron Russell. Russell who playfully trash-talked MJ during Jordan’s retirement, saying “I could guard your ass, you just had to quit”.
Russell was on MJ’s list, and it was time for him to pay, as MJ would cross Russell over and nail a jumper that would become known as “the last shot”. It was MJ’s last shot as a Bull, the shot that won game 6, and the shot that won the Bulls their 6th NBA championship!
In what was probably the biggest shocker of the series, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf revealed that he offered Phil Jackson the chance to come back as the coach of the Bulls after the ’98 finals. Bulls GM Jerry Krause famously had told Phil before the ’98 season even if the Bulls went 82-0, Phil would not be brought back. Perhaps the damage had been done already by Krause, as Phil would turn the offer down, stating he needed a break.
Upon hearing Reinsdorf’s comments about disbanding the team, believing that the core players of the Bulls wouldn’t be able to live up to their market value after the ’98 season, Jordan couldn’t understand why Reinsdorf wouldn’t just offer players 1-year contracts to bring the team back.
MJ revealed that he was not happy to retire in ’98 as he thought the Bulls could have gone for championship number 7.
In the post-game locker room of their 6th championship victory MJ said: “they can’t win until we quit”.
Unfortunately, they had to quit before they were ready.
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