Highlights from ESPN’s ‘The Last Dance’: Episodes 7 & 8

In week four of ‘The Last Dance’ documentary, ESPN went from talking about Michael Jordan’s father’s death, and how that affected his immediate future, to his first retirement, and resurgence. This week’s episodes highlighted the first time since Jordan’s prominence that the Bulls struggled as a franchise.

Here are a few things that stuck out to me.

Michael lost his dad in 1993 after a controversial year.

Michael Jordan lost his father in 1993. He was murdered close to the North Carolina-South Carolina border while pulling over to take a nap in his red Lexus. While this took a toll on Jordan, it was further magnified by the media as they brought up questions that didn’t have much to do with Jordan’s father’s death.

The media led Jodan to his first retirement after the 1993 season.

Piggybacking off the last bullet point, MJ’s death, but more so the speculations from the media caused him to retire after that controversial 1993 season. Many media outlets started trying to link Jordan’s gambling debts to his father’s death, and I believe that mixed with Jordan trying to cope with his loss were the leading reasons as to why he retired.

Mike wasn’t a bad professional baseball player.

While Michael played AA baseball for the Chicago White Sox farm team, the Birmingham Barons (formerly known as the Birmingham Black Barons in the Negro Leagues) picked up the NBA star. I think people compare his success on the basketball court to his lack of noteworthy success on the baseball field and chalk that up to him not being a good baseball player. Well, Jordan hit .202 in his first season playing baseball since he was 17. He took 14 years off. Not too bad at all.

Pippen maybe wasn’t a team player.

There have been a few examples where Scottie made some questionable decisions. One that specifically stuck out to me was the 1994 playoffs when he didn’t get the call for the last shot in a playoff game. Instead, he was asked by head coach Phil Jackson to inbound the ball, and the play was designed for clutch man Tony Kukoc to nail the final shot, which he did, but Scottie refused to play that final play, which makes him look like lesser of a teammate.

Jordan wasn’t the same when he returned from his first retirement…for awhile.

It didn’t last long, but MJ switched back to his high school number, No. 45, and wasn’t the MJ everyone grew to love. He looked exhausted, but it was because he was in baseball shape, not basketball shape. Also, he jumped back on the team mid-season, so he didn’t have the time to get back fully into basketball shape.

Jordan had a gym built for him after the 1995 season while he was filming Space Jam.

As just mentioned, MJ returned to the court during the tail-end of the 1995 season. He wasn’t the same. Out of frustration or better yet, determination, Jordan wanted to start training the day after the season ended. This conflicted with his obligation to film Space Jam, he wanted a court built on the set, just for him to warm up, and scrimmage against other NBA all-stars.

Steve Kerr earned MJ’s respect in practice.

Both Kerr and Jordan remembered a day in practice where both players got frustrated and got into a mini-altercation because of it. This isn’t news, but it was a big thing, and it was a defining moment in Kerr and Jordan’s relationship. Kerr retaliated physically after Jordan’s routine tongue-lashing of Kerr and Jordan hit him back. The fact that Kerr stood up to Jordan earned his respect.

Addam M. Francisco

Founder & Editor-in-Chief. National Association of Black Journalists. University of Central Oklahoma.

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